In the vast, sprawling world of hip hop, there is little doubt that Naughty By Nature has been playing the game longer than most. As the group gets ready to embark upon a 25th anniversary tour this year, to be accompanied by a new EP and documentary film, members Treach, Vin Rock and DJ Kay Gee find themselves able to look back at all they have accomplished together, while also finally finding themselves back in a place where looking forward does not seem like such a silly idea.
And make no mistake, recent history has not been all been great and happy for Naughty By Nature. In 2013, Treach announced that Vin Rock had been fired from the group, after years of creative and personal disagreement. The pair eventually reconciled, but even as recently as this past April, Treach described the pair's relationship as “strictly business.” However, the past year of touring and filming has helped heal many of those old wounds.
“Yeah, we worked a lot out,” Treach said in a phone interview. “Me and Vinny are like brothers. You do something for 25 years with someone and you're going to have things that you don't always see eye to eye on. But just like any other family, you work through it, ya know?”
But now, by allaccounts, everyone is on the same page, and the group — who at one point said that new Naughty By Nature material was unlikely — has been invigorated.
“Yeah we’ve been in the studio (for months) now,” Vin Rock said. “As a matter of fact, December 2nd was Treach’s birthday, and he wanted to start his birthday at 11 a.m. in the studio with Kay Gee and Vin so that’s what we did. December 2nd we were in there, pulling up tracks, lining up ideas, and concepts and stuff we want to knock out for this new EP. So it’s definitely gonna to be a good thing, it’s been a while since we really focused on studio, you know? I think the people deserve a nice musical project from us and so we’re going to give it to them.”
Hip hop has always been a genre that has put a premium on paying respect to the acts that laid the groundwork for current performers, and now Naughty By Nature finds themselves in the position of being the respected elder statesmen on stage. And while the art form has evolved over the years and at times bears little resemblance to the world that Naughty By Nature stepped into three decades ago, Treach says that the respect shown by the current crop of artists is still there.
“When one of the greatest out there is giving you homage, it makes you feel like what you were doing was worth it,” he said, referring to Eminem and his frequent citing of Naughty By Nature as one of his biggest influences. “It's not just important to your cause, not just your clique, but to hip-hop as a whole. When somebody comes and gives you props like that, and they’re selling billions of records all over the world for decades, and they came up under you and was inspired by you? That makes you feel blessed and appreciated.”
The group feels equally appreciative of the fan reaction to the latest tour, which was selling out dates in Asia and Australia at the end of 2015.
“Seeing people out there who still love and respect what we do, and seeing all the young people who weren't there when we was new, but have found us later and we can still speak to them, that's what we do it all for.”
Originally appeared in Cityview February 10, 2016