There are only a handful of recording
acts, whose voices, personae and imagery will always be attached to the memory
and legacy of hip-hop. Naughty by
Nature is one of the celebrated few.
The very mention of O.P.P. and Hip Hop
Hooray will generate an instant reaction even in the midst of a diverse
crowd. And although the group is
known for their catalog of massive party anthems, Naughty by Nature was able to
strike a delicate balance in achieving mainstream popularity without losing an
ounce of their street credibility.
As Naughty by Nature celebrates its
second decade in the music business, Treach, Vin Rock and DJ Kay Gee managed to
squeeze some time of their busy schedules and settle down for an interview with
Clayton Perry reflecting on
industry politics, the globalization of hip-hop and transitioning into the
digital musical era.
AllHipHop.com: Nearly a decade has passed since Naughty by Natures last
studio album, IIcons. What do you consider to be the major
motivation, not only for the creation of a new album, but reunifying the
Vin Rock: When
Kay departed the group in 2000, Treach and I kept going. We put out IIcons on TVT. And we never stopped touring. We
kept circling the globe year after year after year. But the major motivator came
when we said, Look, we could tour forever. We already see that. We even took
a sabbatical from the road in 2004 for a whole year. And management came back
like, "Look, you guys are leaving too much money on the table. You guys
gotta get back out here on the road." So we got back on the road, and
after that it was like it only made sense to keep feeding the people new music,
especially looking at the growth of our peers, and even newer artists that came
in the game using the blueprint that we laid out and were capitalizing off of
it. It was about giving the people new music, and participating in the
expansion of hip-hop, especially with the corporate partnerships and just the
general growth that you see guys like 50 Cent or Diddy or Jay-Z, a lot of our
peers having with it.
AllHipHop.com: If we count the New Style record, your forthcoming project
Anthem Inc. is
going to be your seventh studio album, which has a lucky feel to it. As you
finish putting the final touches on Anthem Inc., what are you most excited about?
thing I can say. It's just so much of a different situation. It's been so long
since the last album that I don't think the fans really know the hunger level
that's in it. So if they think
it's going to be lackluster or disappointing at all, it's like they in for a
hell of a ride. For me, we play
around with all that superstitious stuff and use it to our advantage. When we came off of the first album, everybody
was talking about the sophomore jinx and everything else. And everybody was
weighing on us and like, "Yo, man. They cant follow-up O.P.P. No way in
the world they could follow up that album! And it did us good to just show
them just exactly where we was coming from, and we did! We came back and blew
the house down, again. So its
just stupid b***hin'. I don't even get into it, and I dont have a certain
number that's going to give me luck. But I just pray to God and thank Him for
all the blessings and leave it in His hands. I feel that our talent will speak
AllHipHop.com: With the massive successes of O.P.P., Hip Hop Hooray and
Jamboree, Naughty by Nature is well-respected and known for bringing party
anthems to the music landscape. When people look at your career, is there a
certain contribution that you think tends to be overlooked?
Vin Rock: Definitely.
I think our street records Guard Your Grill", the "Uptown
Anthem", all the way up to "Dirt All by My Lonely" and the
last album we did together. Even this new record, I Gotta Lotta, and the
video we have out for it now. We made some of the earliest street records, but
I think the commercial records are so big, it really eclipses them. If you go
to a Naughty By Nature show, we can adjust very well. Like we can do a Rated G
show. We can do a show without even doing "O.P.P." and "Hip Hop
Hooray" and hit you with all straight gully records, man, and really do a
solid forty minutes of that stuff. Even though people tend to think about our commercial success, if you ask
some underground heads, they'll definitely tell you their favorite records are "Guard
Your Grill", "Uptown Anthem," and "Dirt All by My Lonely."
AllHipHop.com: When you look at the hip-hop landscape in general, it's
completely different than when you first hit the scene. What do consider to be
the good, the bad and the ugly in hip-hop's evolution?
Vin Rock: You
know what? I think hip-hop is doing what it's always done ever since we were
there. It's just broader now. You have so many different flavors. You have so
many different regions involved in the music now. And basically for us, we look
at it as a competitive market. And I still look at it that way. I'm happy with
what's going on in hip-hop right now, because I feel that Naughty By Nature, we
can always come in and still compete, whether it's with our studio recordings
or live stage performances. We can go out there and basically f**k with anybody
out there. So I love what's going on in hip-hop, because I see there's a lane
where we could come and penetrate the market.
AllHipHop.com: As you speak about these different flavors that are out now,
I am very intrigued by the fact that you have Pitbull featured on the remix of
"Get to Know Me Better". I also noticed that you are servicing
several different remixes, too. How has your marketing strategy changed over
the years? And what professional lessons have you learned, when it comes to
distributing your work digitally?
Vin Rock: When
we worked on the first batch of records, we identified the first two records: "Get
to Know Me Better" and "I Gotta Lotta". So we decided to approach
it the traditional way. We had the viral presence, but we said, all right,
well, we're traditionally a radio driven group. So we'll hire our radio NDs,
and we'll have them go at radio. Well, the whole landscape of radio has
changed, with the big conglomerates, and all of the labels merging. You only
have three and a half majors right now. Those guys basically clog up the lane
of radio. So we had to come back and really, really concentrate on the viral
part of it. We have a lot of industry colleagues; guys who were inside labels,
guys who worked our first few records, who've gone on to work for Universal or
Sony or whatever. A lot of these guys are independent now. They told us about
the landscape, and they told us how important it was to work a record virally. To
be honest, yo, that radio game is very expensive. So we were told to really,
really invest in the digital world. So we took that approach as well, and as we
worked, even on the Pitbull remix, we decided that we could definitely pop off
a viral video for "I Gotta Lotta". We already had a new publicist in
place, who was more savvy with all the hip-hop blogs and everything. Once the
video was finished, we got with the publicist, we put together a press release,
embedded our video into it and housed it on our YouTube page. Once the
publicist sent the blast out, it got to all the blogs and we got 11,000 hits in
one day. And in that same day, BET called us for the video
AllHipHop.com: Oh, wow!
Vin Rock: and basically we had been working the two records at radio
for about six to nine months prior to that. So that viral presence and the
viral marketing part of it was very, very important. On top of that, if you send records out here, these people
at radio, even program directors right now are so handcuffed, there's not but
so much they can do. But virally, you can get the instant feedback from the
people, you can get directly at non-traditional magazine coverage such as
AllHipHop.com, which is the new Source, the new XXL.
The landscape is completely changing and there is a whole new way that this
game is being approached. You definitely have to have your ear to the streets,
your ear to the Web and see how people are marketing and breaking these
AllHipHop.com: It's really interesting to hear you talk about how you were
able to adapt on the business end. On a more personal level, why do you think
you have been able to have such longevity? Few artists, let alone hip-hop
artists, can say that theyhave
been in the music industry for twenty years, and still make money on the road
Vin Rock: I
think a lot of it has to do with professionalism. People can see right through
you. I think the fans from day one, they saw Naughty By Nature, they saw right
through us. They could see that we were authentic. And then, we've done a lot of campaigning, a lot of hugging
people and kissing babies and stuff, and it's been from a genuine perspective.
So when people see that, and you don't blow them off, and you're not afraid to
take a picture and all of that stuff; you take the time to sign an autograph,
you don't go around with security blowing people off, man; the fans appreciate
that. And as far as our professionalism, everyone we encounter from certain record
labels to every promoter and every live performance we've ever done, there's
never been any diva done with Naughty By Nature. We go out there. We're
professional. We don't have crazy demands. We give a hell of a concert. We
service the people, man. And promoters totally appreciate that. We always get
the next recommendation. We always get the same promoter booking us multiple,
multiple times. And it's a testament to the professionalism. That's what I
think, personally.AllHipHop.com: I know it is
easy to say, now, after twenty years, that you are consummate professionals.
But who do you credit for getting you to this point, and mentoring you in the
DJ Kay Gee: The surge definitely started with Queen Latifah. As far as
the industry, Queen Latifah; her partner, Shakim [Compere]. And then, there was
Monica Lynch at Tommy Boy, Tom Silverman, and the late, great Gerald Busby from Motown.
Vin Rock: Tom
DJ Kay Gee: Tom Warren who helped us from day one. It's been a lot of
guys that just helped us out, and showed us a lot of things and a lot of ways
to go. Even Rebekah [Foster] from our management company. She came in with us
from day one and showed us a lot of things to do. About sound. How to hold a
mic. How to set our equipment up the right way. Just a lot of different things
and a lot of different avenues. We had different people who, you know,
basically passed that wisdom on and that knowledge and fed us with it. And we
continued to hold that torch, man, and carry it on.
AllHipHop.com: As some of hip-hops prominent musical ambassadors, you
carry this torch at home and abroad.
What details can you share about your upcoming USO tour? And since you
are returning for a
second leg, talk about the first leg as well, and the positive feedback that
made you want to go back.
man, yeah, that was crazy. On the first leg we went on about six months ago, we
went to Iraq, Kuwait and the border of Syria. We went out there with DJ
Skribble. That was the first time we went. In Iraq they had us well held down,
but you are in a war zone. The troops, half of them didn't even believe we were
coming out, because they said so many groups end up cancelling for whatever
reason and especially the hip-hop groups, like a lot of the groups. They
appreciate everybody that comes out, but they said honestly that a lot of the
rock 'n' roll or country groups, these young soldiers don't even know who they
are. So just to get a bit of hip-hop really takes them back home and gives them
that time and mind-space to really not think about the everyday stress that
they're going through and everything else. I mean, it was just heartfelt and
warm, not to just see them, but just to be a part of that. And like you said,
we just came back this time from Africa, Djibouti and Bahrain. Persian Gulf. So
we were out there, and it was like, that wasn't so much as far as like a combat
zone, but you see the hours and work they're putting in to just have us on deck
of the United States protected by any foreign forces that might want to try
anything. And how much time we spent out there. We would meet with the Naval
force out there, DISCOM. So we went everywhere; the submarines, and really
seeing how confined the space is and how our soldiers, as human beings, just are
living it, just to protect us. It gives you a whole different level of respect
for what they went through, what they're going through and what they're doing
to protect us. So, it's one of the most fulfilling tours that I've ever been
on, as far as just work that we always do to throw back and give back; I feel
like this one is on the top of the list of the things we've done.
Vin Rock: And
on top of that, I just want to commend AllHipHop.com for covering these USO
tours. I'm looking at the site right now, and you're promoting on Paul Wall,
his fourth USO tour. A lot of rappers do a lot of good will, man. But it's
unfortunate that most of the time, the only time that they get press is when theyre
doing something negative. It's just unfortunate that the good is never
reported. So when you guys report on this stuff, there's a lot of people out
there, especially our minority sisters and brothers, who connect with these
stories, because they have family members out there in the field, or they are
out there themselves. Hip-hop is not all about beef and drama.
"I Gotta Lotta"
AllHipHop.com: Are you ever shocked at the growth of hip-hop over the
years? Earlier, Treach mentioned how the soldiers will hear country and rock
'n' roll artists perform, but it doesn't really take them back home the same
way. What kind of impression does that have on you, that hip-hop is still so
strong, even to this day?
Vin Rock: Well,
this world, it's a small world after all. And I look at the continents as
states, now. You know, we were blessed to have a big international record right
out the box. So we've been basically globetrotting since '91. I dont really
see continents and countries anymore just states. Hip-hop has always been big
to me. It's always been expanding. I'm a big advocate for it. I'm happy to see
what like Jay, 50 [Cent], Diddy, and all of these guys are doing to continue to
globalize it and move it forward. And with the Internet, it will be further
globalized. I'm not sure how many
people from around the world can reach AllHipHop.com, but avenues like that
help distributed hip-hop all over the world. It's much easier for a global fan to just log on and get the
same direct feed of hip-hop that we get.
AllHipHop.com: Although youhave
always thought of hip-hop as this global phenomenon. Povertys Paradise was the first album to win the GRAMMY
Award for Best Rap Album, which started being offered in 1996. In what ways
have you seen the industry change, in regards to its relationship with hip-hop?
Does anything in particular stand out?
they wasn't even televising hip-hop as getting Grammys back then. So it's like looking
at history coming from the back of the bus to the front. Rosa Parks kind of stuff.
We knocked down the doors on a lot of racial barriers. Blatant s**t! Like these
kids today don't even see it. Yo! MTV Raps was just popping off when we came out. Before that, there
was no rap format at all unless it was underground video shows. So to take hip-hop to the masses, we will
always love and take our hats off and bow down to our Run-DMCs and LL Cool Js
and our forefathers of hip-hop, like Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five, who
opened those doors where it wasn't being done. Today, there's no excuse. If you
really work hard and do all that there is to do as a new artist, there's no
reason why you can't go out there and really make it happen. A lot of these
artists don't understand that it is a job. It's not like just sitting back and
you're rich and famous overnight. You've got to work for that.
AllHipHop.com: What kind of advice do you have for new, up-and-coming
basically, man, that they've got to learn the game and know that it's not the
same game where you could go into a label with your demo, get signed for a
quarter of a million or more dollars and there's some major money backing it.
Like right now, to get signed to anybody, you better show that you've got some
type of your own buzz going and you've got your own independent vibe and you
basically are your own label. Because if you ain't doing that, you're not even
going to come up on radar. They're going to look right over you. They're
checking now to see who got the most hits here, there and the other. Who's
making the most noise in the club. Who's got this type of vibe here. It ain't
just those deals where you could walk up into the labels and you felt as though
you were the hottest at the time. You might think that you were going to get
signed. Right now there's so much bubble gum stuff out there, it ain't about
just having the dopist lyrics or just the best swagger right now. You better
know how to make some songs that's going to last for a while, because it ain't
looking too good, coming out here just with a prayer and a dream. You better be
willing to work for it.
For more information on Naughty by Nature, visit the
groups official website: http://www.naughtybynature.com