Hip-hop lately ain't about nuthin' but the G thang. G' as in gangsta. G as in homicidal Dr. Dre, cop-killer Ice-T, Bush-killa Paris. Even the once-Afro-centric Brand Nubian resurfaced with warning labels attached, its members looking and sounding more like disciples of the Black Panthers than of Molefi Asante. But in the tradition of the kid in school who was so tough he never had to fight, Naughty by Nature tries to redefine G to mean ghetto-centric with its second album, 19 Naughty III.
According to the gangstas, life is beats, blunts, beat-downs and bitches in that order. This album confirms rappers Treach and Vinnie and DJ KayGee's affinity for those indulgences but not to a gangsta's excess for the last three.
Instead of gangsta fairy tales, 19 Naughty III presents a fuller, more complex view of street life in which "the hood/No matter bad or worse/Comes first." The self-proclaimed superproducer KayGee backs up the rhymes with a sound as distinctive and fresh the traditional meaning more than hip-hop's as Dr. Dre's or Pete Rock's.
But 19 Naughty III is not as cohesive an album as those producers' last releases, despite many strong singles, including the anthem "Hip Hop Hooray," "Ready for Dem" (featuring Heavy D), "Sleepin' on Jersey" (featuring dance-hall chatting by Queen Latifah), "Daddy Was a Street Corner" and "It's On." "Daddy" and "On" are great songs improved by intros that call attention to the music, illuminating the complexity underlying NBN's sonic poise.
No song on 19 Naughty III is as courageously personal as the autobiographical "Ghetto Bastard," from NBN's 1991 debut, Naughty by Nature, but personal revelations throughout the album reveal why Treach says, "Hip hop hooray!" with such power: Without hip-hop as underground railroad, Treach, as well as Vinnie and KayGee, would still be on the street corner they call Dad.
The album-closing shout-outs to friends in jail may reveal why NBN doesn't engage in gangsta rap: Its members know too well the consequences of gangsta actions. Treach knows what intelligent black men do "if cops ever come to wear me down/All I say is, 'Feet don't fail me now!'" Brothers who fight and run away live to rap another day. (RS 655)
(Posted: Apr 29, 1993)
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