November 28, 2014

Naughty By Nature - 19 Naughty III (February 23, 1993)



I had toyed with the idea of running a placeholder post today, it being the day after Thanksgiving in the States and, as such, the unofficial day of choice to recover from a food hangover, but the hell with it: you two might need something to read while waiting in line at Best Buy to purchase shit nobody actually needs for cheap.  Or maybe you're like a lot of people and have to work today.  If that describes you, congratulations, you're in luck!  Today's post might be about an album you actually want to read my thoughts about!

Or not, I don't care.


After tasting a bit of the high life off of their previous effort, the self-titled Naughty By Nature, the trio, made up of rappers Treach and Vin Rock along with their deejay Kay Gee, dropped their third full-length project, 19 Naughty III, in, appropriately enough, 1993.  (That isn't a typo: this actually was the group's third album, since their debut was under a different group name, The New Style, and still counts as a part of their catalog even if I can't be bothered to track it down at the moment.)  At this point, Tommy Boy Records had higher expectations for the trio, since their previous album contained several hit records, including the omnipresent "O.P.P." that you still cannot escape from to this day, in addition to some underrated dope-as-shit production throughout. 

Now, it's pretty rare when a rap outfit comes up with a bona-fide crossover hit that appeals to all demographics, so the trio should be commended for "O.P.P."  But to do it twice?  That's goddamned near-unheard of, but Naughty By Nature pulled it off with the ubiquitous "Hip Hop Hooray", a track you two are absolutely familiar with, or else you're reading the wrong blog, just leave, now, please.  It certainly helps that both tracks ride their respective sample-based beats with playful rhymes and a contagious hook that can be chanted at football games, concerts, mitzvahs both bar and bat, and funerals for fucking millennia to come.

"Hip Hop Hooray" paved the way for 19 Naughty III, another collection of bullshittery and boasts as filtered through the view of the streets, all set to catchy beats and sing-song chants, but that isn't a dismissal of the project, since primary rapper Treach, the unsung and underrated lyrical hero of its predecessor, continues to fill that role on here.  The guest stars are limited to a few, but Naughty's Flavor Unit affiliation is still fulfilled, especially with a cameo toward the end of the review that may excite more than a few of you two.

"Hip Hop Hooray" is one of those dominant rap songs, the kind that all of your friends will be familiar with and will probably massacre at karaoke night, but they won't know shit about the artist behind the track or anything else the artist may have given the world. (See also: Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance": great fucking song, but when was the last time it led a newbie through the group's back catalog?)  Granted, your friends might be aware of "O.P.P.", which, according to Wikipedia, was the bigger hit of the two, which I don't believe for a second but whatever, but that still doesn't mean they're remotely aware of what a 'Naughty By Nature' is.  So Treach and company find themselves in a rarefied class, one in which they are able to reap the rewards of their hard work without feeling the need to prove themselves to anyone, since they already have all of the awards to prove their value to the game.

And this is the lone sentence I will devote to Treach's current beef with Vin Rock, which resulted in the latter leaving Naughty By Nature entirely.


1. 19 NAUGHTY III
The project kicks off with its title track, the beginning of which is so fucking stupid and generically rap-album-intro-like that most heads probably skipped straight to the single (which is the very next song, conveniently enough). Those that did just that missed out on the switch to a banging instrumental at around the one-minute-and-eighteen-second mark, one that Treach uses three full verses to devour. Folks only familiar with Naughty By Nature because of the radio hits may not realize just how much of a monster Treach was behind the mic at his peak: his effortless shit-talking and swagger on “19 Naughty III” easily thrusts him into the discussion of rappers who were once considered underrated before they pissed away their careers. You won't even notice or care that Vinnie doesn't bother appearing on the track. This shit knocks.

2. HIP HOP HOORAY
I typically tackle these reviews in the proper track order, but I deliberately skipped to the next song and held off on writing about “Hip Hop Hooray”, Naughty By Nature's best-known single amongst people who don't know what an “O.P.P.” is, until after I heard everything else on 19 Naughty III again, because I felt the song to be too big of a success story for it to be rightfully judged solely on whether it fits within the context of the album as a whole. Turns out I needn't have worried: “Hip Hop Hooray” works just fine, thanks. Vin (who, oddly, takes the lead on here) and Treach pass the microphone back and forth (with Treach holding on to it longer for obvious reasons) over a catchy instrumental to craft a song that only really pays homage to our chosen genre when the chorus is about to come back around. That's right, folks: this song is really just a bunch of shit-talking that only occasionally alludes to hip hop, especially when it becomes convenient to do so, and a hook that was custom-built for audience participation. That's not a complaint, though, since the shit is still plenty enjoyable today: it was a huge hit for a good goddamn reason. I also have fond memories of how out of place the late Eazy-E (R.I.P.) looked (and, judging by his lack of expression, felt) in its accompanying Spike Lee-directed clip, since Naughty By Nature was smart enough to invite a bunch of rappers to their video shoot for a track that ostensibly celebrated rap music. This is feel-good shit.  Fuck how popular it later became: that just means that more and more people got an opportunity to enjoy “Hip Hop Hooray”. Sometimes a good song is just a good song, one that shouldn't only be celebrated by the critics and the elitist amongst us (and yeah, I'm including myself in that mix, as I'm guilty of doing that shit, too).

3. READY FOR DEM (FEAT. HEAVY D.)
Treach and Vin defer to their invited guest, the late Heavy D. (R.I.P.), who provides the first verse (and the reggae-inspired hook, I believe) on “Ready For Dem”, a track that fails to prove that Naughty By Nature were ready for any of their more-competitive peers back in 1993. The Overweight Lover's contribution was smooth, cocky, and a tiny bit more aggressive than most of you two are probably accustomed to, given his penchant for love raps and the like, and both Treach and Vin are alert enough, but overall “Ready For Dem” collapses under the weight placed upon it by its own sense of self-importance: it takes itself far too seriously to ever be truly entertaining, you see. Sigh.

4. TAKE IT TO YA FACE
A simple pleasure that seems like an afterthought, as though Treach and company belatedly tried to create another radio-friendly-ish offering after the massive success of “Hip Hop Hooray”. Vinnie raps on here, but doesn't do all that much aside from his verse. Treach is clearly having a laugh, though: although his own two verses aren't bad, the brief sing-songy chant during the hook (“so tell your story walking!”) is kind of hilarious for a rap song ostensibly about confrontation and being upfront with your threats. Not a great track by any means, but you probably won't skip it or anything.

5. DADDY WAS A STREET CORNER
After a minute-long skit that does its best to set some semblance of a mood, Treach uses the it-has-surprisingly-held-up-after-all-these-years instrumental to spit his street stories through the prism of an oft-used but still clever comparison that you can guess at by looking at the song's title. Treach's rapid-fire flow is guaranteed to lose all but the most hardcore Naughty By Nature fanatics, but said flow symbolizes the urgency of hustling fairly well. It isn't a banger, and I wish someone would rediscover the beat and put it to use today, but it's worth listening to at least the once, especially if you were clamoring for a spiritual sequel to Naughty By Nature's “Everything's Gonna Be Alright” for some ungodly reason.

6. THE HOOD COMES FIRST
The hood comes all over a head-nodder of a loop that, on its surface, would be a better fit for Naughty By Nature's weed carrier crew Rottin Razcals. (Any of you two who happen to be familiar with that group's handful of singles will know exactly what I'm talking about.) Treach and Vinnie use said beat to unleash their fury, doing so much more successfully that on the like-minded “Take It To Ya Face”, even with the goofy horn during the (pedestrian) hook that disrupts the overall flow. Treach uses his performance to also threaten anyone that comes at the Flavor Unit crew, so at least he's loyal to his clique, which is a nice trait for a rapper to share with the group. Not bad.

7. THE ONLY ONES
Kind of annoying as shit. The instrumental is a frustrating mix of generic drum machine loops and high-pitched horns that screech into your goddamn ears, sounding so detrimental to the cause that you almost want to shove a pair of scissors directly into both eardrums. Almost. Although the original hook, abandoned around the halfway mark to introduce a chorus that gives the song its title, is a little bit refreshing (as Treach announces that Naughty By Nature, bucking the still-current trend, has no “connection to the drug game”), everything else is a motherfucking mess that couldn't end quickly enough for me. Hey, they can't all be winners.

8. IT'S ON
The introductory skit, which takes almost two minutes to cycle through, is poorly done but still sort-of interesting, in that it attempts to depict Kay Gee during the creative process, using inspiration from other people in order to make the horn-inclusive beat for “It's On”. I wish it were executed better, but it is what it is. Vin uses a few bars to dis Sir Mix-A-Lot, of all people, which is ironic, since both Mix-A-Lot and Naughty By Nature tend to rule hip hop-themed karaoke nights, since everyone you know thinks that they know the words to “O.P.P.” and “Hip Hop Hooray” and that it would be fun to give it a shot because, what the hell, it's fun, right? We're having fun? Did you want another beer? No? Yes! Shots would be better! Shots! Shots! Shots! But that intro and the random-ass attack are the only two notable pieces of “It's On”, an otherwise generic effort on which Treach blows through so much shit-talk that I'm sure even he has long since forgotten whatever the hell he was talking about. A shame.

9. CRUDDY CLIQUE
Just like every other rap song ever, “Cruddy Clique” samples Bob James's “Nautilus”, although at least our hosts tried to do something a but different with it. The instrumental has that early-to-mid 1990s East Coast hardcore sound that more than a few of you will enjoy. Lyrically, though, this track goes nowhere, as Treach's three verses are so chock-full of boasts 'n bullshit (trademark pending) that they all merge into one large insult, not aimed at the listener, exactly, but it may as well be, given Treach's motormouth flow and its relentless nature never giving the audience a chance to acclimate to the surroundings. A failure, but an enjoyable-enough one, all things considered.

10. KNOCK EM OUT DA BOX (FEAT. ROTTIN RAZCALS)
Short and (relatively) sweet. Over the course of two minutes and ten seconds, we are presented with a more-than-decent beat, a Slick Rick vocal sample (which is where the song title comes from), and three verses, one from Treach and the others provided by two-thirds of the Rottin Razcalz, Naughty By Nature's aforementioned weed-carrier group, who appear on 19 Naughty III because synergy. Diesel (who is actually Treach's brother, conveniently) and Fam both deliver good, if overly hostile, contributions, while Treach, obviously, takes the cake, eats it, and shoves the leftovers into your fucking face, because he's a dick, but a dick that is nice behind the microphone, especially when the musical backing is up to snuff. A nice oasis, I suppose.

11. HOT POTATO (FEAT. FREDDIE FOXXX)
Kind of an awesome hidden gem here. Treach recruits fellow Flavor Unit crony Freddie Foxxx to spit a couple of verses, and, well, as those of you two who are only familiar with his current incarnation, Bumpy Knuckles, may have guessed, he fucking kills it, stealing the show away from our hosts, and not just because he attacks so-called “hip-pop” (italics mine) music on the very same album that gave us “Hip Hop Hooray”. But Treach is no slouch, having finally found a rhyme partner that matches his intensity blow-for-blow. (Vinnie, as expected, is nowhere to be found.) The hook is a bit corny, and the fact that “Hot Potato” ends with shout-outs only serves to date the track even further, but the beat is pretty sweet, and the verses bang. This shit was nice.

12. SLEEPIN' ON JERSEY (FEAT. QUEEN LATIFAH)
I know that the inspiration is allegedly Nas, but the first few bars during Treach's third verse on “Sleepin' On Jersey” reminded me a lot of the hook on the A$AP Mob's “Trillmatic”, which came out seemingly twenty billion years ago (whatever happened to that album?). I'm just saying it's possible that A$AP Nast has 19 Naughty III somewhere on his iPod. Anyway, this song was boring as shit: the instrumental tries its best to ape the breathless beats Eric B. took all the credit for producing on his joint efforts with Rakim, and fails miserably. Flavor Unit figurehead Queen Latifah, of The Queen Latifah Show, performs the hook in an unnecessary reggae-inspired fashion, which makes no fucking sense since the song is supposed to be about New Jersey. And Treach sounds relatively unconvinced of his own shit-talking throughout. But it does run for less than three minutes, which doesn't count for shit, but could have in another lifetime.

13. WRITTEN ON YA KITTEN
One really goofy trope in our chosen genre is when an artist drops a random phrase on a song that catches on to such a degree that the artist then names a song after the newly-minted catchphrase. That's what happens on “Written On Ya Kitten”, a statement that made its debut on “Hip Hop Hooray”; hell, the latter song is even referenced directly at one point. This is troublesome, since “Written On Ya Kitten” could only be a sex rap (since rappers hardly ever write songs about their kids using their markers on the household pets anymore). Treach's matter-of-fact verses are not the ones for the job, the job being creating a sex rap that isn't misogynistic in any way: our host fails that test around the point he mentions a girl being passed around to Heavy D. And the instrumental is also a weak way to use The Isley Brothers standard “Between The Sheets”. All in all, it's as though Naughty By Nature were sleepwalking at this point. Insert the goofy segue of your choice here.

14. SLEEPWALKIN' II / SHOUT OUTS
A curious animal, one that runs for more than seven goddamn minutes and uses up two separate instrumentals to get its point across. Treach spits two verses over the first beat,"Sleepwalkin' II", which are either about boning or dismissing artists on the come-up who only want to get him to listen to their demo, or possibly both, which sends only the most mixed of messages. And then, as I'm sure you guessed, the rest of the track devolves into a series of shout-outs aimed at friends, family, deejays, veejays, and fellow artists (including De La Soul, which was fascinating given their later beef that stemmed from Treach misinterpreting one of Posdnuos's lyrics). So, yay?

Weirdly, if you happen to purchase 19 Naughty III anywhere but in the United States, you would have a fifteen-track album in your possession, since Treach and company split "Sleepwalkin' II" and "Shout Outs" into two separate audio tracks everywhere else but here.  No, I don't know why, nor do I care to understand, but it's worth mentioning.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  As a whole, 19 Naughty III will never live up to the expectations artificially set by its predecessor.  Treach, Vin Rock, and Kay Gee find themselves chasing the dragon through fourteen tracks' worth of shit-talking and storytelling.  That said, though, the album itself is still filled with enjoyable moments: Treach, once again, shines behind the mic, and practically beams through your goddamn speakers whenever he's paired up with a guest rapper that isn't his rhyme partner Vinnie.  (That Freddie Foxxx collaboration is particularly awesome and should be listened to by every single goddamn one of you before you're allowed to read any more of the posts on this site.)  Consumers who purchased 19 Naughty III off of the strength of the single were undoubtedly disappointed, but to the group's credit, Naughty By Nature never really marketed themselves as a radio-friendly outfit: they're more like those lucky assholes who hit the Powerball jackpot twice within their collective lifetimes.  And you know what?  They fucking deserve it: "O.P.P." and "Hip Hop Hooray" are catchy as shit.  Real talk.  Anyway, this album doesn't necessarily hold up as a cohesive project, but as a mere collection of songs unrelated to one another, you'll certainly find one or two things to like about 19 Naughty III today.  It doesn't top its predecessor, but it really doesn't have to.

BUY OR BURN?  I realize I've talked a bit more shit about this album than I had intended, but overall, 19 Naughty III deserves your money, if for no other reason than to prove that Treach and company were a lot more than the sum of "Hip Hop Hooray" and "O.P.P."

BEST TRACKS:  "Hot Potato"; "The Hood Comes First"; "Knock Em Out Da Box"; "19 Naughty III"; "Hip Hop Hooray" (yes, really)

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
There's a bit more to find on Naughty By Nature by clicking here.


14 comments:

  1. Excellent, this review paves the way for a review of their next album, Poverty's Paradise, which to me is one of those albums that takes me back to being young again instantly.

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  2. "Folks only familiar with Naughty By Nature because of the radio hits may not realize just how much of a monster Treach was behind the mic at his peak"

    This times a million. Dude was a fucking beast back in the early 90s.

    Anyways, this album isn't as good as the first one (too many terrible hooks: The Only Ones, The Hood Comes First, Sleepin' On Jersey), but it's still solid. I'd probably recommend a purchase too.

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  3. I'm surprised you didn't mention the Pete Rock remix of Hip Hop Hooray (which is alright but not as good as the original, I think).

    Also, the QDIII remix of Written on Ya Kitten is a big improvement.

    Cool review though. Some of the tracks on this one are pretty good.

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  4. Good review! Not an incredible album, but the high points are definitely worth listening to. I can't get how Treach is never mentioned on any top lyricists lists... not like he'd be number one, but he certainly deserves to be at least mentioned...

    As for remixes to track down... the QDIII remix of "Written on ya Kitten" is absoulutely incredible, and the single version of It's On does away with the with the long ass intro and makes it a much more listenable song.

    I'm overall not that into greatest hits albums, but for those who want a taste, the "nature's finest" compilation that came back many years ago is a really nice listen from start to finish..

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  5. forgot about naughty by nature until i watched the wolf of wall street doing hip hop hooray ahaha but great review

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  6. Honestly, I've never heard 'Hip Hop Hooray' until today. So yeah, you just lost a reader.

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    1. whoa.... how is that possible?! well.... better late than never. welcome to hip hop.

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    2. O.P.P still gets spins in the UK to this day, when this album came out I was an embryo... So if this song is a crossover it definitely died down around my way way before I started listening to Hip Hop

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  7. You mention that "written on ya kitten" uses "in between the sheets". Does your album have that version? The version that I bought way back when had a slow guitar beat, and "in between the sheets" version is a remix tacked on to the back of the 12", (not the superior QDIII mix, which bangs)

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  8. "It doesn't top its predecessor, but it really doesn't have to." how come the predecessor in question didn't get a recommendation then?

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    1. His opinion may have changed over time, I guess

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  9. the QDIII mix of "Written On Ya Kitten" is flat out incredible. I prefer Pete Rock's remix of "Hip Hop Hooray" by far.

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  10. Appreciate the recommendation BUT....

    You, sir, are on quaaludes if you think that Ready for Dem is anything less than the best collaboration that Treach has EVER done with another MC outside his camp. Hot Potato was fucking awesome, but in no way is Freddie Foxxx touching Heavy D on this album. Simply put, the Heavster remains the only one IMHO to best Treach in his prime. That's enough of THAT track.

    Overall, I find this album to be a SIGNIFICANTLY better album than their debut. But hey, I hate O.P.P. so what do I know?

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