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Naughty by Nature pulled off the neat trick of landing big, instantly catchy anthems on the pop charts while maintaining their street-level credibility among the hardcore rap faithful; one of the first groups to successfully perform such a balancing act.
The group was formed in East Orange, NJ, in 1986, while all three members -MCs Treach and Vinnie, and DJ Kay Gee – were attending the same high school. Initially called New Style, they began performing at talent shows and were discovered by Queen Latifah a few years later; she signed the group to her management company and helped them land a deal with Tommy Boy Records.
Naughty by Nature’s self-titled debut was released in 1991 and produced an inescapable Top Ten hit in “O.P.P.” (which supposedly stood for “other people’s property,” though a close listen to the lyrics revealed that the second P represented male or female genitals). “O.P.P.” made Naughty by Nature crossover stars, yet their ghetto sensibility and gritty street funk (not to mention Treach’s nimble rhyming technique) made them popular in the hip-hop underground as well. Treach began a secondary acting career in 1992, appearing in Juice; he would go on to supporting roles in The Meteor Man, Who’s the Man?, and Jason’s Lyric, among others.
Naughty by Nature repeated their success with the 1993 follow-up album, 19 Naughty III, which produced another ubiquitous crossover smash in the “hey! ho!” chant of “Hip Hop Hooray”; the album hit the Top Five and, like its predecessor, went platinum. 1995’s Poverty’s Paradise was the group’s final album for Tommy Boy; though it didn’t spawn any major hits, it went on to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album.
A recording hiatus of several years followed; during that time, Treach pursued his acting career, most notably landing a recurring role on the HBO prison drama Oz; and Kay Gee greatly expanded his outside production work, helming records for Zhané, Aaliyah, Krayzie Bone, and Next, among others.
Even outside of music, the group made headlines; in 1997, both Treach and Vinnie were arrested in Harlem for illegal weapons possession, and, in 1999, Treach married Pepa, of Salt-N-Pepa (a union that would dissolve two years later).
Also in 1999, Naughty by Nature finally returned with a new album on Arista, titled 19 Naughty Nine: Nature’s Fury. “Jamboree,” featuring Zhané, was a sizable hit, but though the group looked to be back on track, Kay Gee departed to concentrate full-time on his production career.
Treach and Vinnie struck a deal with TVT, and the first Naughty by Nature album as a duo, IIcons, was released in early 2002. Momentum slowed for the group by the latter half of the 2000’s, but in 2011, rumors circulated that Naughty by Nature were working on a comeback album, titled Anthem Inc.