In House With Naughty by Nature
Family reunions are either obligatory nightmares or an utterly joyous occasion. Luckily for Naughty by Nature, their brotherly rap assembly is more of the latter. The last time Treach, Vin Rock and Kay Gee united, it was for 1999’s ‘Nineteen Naughty Nine: Nature’s Fury.’ Now the hip-hop trio have put differences aside to allow their talents to flourish in celebration of their 20-year anniversary LP, ‘Anthem Inc.’ out Tuesday (Dec. 13).
Packed with classic rap gems like ‘O.P.P.’ and ‘Hip Hop Hooray,’ and new cuts like ‘God Is Us’ with assists from Queen Latifah, the New Jersey-bred team deliver an 18-track effort full of snappy rhymes and refreshing beats. The Grammy Award-winning threesome sat down with The BoomBox to speak about the work that went into crafting the album, why they opted for “family” features rather than new rhymers and the best rap beefs in the genre. Ludacris and Drake not included.
This new album is the first time the three of you have come together in years. What do you want the listener experience to be once they have it in their hands?
Treach: We want them to look at what they been asking from us. Our fans keep us out there. Yo, what’s missing in hip-hop is that ’90s feel-good, boom-bap type of swagger. So we was like we got a new album coming out. We gonna give what we think is missing in the game. It’s very up-to-date but it’s Naughty. It’s not sounding like nobody else.
Kay Gee: And more importantly I think what we want them to get out of this album is we’re gonna give you Naughty by Nature and we’re gonna do what’s true to Naughty by Nature but in now’s time. We’re gonna change up but we’re not gonna chase what other people is doing.
One of the collaborations you have is with Queen Latifah on ‘God Is Us.’ How did that come about?
T: Well La is always a phone call away. She always let us know. We just did a show in Cali and she just popped up out of nowhere and just there backstage, rooting us on and supporting. So when we let her know we were doing an album, it just took her being at the same place at the same time with us. So she had a show in Wingate Park in Brooklyn, so while she was here for a couple of days we had the session and it was magical.
Vin Rock: That’s one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s more of a conscious record. You know, you listen to a lot of hip-hop today and the flow may sound right and the beat may sound right, but it’s a bunch of empty lyrics. So I think that record, ‘God Is Us,’ what Treach is talking about in the song and the vibes that he’s touching on is just something that’s thought-provoking.
Was there any moment in particular while recording the album that made you happy or brought up a certain emotion?
V: I just think it was more like, you know, we had… a eight-year break from making a new album, a 10-year break with all three of us, and when we got back in it was kinda like, you know this is gonna be a challenge because, not only is it going on 20 years later [since the release of the ‘Naughty by Nature’ LP], but you haven’t put out an album in 10 years and the whole climate of hip-hop changed, how people are getting new music. So it was kinda like, you gotta really study the game and study what’s going on so that when you do put out the music or when you finish the music, you gotta get it out there and make sure people hear it.
On ‘Anthem Inc.’ you guys have 13 tracks that are new and five tracks from past albums. Was it hard to decide which songs from the past would go on the project?
KG: Nah, its obvious. But then from a business standpoint there were certain records we got the rights to to get a chance to re-record now and get a chance to own the masters. It was also a business standpoint.
Did you reach out to other producers for this album?
KG: Well there’s really no outside producers. I did mostly all of it. Just a few up-and-coming cats that work with me, that did stuff on there with me as well. We reached out to a lot of people and for whatever reason [they passed]. You know, we haven’t put out a record in 10 years. I guess that’s part of the reason. Then we didn’t have a label when we started working on [‘Anthem Inc.’]. So it’s hard to get people to commit to something that they don’t really know has a back end.
There are a lot of new artists out now but I saw that you didn’t team up with any. Instead you decided to work with veteran acts like Joe and Queen Latifah. Why was that?
T: It’s basically in-house. Naughty never made like, those heavily collaborated records and we don’t want to make albums that just sound like a compilation album. We want it to be signature Naughty by Nature with features. Our features are always family, whether they famous in hip-hop or they up-and-coming.
KG: It’s not just a marketing scheme. Like he said, it’s people that we have real relationships with, been on tour with for years and known for years.
V: We don’t do features. We do family.
Are there any rappers out now that you’re fond of or remind you of yourselves when you were first coming out?
KG: Pitbull. Another one that toured with us, we have a relationship with. We did a song with him but it’s not on the album. But it’s just organic. Pitbull’s a newer cat that’s out there that’s coming up.
T: I like the hunger like in a Meek Mill. Uncle Murda. You know, I like it rugged. I like that hardcore spitters and stuff like that. I love Wiz Khalifa. Good music is good music. No matter how old you are, no matter what area you came from, whether you a new artist or been established. Like if you come with that banger, they gonna be like, “Yo, that’s that joint.”
V: I like a little of everything. I don’t really listen to music but I’m just out there on the Internet all the time so I breeze past people.
What’s a show experience like for you these days?
V: People make they own signs, they make they own shirts. They always come with some bats — some decorated Naughty bats — and have us sign it. We were in Japan and they had the kids with Naughty by Nature T-shirts.
T: That was probably like the most memorable because we did like [Billboard Live Tokyo] and we performed in front of an audience that was 6 years old to 60 years old. The 6-year-olds were knowing the words, knowing everything. I actually got one of the little posters that they rolled up and drew. I took it home and put it up on the wall. Yeah, just to see the audience and the generations we touch. And I felt my first tremor, earthquake in Japan. We were out there in the typhoon.
What is your opinion about rap and lyrical beef these days? Most recently in the hip-hop community there is the war of words with Ludacris, Big Sean and Drake.
V: I think hip-hop was built on challenging and styling and battling. And you know, sometimes artists, they do things, and they don’t realize that it’s all a evolution of something before. I read up on the article, and I read what Drake said and what Big Sean said. And Ludacris was clever in using different songs all the way back in the early ’90s to use that same punchline style and brought it all the way back and just reminded them, like, you kinda gotta watch yourself. You may be hot but you can’t feel yourself so much that you forget your past. So it’s not like Luda was saying, “Oh, respect me.” He’s saying, “Respect the game.” Period.
T: I mean hip-hop was built on battling. Like I rather seem ’em go word-for-word than blow-for-blow. Lyrics is our music and our culture so it’s all about snapping. Back then we used to call it snapping and snap-rapping, and all that. If you gotta beef, put it on wax and do it. It’s a beautiful thing to watch real lyricists go back and forth. It could get interesting.
What’s a battle that you were a fan of?
T: Kool Moe Dee and Busy Bee. Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J. Those were classic, “Did you hear that?” KRS-One, MC Shan.
KG: I like when Jadakiss and Beanie [Sigel] were going at it too. Jay-Z and Nas was classic too.
V: Anybody 50 Cent goes after. That guy’s hilarious, man. He just lives for that stuff.