In 1991, a naughty little rap tune crept onto pop radio and into the national consciousness. It asked one very important question: You down with O.P.P.?
In the ensuing 25 years, fans of Naughty by Nature have answered in a number of ways, the most common being to throw hands in the air while waving them without a care. Though the true meaning of "O.P.P." turned out to be a crude way of saying, "other people's genitalia," it was a hit nonetheless. And Naughty by Nature followed it up with songs like "Hip Hop Hooray" and "Feel Me Flow." Those tracks are now quintessential '90s party starters that'll get even the snobbiest millennials moving.
What hasn't been so harmonious, though, are the relationships among the members of the veteran group, specifically between Vin Rock and the band's outspoken frontman, Treach. For example, in May 2013, Treach lashed out at Vin and admonished him for attempting to be bigger than the whole, saying on a radio show: "You never produced one hit song. You came on as a homie that was there... We threw you a lot of bones just to keep you up in there." That comment came after the revelation that the pair hadn't spoken in two years and that the rift grew out of an altercation in which Treach accused Vin of sucker-punching him. That led to Vin's eventual firing from Naughty by Nature and the end of not only a longtime partnership but also a friendship that stretched back three decades.
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However, when the New Jersey natives take the stage at LIV in Miami Beach this Friday on their 25th-anniversary tour, the original trio of Treach, Vin Rock, and DJ Kay Gee will indeed join forces once again. It's a shocking return considering the venomous nature of their breakup only a few years ago.
Vin Rock recently spoke on the phone with New Times about all of this. At the time of the interview, he had just returned from L.A., where he and the rest of the group had shot a video for their new single, "God Is Us." The track features another notable '90s hip-hop star, Queen Latifah, singing the hook. It was the first sign that not only is Naughty by Nature not done but there's also a concrete future ahead of the group.
New Times: How is it that you're all touring together again with everything that's gone down over the past few years between you and Treach? He said some pretty hateful things, and in the past he's called his choice to continue working with you a "business decision." How did this come about, and how do you feel about it?
Vin Rock: First of all, for me, it's definitely beyond business. It's all real love and brotherhood. If it was strictly business, it wouldn't happen. It wouldn't be organic. With that being said, yes, we definitely had some bumps in the road. Last year, we realized that we were coming up on our 25th anniversary, a milestone in our career. We were like, look, man, we gotta put our differences aside and roll up our sleeves and give the fans what they want and what they deserve, and that's good, naughty music and good, naughty vibes. So we put it together and made it happen.
What was the moment or the catalyst that got you past that?
We're brothers, and brothers fight. Me, I've chosen to deal with it, and I've dealt with it behind the scenes. I would never publicly fight or publicly attack my brothers Kay Gee and Treach. With us being around each other for 25 years, inevitably it would happen. At the end of the day, we understand that we're brothers and things do happen — like Kay and Treach had a fight before, and they got over it.
There was talk of a new EP in 2016. Any updates on that?
After a Kickstarter campaign, we're going to record a full album, but we're going to release it as two EPs. There'll be one EP out this summer and one before Christmas. And we chose Kickstarter because technology is like the third party. Technology is the record label now. If established artists such as ourselves learn to use the technology, we can remain independent.
Let's go back. After "O.P.P." became a huge hit, did female fans do anything to show they were down?
Oh, yeah, definitely. Still, to this day, if a girl wants to flirt with us, she'll say, "Hey, I'm down with O.P.P." Back when the record was fresh, they used to chase us around like crazy.
Did you get any shit from parents or religious groups or anything like that once they realized what the song was actually about?
We didn't get any backlash from any particular group, but we did get tons of people who said they got whippings from listening to that song as kids in their rooms. Honestly, as of last week, I had a guy come up to me and be like, "Yo, Vin, I gotta take a picture with you. I'm telling you, when I was a kid, I used to bump that record, and one day my parents ran in the room, snatched that thing, and I got a whipping."
What's your best memory from that time in the '90s?
Wow. What sticks out in my mind: Every year, we used to throw a pool party in Kay Gee's backyard. We used to call his backyard Boogieland, like Disneyland, but Boogieland. We had incredible parties back then. Mike Tyson, Queen Latifah, Chris Webber — you name them, all of them used to come to our parties. People used to try to jump the gates to get in. We had the Nation of Islam guarding the perimeter, and even they would get bribed.
Do you like what you see in hip-hop today? Do you have any favorites?
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Musically and lyrically, I like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. For the most part, there's a lot of trap music out there and strip-club music. I'm not necessarily mad — I don't want all hip-hop music to sound the same forever, so I do expect it to evolve, so that's cool with me, but I do wish guys would put a little more substance and lyrical content into their music. I was talking to Redman around the holidays, and he was in the studio with Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip, and they were all talking like, listen, man, we're all '90s artists and everyone loves our era of hip-hop. We gotta roll up our sleeves and start cranking out music again. It's unfair for people like us, artists like us, to sit on the side and complain, "I don't like today's music, today's rap music, blah, blah, blah." We gotta get into the studio and give people what they want.
What can fans expect?
In the last 25 years, we could've given the people far more music and far more content, and we're just looking at this anniversary as a reset for us. Of course, brothers fight and you go through things, but this is a milestone, and we're not going backwards.