Naughty by Nature, “Stop Complaining & Put Up or Shut Up.”
For the last 10 years, hip-hop veterans Naughty by Nature have struggled against the odds in a bittersweet music industry. After producer and DJ, Kay Gee left the group amidst rumors of a financial dispute, remaining members Treach and Vin soldiered on with iicons but something was evidently missing from the formula. The group had a knack for bridging the worlds of street and pop music with timeless tracks like “O.P.P.” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” but the two-man incarnation of Naughty didn’t resonate with fans the same.
Now, all three members have officially reunited for their forthcoming release, Anthem, Inc., which promises to produce more anthems for a new generation of hip-hop heads. It’s a lofty goal as now the only odds against the trio are living up to their own legacy of hits. To hear them tell it, though, that’s just in their nature.
XXLMag.com: One of your new songs “Flags,” is an example of your ability to talk about the ’hood in a conscious manner. Do you think the mentality of the ’hood has improved when it comes to issues of violence, crime and drugs?
Vin Rock: I think it’s basically the same cycle going on. Certain neighborhoods are cleaning up petty street dealers on corners but drugs and gun distribution is going on. With the technology you got kids banging over the Internet and that culture is spreading faster now because of the technology.
What are your thoughts on cyber bullying and cyber bangin’?
Vin Rock: I haven’t been cyber bullied or cyber heckled too much but I could imagine what teenagers are going through right now. I know legislation is gonna have to evolve with laws for the Internet and etiquette. You can't do that stuff. That will be a digital assault.
Don’t you believe that if we start creating laws to that effect that we will be on a slippery slope of censoring free speech?
Vin Rock: It’s a blurred line but that’s no right to go on FaceBook and say I'm gonna kill you or ring your neck. Those are threats.
Y’all had, and maybe still have, a large and active groupie scene. What are your thoughts on the groupies of today who exploit celebrities?
Vin Rock: The thing is now we are seeing a drastic change in hip-hop. You had people who used to be personal assistants, stylists or dancers and there were a lot of jobs that thrived off artists, labels and touring. Those jobs aren’t there anymore. So some of the new artists to break out are Karrine Steffans, the godmother of this new celebrity along with the Kardashians and the Hiltons. I'm concerned because that’s the kind of things getting people out there and exploited. So when that 12 year old kid goes on the Internet and looks at hip-hop blogs and content; what world will they see and get sucked into? It used to be about the DJ, graffiti and break dancing and music, not this girl blowing up for exploiting some NBA dude.
Vin, in a previous interview you mentioned the 1992 case where you alleged that the F.B.I. tried to expose the group. Care to elaborate on that?
Vin Rock: Yeah, they tried to sting us but it wasn’t us. It was people we knew but not us. So instead of working with us they would watch or try to set you up to hang yourself. Since then we are more mature and have allies in law enforcement and do USO tours. Hip-hop represents that social voice and now we need to use it and elevate it. So we need to stop complaining and put up or shut up because the money is there.
Do you still feel like you are targets for the hip-hop police?
Treach: A lot of police do give us respect because we been in the game doing something positive and on business stuff. It’s not like before when we used to get pulled over all the time. They would ask me where the drugs and guns are but it is what it is.
Treach, what were your thoughts on Pepa’s reality shows The Salt-N-Pepa Show and Let’s Talk About Pep?
Treach: That’s a pat of the new game. Pepa is a hustler. She knew that was the move as far as reality shows and everything was taking over so she put her hand in there. It was a good business move.
There was an episode on Pepa’s show where there were rumors that she dated someone you knew. Is that true?
Treach: I heard about that but never saw that or know the dude. It must have been someone in passing ‘cause none of my homies get down like that with dating exes and baby mamas. So nobody I knew, knew 'cause I would know, know.
Are reality shows something that you all are pursuing?
Treach: We put some things together and were in Run’s House. We shot a pilot for a reality show called A Tribe Called Treach. So you keep fishing and somebody will bite the hook.
Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere played a very important role in helping y’all find success in the early part of your career. How did they take news of your initial break-up?
Kay Gee: They didn’t like it that we didn’t continue what we started. They talked to us and told us to continue what we started but they didn't take sides. They let everybody know they would help us out individually but love for us to get back together and continue what we started.
Is the musical direction of this new album completely different than the last one? It surprised a few folks that you did a track with Pitbull.
Kay Gee: Every album is different and we don’t duplicate the past. Pitbull was organic. They were on tour overseas with him and they created a rapport and he wanted to work with them. We reach out to many rappers when on tour and everybody talk but a lot of the guys don’t come through with it. Pitbull kept his word and did what he said he was gonna do.
Kay, you didn’t work on the last album, iicons, but were you feeling it or not?
Kay Gee: I thought they carried the torch well and showed that it's a team effort but one person don’t stop no show. They did what needed to be done for us to do what we are doing now. —Souleo