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Naughty by Nature: The Iconic Hip-Hop Trio from East Orange, NJ

Naughty by Nature, the influential American hip-hop trio from East Orange, New Jersey, consists of Treach (Anthony Criss), Vin Rock (Vincent Brown), and DJ Kay Gee (Keir Lamont Gist). Formed in 1986, the group rose to fame in the early 1990s and left an indelible mark on the hip-hop landscape.

The Early Years and Breakthrough

Initially known as The New Style, Naughty by Nature was formed by Treach, Vin Rock, and DJ Kay Gee while they were high school students in East Orange. The trio first appeared on the music scene in 1989 with their album Independent Leaders, which included the minor hit "Scuffin' Those Knees". Despite a modest beginning, their big break came when fellow New Jersey native Queen Latifah took them under her wing, introducing them to her label, Tommy Boy Records.

In 1991, the group released their self-titled album Naughty by Nature. The album's breakout single "O.P.P." sampled the Jackson 5's "ABC" and became a massive hit, peaking at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track's success propelled the album to platinum status and solidified Naughty by Nature's place in hip-hop history.

Rise to Stardom

Following the success of "O.P.P.", Naughty by Nature continued to produce hits. Their reworking of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" into "Everything's Gonna Be All Right" (also known as "Ghetto Bastard") became another standout track, detailing Treach's experiences growing up in poverty. This success was further cemented by their hit "Uptown Anthem" from the soundtrack of the 1992 film Juice, in which Treach made a cameo appearance.

Treach's budding acting career saw him befriending Tupac Shakur on the set of Juice, a friendship that continued until Shakur's tragic death in 1996. In tribute, Treach recorded "Mourn You Til I Join You."

Continued Success and Accolades

Naughty by Nature's third and fourth albums, 19 Naughty III and Poverty's Paradise, both topped the R&B/Hip-Hop charts. The track "Hip Hop Hooray" from 19 Naughty III became a major hit, with its music video directed by Spike Lee and featuring cameos from hip-hop luminaries such as Queen Latifah and Eazy-E. Poverty's Paradise won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 1996, the first album to receive this honor, and featured the hit "Feel Me Flow," which peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The group continued to innovate, producing a remix of Michael and Janet Jackson's "Scream" in 1995 and launching their own music imprint, Illtown Records. In 1999, they released Nineteen Naughty Nine: Nature's Fury, which was certified Gold and included the hit single "Jamboree."

Internal Struggles and Reconciliation

Despite their success, internal tensions led to Treach publicly announcing in 2013 that Vin Rock had been "fired" from the group. However, by 2015, the duo had resolved their issues, although their relationship remained strictly business. In 2016, in celebration of their 25th anniversary, Naughty by Nature released the video for "God Is Us" from their album Anthem Inc.

Legacy and Tours

Naughty by Nature's influence on hip-hop remains significant. Their ability to blend catchy hooks with poignant lyrics has left a lasting legacy. In 2019, the group joined the Mixtape Tour alongside Salt-N-Pepa, Debbie Gibson, and Tiffany, with New Kids on the Block headlining the tour. This tour highlighted the enduring popularity of Naughty by Nature's music.

Naughty by Nature's journey from high school friends to hip-hop legends is a testament to their talent, resilience, and impact on the music industry. Their hits like "O.P.P." and "Hip Hop Hooray" continue to resonate with fans old and new, cementing their place as icons in hip-hop history.

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