Naughty by Nature - 19 Naughty III (30th Anniversary) Music Album Reviews

Naughty by Nature - 19 Naughty III (30th Anniversary) Music Album Reviews
When hip-hop was split between being an industry force or a niche subculture, the New Jersey trio’s second album proved they could bridge the gap between commercial success and artistic credibility.

With four albums neatly spanning the 1990s, Naughty By Nature is bound in the sonic and cultural fabric of that decade. The group’s original lineup supplied grim portraits of urban decay, visions pithy enough to be packaged and sold to the masses. But for a few years, the New Jersey trio saw into the future. Even if “O.P.P.” now feels like a lab-tested novelty hit—the headlong enunciation, the call-and-response chorus, the verse for the fellas, the verse for the ladies—it was a revelation in 1991. The song’s Jackson 5 sample is offset by winking innuendo; rather than leaning into the buttery groove or courting controversy outright, frontman Treach pursues a sly middle path. A leering toast to infidelity, it’s the sort of artifact the older kids on the school bus had to explain.

At a juncture where hip-hop might have become a commercial force or a niche subculture, Naughty By Nature visualized a global movement and an inclusive community. They also sensed a need for gatekeeping. “Hip Hop Hooray,” the lead single from 19 Naughty III, name-checks critical darlings Nice and Smooth, A Tribe Called Quest, and Leaders of the New School, lauding them over household names like MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. Ensuring hip-hop’s health would mean celebrating its triumphs while defending it from interlopers, and 19 Naughty III put a stake in the ground. It supposes a seemingly irreconcilable gulf between credibility and record sales—a gap that, time and again, the trio managed to bridge. NBN perceived rap’s cultural and political ascendance, but they couldn’t have anticipated its looming decentralization.

Grousing about sellouts is the fifth pillar of hip-hop; take EPMD’s finger-wagging “Crossover,” which scaled the Billboard charts six months before “Hip Hop Hooray.” On 19 Naughty III ’s second single “It’s On,” Vinnie denounces Sir Mix-a-Lot, whose “Baby Got Back” spent five weeks atop the Hot 100 in 1992. But the difference between 19 Naughty III and, say, De La Soul’s Stakes Is High is that 19 Naughty III was itself a platinum-selling juggernaut. Buried amidst 19 Naughty III’s nihilistic street anthems is a curious, if contradictory, meditation on art and commerce: How did a hardcore rap group become a staple of middle-school dances?

Hailing from the inland city of East Orange, Naughty By Nature didn’t put on for their hometown so much as for hip-hop in general. “The Only Ones” and “The Hood Comes First” extol authenticity in broad strokes, pledging adherence to the group’s humble roots and artistic standards. That’s not to say they were traditionalists—if anything, 19 Naughty III is defined by irreverence. One of the most advanced technicians of his generation, Treach raps about sex like a teenager who just filched a porno mag. On “Ready for Dem,” he’s a shock jock where guest Heavy D is a smooth operator: “You ain’t ready, remarkable, or regal/You’re the fucking reason that abortion shit is legal.” On multiple occasions across the record, Treach reiterates his wish to paint the White House black. It’s not quite a political statement, but it does suggest a certain Afrocentric retribution.

Even the trio’s signature hits eschewed a steady formula. “Hip Hop Hooray” is a tight mesh of Motown instrumentals and inescapable choruses, the rhyme schemes showcasing Treach and Vinnie’s idiosyncrasies. On it, Treach stretches crude ideas into loquacious patterns: “You put your heart in a part of a part that spreads apart/And forgot that I forgave when you had a spark” is his version of you caught feelings. In the third verse, he’s a Tom and Jerry character inching upon unsuspecting prey: “Tippy tippy pause, tippy tippy pause/Sometimes creepin’ up, I eat ‘em up/Your styles are older than Lou Rawls.” If it’s a space-filler, it’s one of the more evocative couplets of the early ‘90s.

19 Naughty III never approaches the poignancy of “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” the emotional climax of the group’s 1991 self-titled album. “Take It to Your Face” and “Knock Em Out Da Box” are lyrical street fights, but Vinnie and Treach shy away from gory violence. (In promo shoots from the 19 Naughty III run, they wield scythes, chainsaws, and baseball bats, but never firearms.) Where NBN’s immediate successors—M.O.P., Smif N’ Wessun, Mobb Deep—offered distinctive portrayals of people and their neighborhoods, the cityscapes of 19 Naughty III lack that degree of local specificity. Still, glimpses of crumbling projects and militarized police speak to broader injustices. On “Daddy Was a Street Corner,” Treach ascribes gang warfare to institutional collapse: “Some kids come home to cartoons on cable/To new clothes with labels/I came home to corners, did homework when able.” These songs could have been set in Brooklyn or Compton as easily as East Orange, making them almost universal.

Even if 19 Naughty III is a big-tent record, NBN’s credibility allowed them to chase pop hits without compromising their ideals. Some of the appeal can be attributed to their refusal to romanticize struggle in spite of their backgrounds. A friend and confidant of 2Pac’s, Treach is a similarly mercurial presence across NBN’s early catalog, his vindictive chest-puffing interspersed with remorseful confessions. (Both artists were accused of domestic abuse during their recording careers, allegations to which the industry turned eager blind eyes.) 19 Naughty III features visceral first-person verses as opposed to sweeping autobiographical accounts; Treach is an in-the-moment narrator, which makes his work feel frozen in time. His double-time delivery, knotty rhyme patterns, and rhythmic precision are as instinctual as his ornate wordplay.

East Orange lies about 15 miles west of the New York subway terminus; producer Kay Gee’s beats feel tailor-made for the Cherokees and Monteros that throttled the Garden State Parkway. Although he’d soon become an R&B kingmaker, striking gold with Next and Jaheim, his production on 19 Naughty III is tense and fidgety. “Cruddy Clique” and “Daddy Was a Street Corner” are layered, full-bodied arrangements, their rough edges assuming a brawniness compared to the wistful keys and smoky breaks of regional contemporaries like DJ Premier and Pete Rock. Nothing resembles a party track outside of “Hip Hop Hooray,” but the exaggerated snares and winding basslines mirror Treach’s nervy energy.

Rap was moving extremely fast in 1993; those who didn’t adapt were left behind with stylistic relics like Kwamé and K-Solo. Arriving in February of that year, 19 Naughty III served as a blueprint for upstarts and established acts alike. Onyx and Lords of the Underground debuted that spring with bolder takes on NBN’s pugilism. Run-D.M.C.’s comeback effort Down With the King is virtually a frame-for-frame remake of 19 Naughty III—right down to the cover art—as is LL Cool J’s groaningly put-on 14 Shots to the Dome. (Kris Kross’s tongue-twisting flows compelled listeners to wonder: What if Vinnie and Treach were 6th graders?) Where Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and Midnight Marauders yanked the genre in new and weird directions, 19 Naughty III straddled audiences in such a way that would’ve been impossible months later. By 1995, the movement captured on “Hip Hop Hooray” had splintered into self-contained scenes, and Naughty By Nature’s moment had largely passed. It’s tempting to say 19 Naughty III reflects the sounds of 1993, when the inverse is closer to the truth.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Naughty by Nature - 19 Naughty III (30th Anniversary) Music Album Reviews Naughty by Nature - 19 Naughty III (30th Anniversary) Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on March 07, 2023 Rating: 5


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