Interviewed and written by Hector De La Rosa
Naughty By Nature is one of the few groups that tremendously impacted the hip-hop and mainstream culture with their distinguished personalities and talent. They are a respected collective trio that managed to survive the times of an uncertain and inconsistent music industry that chases trends- an industry where many group members are likely to disband. Though their discography comprise of many classics, it is only one album that not only enhanced the artistry of Naughty By Nature but forever changed the genre of hip-hop. Group member Vinnie sits down with Consciousness Magazine Media Relations Specialist Hector De La Rosa to discuss all things hip-hop and honoring the 20th Anniversary of their classic album 19 Naughty III.
Hector De La Rosa: What is your own definition of consciousness?
Vinnie: Consciousness is being aware of one’s own surroundings. It is being cognizant of one’s history and what one did in this life. It is important to acknowledge where one came from and where one is going. If that person is conscious, he or she is aware of how to carry him or herself in a certain manner.
HD: How was Naughty By Nature’s 19 Naughty III album unique from other classic albums that were released in the year 1993?
Vinnie: The album was different because it was unique to Naughty By Nature. We were coming straight from the streets of East Orange, New Jersey. We always had that hip-hop in us. The 19 Naughty III album stressed about our experiences from the streets of New Jersey. This is what sets the album apart from other classic albums such as ’93 Til Infinity (Souls of Mischief), Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde (The Pharcyde), and Digable Planets’ Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space).
HD: How is Naughty By Nature as a group different from other groups such as A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill, or The Pharcyde?
Vinnie: Hip-Hop is represented in so many regions: East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, and the Dirty South. We were just strictly from the East Coast putting New Jersey on the hip-hop map. The notion of us being a trio and sharing our experiences on various records from our school days, our upbringings, to our first record deal made us distinctive. I feel that every hip-hop act and group is exceptional.
HD: What did Naughty By Nature as a group experience in the process of recording 19 Naughty III?
Vinnie: We were definitely lucky and blessed off the success of the first Naughty by Nature album. Since we were rocking to the success of the first album, it was only right that we paid homage to hip-hop as a genre and culture. The result was the recording of ‘Hip-Hop Hooray.’ We crafted an ode to the founding fathers of hip-hop that paved the way for us as a collective. It was a clever idea because today’s upcoming hip-hop acts do not know their hip-hop culture or know the good people like Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, and Sugar Hill Gang who were pioneers. Today’s artists assume putting out only one single would solidify them as hip-hop. They deliberately ignore the fact that no one came before them and no one will come after them, which I find this mentality to be quite disturbing and yet absurd. ‘Hip-Hop Hooray’ was a song of appreciation which congeal 19 Naughty III to be another successful album.
HD: What were the group’s expectations of the album?
Vinnie: The first album and its respective singles went double platinum. We knew we had great momentum, good management, and an astonishing team. Therefore, we expected the 19 Naughty III album to do as well as the first.
HD: Define in your own words your Golden Era of Hip-Hop.
Vinnie: My Golden era of hip-hop was when I was inspired by hip-hop acts like Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Beastie Boys during the 1980s Crush Groove Era. Eric B and Rakim were my major influences. These acts brought that street element to hip-hop wearing those Kango hats with fat gold chains.
HD: Of all the songs on the 19 Naughty III, which songs resonated or impacted the lives of the group?
Vinnie: I would gladly nominate ‘Hip-Hop Hooray’ to be that single that definitely took us by storm. I call that single the ‘Unofficial Hip-Hop Anthem.’ It gives mad props to hip-hop and all those who came before Naughty By Nature and built a foundation. Thus, ‘Hip-Hop Hooray’ is a very important record.
HD: There were hip-hop songs after ‘Hip-Hop Hooray’ that paid homage to the genre. Do you feel that those songs had the same effect on the masses as ‘Hip-Hop Hooray?’
Vinnie: I cannot speak for everyone else. I do know how Naughty By Nature made the masses feel after all these years. Fans have their personal favorite records. I can only speak how ‘Hip-Hop Hooray’ has penetrated the ears of fans. Twenty years later, it is still considered one of the biggest records in hip-hop. The song is always heard at hip-hop and sports events. It is a stand out record part of the kaleidoscope of hip-hop.
HD: What were the group’s experiences when affiliated with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit?
Vinnie: Our group was first known as The New Style before officially named Naughty By Nature. We formed that group since high school. First, we signed a deal with the Sugar Hill label and it did not follow through as we would have wanted it to. It dawned on us that Queen Latifah is also a New Jersey native. We wanted to be on a team that was reputable and doing big things. We pursued Flavor Unit Management and it was perfect timing, same time a blessing to where things lined up properly because Queen Latifah and Shakim were expanding as a business company. We changed our name to Naughty By Nature so we can be properly marketed and ended up being the first group to be signed to Latifah’s management.
HD: How did the group select songs that would make it to the final cut of the album?
Vinnie: We hung out in the studio and made thirty songs. Every time we would come home from the studio, Kay Gee would come through in his Nissan Sentra with a loud booming system. We would all drive with him all over the city with the music pumping loudly. The songs we got the best reaction from the public would be the songs that ended up on 19 Naughty III.
HD: Describe Kay Gee’s production and how his sound stands out from other producers like RZA (of Wu- Tang) and DJ Muggs (of Cypress Hill) who provided the majority of in-house production to their groups.
Vinnie: Kay Gee’s sound is more melodic. He grew up listening to soul records. His visits to the South would reflect his production as he samples the likes of Otis Redding and other artists that were in his father’s vinyl catalogue. Further, Kay Gee brought along a talented keyboard player to rock with us. Together, they formulated a rhythmic piano-keyboard style.
HD: How much has the music industry changed since the release of 19 Naughty III?
Vinnie: There are sample free records in abundance that are dominating the airwaves and internet. Back then, you would hear about producers like Dr. Dre, DJ Muggs, and Kay Gee. However, there are a lot of unsigned producers that are not getting their props or credit for their work. It is not that they are overlooked. Perhaps, it is because artists are taking their material without authorization and not notifying the producers. Plus, upcoming talent are not willing to compensate for a producer’s time and work.
HD: Do you think that hip-hop is a product of corporate colonialism?
Vinnie: Back then, hip-hop came strictly from independent labels such as Next Plateau and Tommy Boy Records. These record labels were in competition with the major record labels that were still promoting 1980s rock music and bands. Eventually, the corporations caught on to what hip-hop can actually do in terms of fattening their pockets. From there, Corporate America had colonized hip-hop. However, the Internet and other tools reverse the traditional music industry standards.
There has been an abundance of independent artists once independent labels became extinct. If the independent artist continues to work hard and make him or herself relevant then the major record labels have no choice but to conduct business and negotiate with the artist.
I would rather have hip-hop become a global phenomenon than for it to be neglected, oppressed, and unheard. Though, critics and fans would still complain about hip-hop considered either underground or too mainstream. It seems like the public is never satisfied. I would rather see the growth of the genre and culture. I like what Jay Z is doing! At the end of the day, I feel the artists still control hip-hop.
HD: Do you think that hip-hop as a genre lost some form of authenticity?
Vinnie: No! I feel hip-hop has always been street music. What you hear today in hip-hop is the sign of the times. I do not want for hip-hop to sound the same as it did in the 1980s and 1990s. I would rather for hip-hop to have its own era. The public can go back to that era they grew up in by attending a concert featuring their favorite emcees like Slick Rick and Heavy D or hearing Pandora. I would like hip-hop and its upcoming artists to be challenged in thinking outside the box instead of being placed in a certain category. There are still independent artists that are influenced by the Golden Era that do not worry what Corporate America is doing with hip-hop.
HD: What is the one thing that you and Naughty By Nature as a collective have not done yet, that all three would like to do in the long run?
Vinnie: I think we would all like to continue to participate in entertainment. Time will tell!
Last modified: April 17, 2023