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Naughty By Nature - Throwback Interview

by Mitch West

Vin Rock(left) Treach (middle) Dj Kay Gee (right) Photo Credit: Naughty by Nature

It was 2015 and I had been working on a new publication called 'Perfect Pour Magazine'. The quarterly publication aimed to celebrate the art of craft brewing in and around Nebraska serving as a platform to talk about it all. We didn't know it at the time but one of the most popular recurring articles we had was our entertainment piece. When artists were coming through the area, we would reach out to see if we could bring some local brews and do some interviews. We wanted to connect with artists, give them a taste of local beer and talk about their art, their legacy, playing the Midwest through the years, and about projects they’re working on or other things to talk about. During the duration of the publication, we were able to talk to Saving Abel, Foreigner, Third Eye Blind, Reel Big Fish, 311, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Hank Williams Jr, Vanessa Carlton, Jimmy Eat World, Christopher Titus, OAR, Florida Georgia Line. Our very first try at this concept without anything to show at the time was Naughty By Nature. With the 'Mixtape Tour 2022' featuring: Illtown Sluggaz, En Vogue, Rick Astley, Salt-N-Pepa, and New Kids On The Block rolling to cities nationwide, we thought it would be a good time to circle back around and finally post this unpublished interview with legendary hype man and MC Vin Rock and one of Hip Hops all time goats Treach. The interview took place in their green room at Stir Concert Cove in Council Bluffs, IA before they hit the stage that night. It was a nostalgic 90s hip hop filled concert that also featured Doug E. Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, Kid ’n Play, and Salt-N-Pepa.

Naughty by Nature is an American hip hop trio from East Orange, New Jersey. The group consists of Treach (Anthony Criss), Vin Rock (Vincent Brown), and DJ Kay Gee (born Keir Lamont Gist). Known for their socially conscious lyrics and positive messages they were one of the first hip hop groups to be nominated for a Grammy Award, winning the award for Best Rap Album in 1994 for their album "Poverty's Paradise".

First up I interviewed Vin Rock aka Vincent Brown of Naughty by Nature.

What is your take on the state of Hip Hop now?

“I just think that the music and culture is evolving. It’s not gonna sound the way it did in the early ’80s or the ’90s. We’re speaking about different times when things were now. Now I think the culture has settled and it’s not necessarily just about New York or just the West Coast because those were the predominant coasts when this music was coming. Now you have guys from the south and guys from the Midwest in particular with what Strange Music is doing and independent. They have a unique sound and unique style and they have a unique culture. I just think the culture is diversifying and it’s evolving. I don’t want Hip Hop to sound the same, to be the same, to do the same as it did 20-30 years ago. I believe it would stagnate. With that diversity, there are always different styles of Hip Hop you could throw back to. The new guy on the scene is Fetty Wap. He’s from Jersey but his sound is different and his vibe is different from what Naughty By Natures is or Queen Latifah’s is.”

Treach (left) Vin Rock (middle) Dj Kay Gee (right) Photo Credit: Naughty By Nature

Is there anyone coming up you dig?

“To be honest, I’m a passive listener. So you know I’m hearing Kendrick Lamar, I’m hearing Drake. Those guys kinda resemble more of traditional Hip Hop as opposed to like a Fetty Wap but I’m sure there are tons of guys on the verge and others coming up.” “J Cole!” shouted Treach.

What are some pieces of advice you want to give to the younger generations?

“With Hip Hop, with music in general, music is like a tool people use to get through life. When they wake up they turn on music and when they go to bed they turn on music. You try to make music you just can’t take it for granted. We created our own style, our unique style.”

What do you want to leave as a part of your legacy? How do you want history to remember Naughty By Nature?

“I would just hope that people realize or recognize that we were authentic. We grew up on the KRS Ones the Run DMCs. We were just young kids and looked up to those guys but when we did our thing, it was our interpretation, it was our translation of Hip Hop. We come from the live performance era and had to grind it out show after show”

“I feel that myself, Flavor Flav that what we do on stage spawned a lot of spoofs to the point of where I got sick of seeing “hype-man” on stage and they just coined everything as a “hype-man” and it's not that simple.”

What inspires you? How do you get through the roadblocks?

“We’ve always been creative as far as I can remember. I’ve always been a creative person and it’s been an asset for me. I see people say “I’m bored today” and I’m like “Honest to god I could never remember being bored” I’ve always been a creative person. Going through Junior High to High School I’ve always been involved in Hip Hop. We hooked up early like 15 or 16 years old. Prior to that, I was on breakdancing crews. I’m always creative. Just the pursuit of trying to make it from high school to trying to have our first deal with Sugar Hill Records and it not panning out and then the challenge of breaking away from that and connecting with Queen Latifa and the Flavor Unit and making it with OPP and signing to Tommy Boy, we have always been on the go and on the run. We’ve always challenged ourselves to go to another level, do the next thing, and diversity or identify our own individual talents and strengths outside of Naughty. I sort out and prioritize what’s on my plate.``

“Bloggers don’t talk to people anymore, they just talk about them. There are no more sit-down interviews with artists so artists can share and explain themselves.”

Treach of Naughty By Nature Photo Credit: Naughty By Nature

Vin got up and was about to finish getting ready. In comes Treach, one of the best lyricists to walk this earth. I was intimidated, this was Treach sitting right across from me with sunglasses on and ready for me to start. He's done a million of these and the pressure was on. About the time we started the interview, Dj Kay Gee came in to rebuild the setlist after a change in length was needed. They were about to hit the stage in 15 min and needed to make some adaptations. Vin came back over and they started to look at their setlist even bringing me in on the conversation. They included me, some random dude nobody knew, to help change their set a bit. With that wrapped up, the interview began with Treach.

How important has the Midwest been to Naughty By Nature?

“I mean the Midwest you’re looking at everybody from Twista to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Dayton Boys, Crucial Conflict you feel me. One thing that was great about the 90s that I just loved like everybody looked different and everybody sounded different. If you were in the Midwest, you knew you were in the Midwest, if you were on the West Coast, you knew you were in the West Coast, if you were in the East Coast, you knew you were in the East Coast, down South you knew it. We would turn on the radio wherever we used to land and feel the vibe of wherever we were at. Now when you turn it on you never know where the fuck you were at. The Midwest just had a distinctive sound.”

Are there any artists you’re listening to now that you’re excited about?

“I’m old school, I like spitters. I like those that can rhyme. I like Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle, J Cole, and Big Sean, Do you feel me? If someone comes out and they’re spitting, I don't care where they’re from, how old they are. I love people that make conceptual records. Life ain’t in the club. You could listen to an album straight through and there were different dimensions. It wasn’t like you were listening to the same”

For the MCs coming up, what would you tell them?

“Challenge yourself to some concepts. It’s easy to write a rhyme about partying. It's easy to write a rhyme about pussy or about strippers. What goes through your life every day? Eminem is a good example. Eminem didn't come out as a gangster rapper, he didn’t come out as a hustler, he came out telling his story. Challenge yourself to do some concepts. Challenge yourself to be and to look different.”

“The fans right now don’t respect the game because they feel as though they’re better than the rappers that are out right now and that they can do better. It’s challenging yourself to be different and to be doing something different to make the game more special. There’s an art to it. Can you make something you can tour with for 20 or 30 years? There are artists that can’t go overseas. Overseas is like New York in the 80s. They don’t even want to see your ass if you can’t give a whole-hour show with hits and rock it. They will boo you the fuck out and you might get fucked up. We’ve been going overseas for two decades. If we don’t make another record ever again in life, we could always tour. If you doin' something original that stands out, you’re setting yourself up for the rest of your life. If you just come out with the one-hitter quitter. Yo, they can hear you, it can be a hot record for a minute but then you won’t hear from them in a minute. Make your name a brand. Make your name where people can wear it on t-shirts.”

What inspires you? Where do you get your inspiration from? What motivates you?

“It’s really…you know how many people have never seen you before after 25 years? Every show is like the first show or the last show whenever we go out. We're gonna rock for these mothafuckas. If the fans weren’t there, we’d be on the fuckin corners rhyming. My motivation is 100,000%. It’s them and I love them.”

The interview wrapped and it was time for Naughty by Nature to hit the stage. I gotta sit back on stage and watch their set alongside Doug E. Fresh and Christopher Reed from Kid ’n Play. A surreal moment that to this day doesn’t make much sense. After the concert, we all went back, shared drinks, and traded stories. We hope to follow up with these guys soon and even re-ask some of the same questions to see how their answers compare since that interview in 2015. We, along with every hip hop fan also want to know……when are we getting the Eminem and Treach collaboration all of Hip Hop needs?!?! Catch Illtown Sluggaz featuring: Vin Rock and Dj Kay Gee from Naughty By Nature along with Dj Slugga getting the crowd hyped during the Mixtape 2022 Tour and performing their new song 'Fiesta' streaming on your platforms. As for Treach? He keeps doing big things. Find him starring in Tubi’s original series 'Lord of The Streets'.

Vin Rock (left) Dj Slugga (middle) Dj Kay Gee (right) Photo Credit: Illtown Sluggaz


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