Originally published by The Music Network – November, 2011
“Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to own OPP or Hip Hop Hooray or any of those classics?” asks Naughty by Nature DJ Kay Gee over the phone from the sunny Gold Coast where he has been filming pick up shots for a new video clip. And he has a point. Both of the aforementioned tracks have long become hip hop standards, as instantly infectious today as they were upon initial release. The topic of masters arises due to Naughty by Nature’s 20th anniversary albumAnthem Inc. which sees the band re-record a number of their classic tracks, sitting them alongside new recordings. It’s an odd move, but one which Kay Gee suggests is borne from a sense of business rather than nostalgia.
“The thing is, it’s about the art, but it’s about business as well. And after all these years we got a chance to own those masters and get the rights back, so we re-recorded them. On top of that, we noticed at our shows a big majority of the audience, it was their first time seeing us before. So we’re really attracting a lot of new fans, and as its their first time seeing us perform, we gotta introduce them to our classics but also our new stuff.”
The re-recording process also avoided the heavy use of samples that were the hallmarks of a lot of their hits.
“It was cool. We did everything from scratch, even the ones that had the samples, like OPP with all that Michael Jackson stuff, we did everything over live, and it sounds incredible. Original, live musicians playing it all,” he says, the excitement raising in his voice.
It had been a while between drinks for the group. Their last studio record as a three piece was released in 1999, and sparked a disagreement over money that resulted in Kay Gee leaving the group. A poorly-received record, Ilcons, was released under the Naughty by Nature name in 2002, however the trio hadn’t been in the studio together for more than a decade before Anthem Inc. A mixtape last year re-introduced the group and showed that they are anything but caught in the past.
“We know that if you don’t change you get lost with time,” explains Kay Gee of the decision to release a mixtape. “Our thing is not about ego, we know that mixtapes are big, people are throwing them out there. It’s been basically ten years since we put out a record, so we thought ‘we gotta put out something’ – at the time we didn’t have a record deal or nothing and our only outlet was to do a mixtape.”
Summery single Perfect Party is their first release proper from the forthcoming album and should see the band back on radio (“I know you’re going into summer over here in Australia and this should be a nice one for you,” he suggests.). Still Kay Gee knows these things take time.
“We know we’ve got a long road ahead of us, because we haven’t been consistent with dropping records. We gotta build this up like we’re brand new, and we gotta win the people over.”
Kay Gee remembers the first time OPP broke:
“We were out doing promo with a lady from the record company in South Carolina, just running around to the radio stations, even to Mom-and-Pop record shows to promote ourselves. We were just starting up, just meeting promo people saying ‘we’re Naughty By Nature, here’s a promo picture, and you’ll see us around, nice to meet you’, stuff like that. De La Soul happened to be in town, they were doing a show and said “Hey, we wanna bring you out before we play.” They threw that record on [OPP] and we came out and the crowd went crazy. We had no idea it was blowing up ‘cos we were on the road for about three months. But obviously while we were out there, back at home and in other places the record was heating up. That was the first time we got a whiff, just a taste of 20,000 people singing back ‘Yeah, you know me.’
“After that it was on! We got back and every car that was driving down the street was playing that record. They had Video Jukebox, it started showing round our way. It was request only and you could call up, it cost a dollar, a dollar fifty to request a song. OPP would come on six or seven times in a row; back to back to back to back! It was ridiculous!”