The early '90s were a fun and exciting time for hip-hop. The genre was expanding rapidly and a host of new jacks would pick up where the old-guard left off, continuing to usher in a new era in which rap would prove its dominance in the marketplace and as the voice of the youth.
Among the artists helping to lead the way into the new decade was Naughty By Nature. Comprised of rappers Treach and Vin Rock, along with producer Kay Gee, the group was formed in East Orange, N.J. during the late '80s under the name the New Style and released an album, Independent Leaders, in 1989, that failed to make much of a dent or turn the trio into a household names. Eventually that would happen after rap star and fellow New Jersey native Queen Latifah took the group under her wing, resulting in the name change to Naughty By Nature and a new lease on life as artists.
By 1991, the transformation was complete and Naughty By Nature released their self-titled sophomore album, which was powered by the mega-single, "O.P.P.," leading to platinum certification and the distinction of being hailed as the leaders of the new school of hip-hop.
The next few years would be an eventful ride for Naughty By Nature, the highlights of which were another platinum-selling album, 19 Naughty III, movie cameos and numerous hit singles that solidified their standing as one of the most viable commodities in rap. Following the success of 19 Naughty III, the crew returned in 1995 with a new LP, Poverty's Paradise. Released on May 2 of that year, the project was well-received by fans and critics, but failed to catch fire in comparison to previous releases.
But what the album lacked in crossover hits, it made up for with cohesiveness and quality being that Poverty's Paradise is a pretty dope album, which was their last under Tommy Boy Records. The LP's lead single, "Feel Me Flow," may be one of the first tracks that jump out when thinking of the album, but it has more than its share of bangers. The effort also has the dubious distinction of being the first release selected as Rap Album of the Year at the 1996 Grammy Awards. In celebration of its 20th anniversary, we take a look back and run down the five tracks from Poverty's Paradise that stand the test of time.
Dope rhymes, infectious beats and anthemic hooks have always been Naughty By Nature's claim to fame. All three of those traits are present on "Clap Yo Hands." The track has a jazzy element to it and captures the trio hitting on all cylinders and picking up right where they left off on 19 Naughty III without losing a step. While it didn't perform as well as previous hits on the Billboard charts, "Clap Yo Hands" remains a smooth listen. "Breakdown feel the party / Put your hands together everybody / All the ladies in the house I call the honies first / 'Cause it's pure and ya sure, sure ta get your money's worth," Treach delivers on the head-nodding effort.
"Hang Out and Hustle"Featuring G-Luv (of Road Dawgs) and I Face Finsta (of Cruddy Click)
Naughty By Nature decided to show crew love with the Poverty's Paradise offering, "Hang Out and Hustle." Featuring affiliates Road Dawgs and Cruddy Click, I Face Finsta sets it off, rapping, "The C-R-U-D-D-Y, the C-L-I-C-K / It's texture, pure terror, a street professor / Aggressor, scale and measure, clever compressor / Stretching salary stacks, be running blocks as a factory structure." Finsta delivers his lines with a tenacity that is certainly felt.
Treach also provides solid lyrics as well but gives the stage to his young cohorts to shine, both of whom come through with flying colors. Producer Kay Gee completes the cipher by coming through with a funky beat powered by thumping drums and a sample of "Sweet" Charles Sherrell's similarly-titled hit, making for a selection that is far from shabby.
The trio take listeners to the cracked pavement of their Brick City stomping grounds with "City of Ci-Lo. Kay Gee chefs up a favorable soundbed, utilizing thumping kicks and snares in addition to a sample of Lightnin Rod's 1973 cut, "The Bones Fly From the Spoon's Hand" for Treach, who goes solo on this outing, to get his point across. "Now if you base out and ace out / Ace is an ass out / Also an ass whip, you catch quick those who catch it most don't last it down on Doogan / They rollin' two deep, so they ain't too steep / And crews creep but they hard to beat, bustin' out two jeeps." The skilled lyricist gives a detailed tutorial in the game of ci-lo and how it applies to the game of life.
Treach, Vinny and Kay Gee have always had a knack for crafting party-friendly jams that also serve as anthems and their 1995 hit, "Feel Me Flow," is no different. They lay off on the tough-talk and opt to kick something that the people can boogie too. Treach does take time to send a few jabs at sucker MCs with bars like, "Never mixing with trickin' brothers bitching / Over fixings that ain't fitting to be hitting for nothing spitting / Things that's bitten and gettin' written off / You're like a fatter bad bladder, boy ya pissing me off," without altering the vibe of the joyous affair. Featuring a sample of the Meters' "Find Yourself," "Feel Me Flow" falls in line with Naughty's track record of carefree jams that can uplift the atmosphere at the drop of a dime.
"Klickow-Klickow"Feat. Rottin Razkals, Cruddy Click & Road Dawgs
"Feel Me Flow" may have had the most mainstream appeal, but the rollicking "Klickow-Klickow" is the most potent selection on Poverty's Paradise. Produced by Kay Gee, the beat features thumping percussion and persistent bells over which Naughty and company drop rewind-worthy bars and kick relentless flows, making for a memorable -- yet criminally slept-on -- posse cut that's worth its weight in gold. The Rottin Razkals offer a familiar line ("We hit cha from the bricks, back the f--- up like Onyx said"), Road Dawgs give a warning ("Don't sleep on Jersey nor California"), Treach pays homage ("Givin' props to all the old school that paved the way / Plus zero I fear no hero you think will up and save the day hey") and Cruddy Click throw Janet Jackson into the mix ("This ain't a rap along, clap along song, my s--- is on / With more thong than Janet with her panties on").