Still Naughty after all these years

by Ryan Snyder

Anyone who came strictly to see Naughty By Nature perform “OPP” Sunday night at Ziggy’s didn’t have to wait long. The Jersey rap survivors came out swinging with one of hip hop’s all-time most durable anthems, the song that allowed the group to surf the crest of the bicoastal war of both words and actual bullets that raged while they were infecting every club and car trunk in America with the callout, “Yeah, you know me!” After 24 years, there’s simply no buildup in a Naughty by Nature show, nor is there much need for it: Treach and Vin Rock graduated long ago from quasigangster beat toasters to professional showmen. You don’t hang around as long as they have without turning down the screws on your set (look at Luniz or Warren G), and Naughty by Nature’s show is programmed like a bus route.

Their 1991-1993 output brought them the Grammy and the platinum, but their four albums since 19 Naughty III offered both financial sustenance and more than adequate set filler between the gargantuan hits. Songs like 2011’s “Uptown Anthem” feel familiar enough in style that they’re suitable valets for the autobiographical “Ghetto Bastard”, but the perfunctory nod to 100% Rap Hits with a half-hearted cover of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” et al was problematic.

Maybe it was the need for association decades after their heyday; Treach ripped off his hoodie to reveal a collage of ink, including a portrait of 2Pac on his forearm that prompted him to pour out the Henny and lament his inability to get Pac and Biggie at the table together to, you know, cry it out. Such shenanigans were as forgivable as forgettable, though, the moment “Feel Me Flow” and “Hip Hop Hooray” came out. There’s no hype driving hip-hop heads to see Naughty by Nature in 2013; just a taste for old school joints.