Personnel: Treach Criss, Vinnie Brown, Aphrodity, Kaygee Gist, Lakim Shabazz, Queen Latifah, Apache (vocals); Andy Schnitzer (saxophone); David Bellochio (keyboards); Van Romaine (drums); Earth, Wind & Fire, Ohio Players, The Jackson 5, Boney M. (sampler).
Audio Mixers: Dae Bennett; Eddie Reed.
Recording information: Unique Recording, New York, NY.
Photographers: Mark Weinberg ; Kristine Larsen.
There was not a bigger, more contagious crossover radio smash in the autumn of 1991 than Naughty by Nature's "O.P.P.," a song that somehow managed the trick of being both audaciously catchy and subversively coy at the same time. Its irrepressible appeal -- the Jackson 5 sample, the saucy subject matter, the huge anthemic chorus, Treach's phat rat-a-tat flow -- was so widespread, in fact, that it played just as well to the hardcore heads in the hood as it did to the hip-hop dabblers in the suburbs. The beauty of the trio's self-titled full-length debut is that it is every bit as musically accomplished, and every bit as ghetto fabulous, in its entirety as that watershed first single. Naughty by Nature is both a pop and a rap classic that chews up stylistic real estate by the block, easily shifting from an old-school rhyme-off between Treach and Vinnie ("Pin the Tail on the Donkey"), the unflappable "Louie Louie" Vega-produced posse cut "1, 2, 3" (with verses from Flavor Unit compadres Lakim Shabazz and Apache), and the teeth-clinching combative dirge "Guard Your Grill," all of which very much come out swinging from the streets, to the more measured, emotionally developed "Ghetto Bastard," which brings an upbeat but nail-tough point of view to a grim tale of parental and societal deprivation without ever asking for an ounce of sympathy. With the assistance of Queen Latifah's makeshift patois, the trio even brought something of the Caribbean to East Orange with "Wickedest Man Alive." All the tracks are as street as they are club astute, trimming the funk loops with live keyboards and saxophone and sanguine, soulful melodies. A must-have album for fans of East Coast rap. ~ Stanton Swihart