Eric’s Favorite (The CLASSIC): “Naughty By Nature”-Naughty By Nature (1991, Tommy Boy)
Initially proclaimed “New Style”, Treach, Vinnie aka Vin Roc and producer extraordinaire Kay Gee emerged from the cruddiest (per their own admission) surroundings of NJ, East Orange, forming like Voltron to murder talent shows while attending High School together (BTW, I still haven’t heard “Independent Leaders” yet! Is it worth the listen?). It was also their notable talent show performances that landed them”in arms” with Queen Latifah and the Flavor Unit, which soon led to a deal with (to quote GZA) “Tommy (ain’t my muthafu*kin’) Boy”.
Released in 1991, Naughty’s self-titled debut featured one of the largest, most addictive “crossover” hits in Hip Hop history, the Jackson 5-sampled classic “O.P.P.” With it’s appeal to all races, creeds and colors, “O.P.P.” was a tongue in cheek anthem that to this day can still be heard at your favorite sporting event or night club. However, don’t get it twisted there’s more to Naughty’s debut than just “O.P.P”, and just as if you thought that may have been the case, just one listen to the album’s opener “Yoke The Joker” and Naughty will set you straight! The beauty of this album was Naughty’s ability to appeal to both the street smart hardrocks on the block and your average Joe who used ta’ “tight roll” his 501′s (damn, I miss those days!) atop his infrared Air Jordan IV’s.
“Naughty By Nature” is both a pop and Hip Hop CLASSIC that shifts from the old-school, back and forth feel of anthems such as “Pin The Tail On The Donkey” to the knuckle-up, beat your brains in bounce of “Guard Your Grill” (the ultimate B-Side anthem) to the emotionally-driven sounds of “Ghetto Bastard” (Everything’s Gonna’ Be Alright) all on one album. Plus, Treach, when he wasn’t delivering his lyrics in rapid-fire fashion, even showcased his patois on the bouncy “Wickedest Man Alive”. Also, who can forget, what may very well be Naughty’s biggest “street” hit to date, with “Uptown Anthem” which appeared on the “Juice” original soundtrack. Both for the streets and for the clubs, this album is a “must-have” for nearly anyone.
Not to be overlooked (which is usually the case when listing some of Hip Hop’s most astute beatmakers) Kay Gee’s production was both melodic and very soulful yet had a hard, very street edge to it. Kay blended traditional funk loops with soulful melodies and his trademark keyboards, while lacing Naughty with some of the industries biggest street anthems ever. If there’s one thing that Kay, Treach and Vinnie will always be remembered for, it was their ability to churn out irresistible hits without being labeled and “sell-outs”. Knuckle up, this album was a certified CLASSIC!!
“The Slept-On”-“Hazardous”-Godfather Don (1991, Select)
Purchase “Hazardous” via Amazon (Good Luck findin’ this one)
Mostly recognized for his work with Ultramag’s Kool Keith as a member of the Cenobites, Godfather Don cemented his name in New York’s underground with his debut release “Hazardous” (Select)…even if it wasn’t until a decade or so after it’s initial release. Even though Don is thought of as a “producer” first and an emcee second, “Hazardous” was a hard-hitting debut that featured some classic production and an MC who could have just as easily been mistaken for Chuck D, due to their similar flows and deliveries.
My first exposure to Godfather Don was on Ultramagnetic’s “The Four Horsemen” on the ridiculously fresh “Raise It Up”, which Don also handled the production for. And speaking of production, it’s no secret that Don handled all the beats for “Hazardous”, churning out banger after banger that…looking back on it..we’re pretty futuristic for 1991. I mean, listening to “Hazardous” this past weekend, for what may have been the first time in two years or so, this album sounds current to a certain extent. It’s easily withstood the test of time, perhaps due justification of why this album is favored by soo many underground heads seeking that “vintage” sound. Godfather Don has also succeeded in keeping himself relatively “current” over the years following the release of this debut and 1999′s “Diabolique” (Hydra) working with artists such as Screwball (handling a fair amount of production on the crew’s albums), Sir Menelik, Ayatollah and the aforementioned Kool Keith. Don also release “The Nineties Sessions” in 2007, an album that featured a plethora of unreleased material from one of the 90′s finest producers, pick it up if you can-it’s well worth the purchase price.
While Don was enjoying this mid-Nineties reemergence as a recording artist, he was also excelling as a producer. Alongside V.I.C. (of Beatnuts fame) he formed The Groove Merchantz, and the duo produced and remixed tracks for the likes of Nas (oooohhhh, just how dope was the remix for “One Love”?), House Of Pain (“On Point”), Kurious (the B-Side anthem, “A Mansion And A Yacht”), and others. Damn, I wish more cats would take note of “Hazardous”, hands-down one of the best album’s that 1991 had to offer!
“The Unheard”-“Valoompadoom Pink”-E.S.P. (1991, Select)
Hold up a minute! I know your looking at the title of E.S.P.’s “Valloompadoom Pink…” and thinking to yourself: “What in the hell is this sh*t?!”. I’m here to tell you, this album is surprisingly……good! Thanks to the almighty “Bust The Facts” I was introduced to this strangely titled disc by the three man crew that comprised E.S.P. (which was an acronym for each of the three member’s aliases). Little is known on the origin of this trio, as it was truly a task to find an info on the net’. Before I actually sat down and listened to the album nearly a year ago, I felt compelled to peep Discogs to see just who these cats were. I was surprised to find out that Hitman Howie Tee produced three cuts on the album. The correlation makes sense being that Howie had a heavy involvement in Chubb Rock’s production, and of course, Chubb happened to be on the Select Records imprint as well.
The album starts off with a nice intro, “Been A Long Time”, which incorporates the same loop that Ghostface popularized with his usage for “Daytona 500″. The good intro was key, because if some “lovey dovey” bullsh*t” would have blasted thru the speakers there may have been a decent chance that I would’ve moved on to the next album. The hook for “Makin’ Nat’ Green” serves as a clever play on Schooly D’s infamous “P.S.K…”, while it also features a very familiar sample that’s extremely easy on the ears. Not too disappoint, Howie Tee comes through with top-notch production on the album with “One, Two, An A..”. The track, which really reminds me alot of Chubb’s “Just The Two Of Us”, has a bit of a reggae vibe to it, yet the rolling bass undertones solidify it’s edginess. And the Chubb Rock comparisons don’t end there, “One, Two, An A..” also features Chubb’s girl Lady Kazan (“Lady Kazan/My homegirl..peace!”, from “Treat Em’ Right”) The majority of the tracks on the album are heavily reliant on overused samples, well, I say overused now, but back in 1991 this album…production-wise….could have hung with the best of em’. I would have to say that “Valoompadoom..” reminds me of what Leaders of The New School’s “A Future Without A Past” and K.M.D.’s “Mr. Hood” would sound like if they were meshed together.
Lyrically, each of the emcees have a very laidback, smooth, yet mellow flow. Even though they may not be raising the bar with lyrics that make you reach for the rewind button, each of their voices blends effortlessly with the superb production. If you want to be surprised by an album that you’ve probably never heard, “Valoompadoom Pink…” is it! It’s not the type of album that I just threw in the headphones to give my “two cents”, this is an album that is….no, has been in rotation over the course of the year. Don’t miss out on this one!