Have you ever dreamed of starting your own clothing line, record label or television production company? If you answered “yes” consider this interview a masterclass from three New Jersey Professors name Treach, Vin Rock and DJ Kay Gee from the school of Naughty By Nature. Read on as they explain how to make corporations work for you, how to turn your personal brand into a business and why playing in Iraq was one of the most rewarding things the trio has ever done.
Hey guys, how’s it going?
Who have I got on the phone?
Naughty. All three members.
Awesome. So you guys formed in ’81 – what are your plans for the 20 year celebration?
Don’t know yet. Something will come up big though. We’re not sure yet. We’re going to go to Australia, we are going to do some tours. Man, we’re going to be celebrating internationally.
How have you seen hip hop change over those 19 years?
Well time has changed so it’s been a lot of old guys that went out and a whole lot of new guys that came in. So we’re just going to switch to the guys for life but it’s still a divisional old school members or the borderline old school and new school members, the naughty 90s members that’s still up in there, keeping it hip hop.
Yeah. So what is the plan? Are you working on a new album at the moment?
Exactly, Anthem Inc. You can’t hear it in the background? I’m just working on some beats in the background. I’m just playing. Anthem Inc. is going to be ridiculous because it’s like a whole album full of across the board, classic naughty with a whole new sound like a whole new album. You’re not going to hear the operas, you’re going to hear the next level – the anthems. That’s why I wanted to call the album Anthem Inc.
You mentioned the old and new school before, have you got any of the new guys appearing on the album of is it just straight you guys?
Yeah, it is going to be collaborative but for right now, we just basically did the blueprint and the basics for the album so just before we come in, we made a couple of calls out but some people are busy, some people aren’t around and some people are just too busy doing their own thing. So they’re not going to stress doing no collab so at the end of the day, if there’s no collab on there but our classic homies that you hear on the albums that we do that’s cool. We keep the hood close and everything else. Like you might not hear it but one or two collabs you already know or heard before, might just be on the Naughty Boys.
So how close are you to actually just finishing it up. Like if you’re just laying the blueprints now, when do you anticipate it being released?
Looking at February/March. Even if it’s not an album, we’ll do an EP or we will do an EP every six months. And also if you look at our history, throughout our history of always making a Naughty album, we’ve never really, really focused on using other people to sell our album. It’s always been about just us three. You know, there’s somebody out there that fits what it is we’re doing, then the door is open to do that but we don’t want to put it out there or make it seem like it’s a compilation album. Probably the only problem that goes on nowadays, it’s not really a problem, it’s probably the biggest change in music now…is that a lot of albums start to sound like compilations because there’s so many MC’s on it. Whereas back in the day, you didn’t have a bunch of that going on which are cool but you know, we want to stay traditional and do what it is that we do and that’s to really focus on what it is we do first and foremost. And depending like I said, if anybody else fits, what they’d be saying in a hook or somebody doing a hook or somebody coming through dropping a verse here and there, that’s fine.
I saw on your website that you just announced the winner of Windows Mobile Comp with an HTC phone on the website. One of the things that struck me was the continuing commercialization of Hip Hop. Is that something that would have changed over the 20 years?
I think that’s part of what the forefathers meant it to be. Well not initially, but as Hip Hop started to grow and as, you know, it became more valid as a music form and people tried to deny it and deny it and deny it as being a valid music form, it was corporate America that kicked in. Corporate America in the sense that the major labels started to invest in Hip Hop music and then the rest of corporate America saw the numbers that it drew. So it’s only right for it to have some kind of commercial viability because like Jay-Z says, numbers don’t lie so when you have anything that registers a lot of numbers, it only makes sense to participate in the rest of the world or mainstream world to exploit it basically. Bottom line is you in a game to sell as many records as you can no matter what. So the best way to do it you cross promotion whether it’s pharmaceuticals or with some of the major corporations that are out there or the stuff that you do through the mix tapes or street versions of stuff but either way you go you have to have what they call crossover appeal but you have to have that major cooperations and that corporate dollar behind you if you want to really sell that next level of records and move on to the next level, not just be the same basis you always at.
We needed that in Hip Hop. We needed commercial viability in Hip Hop because you know, it pulls a lot of kids out of the ghetto. If it brings corporate America to our hood that’s being neglected and suffering and make these people step up and pay attention to the ghetto, the less fortunate…It’s like the corporate companies, when it comes, they come in where the audience is at. The Hip Hop has the audience so it’s only right for businesses to want to market to that audience.
Completely. A lot of the people from that early 90s period have gone on to take up production roles or become almost like moguls with businesses not really connected to Hip Hop. Have you guys had any offers to do that kind of stuff?
We have been offered a lot of different things, reality shows and stuff like that but the thing is a lot of these, certain corporations and anything else, don’t know that Naughty by Nature is a brand and we own that brand. That’s it totally and it’s like we’re not just going to do the regular side deals that everybody else is going to do because in all actuality we could do it ourselves ot at the level we’re at we could get a major deal somewhere else. You’re not going to see anything from Naughty By Nature whether it’s an album, whether it’s a reality show or whether it’s production on a project, whether it’s a movie, whether it’s a clothing line, whether it’s anything to do with anything outside business unless it’s sold out well and sold professionally and it’s intact and ready for the consumer to really appreciate it, we’re not going to go with anything that’s what we call half-assed. Also just so you know, like if you definitely not sure, we’ve already done all of that and are still doing it. You know, we’ve had a clothing line ourselves, started it way back in what, 1992? Actually before we even came out we had a clothing line, you know, Naughty Gear, we have had a store, we have done all that and still do our own clothing online. We have the online store. We’ve also done movies and done a lot of television stuff already as well as productions companies and produced our own artists. So we done all of it and we’re still doing that. You know, Treach has a ton of movies out there. Vin is still putting together lines and putting together clothing now and I still have a production company, still have artists. You know, that’s out there now. It’s exactly what you’re talking about. Some people may have done it on a bigger level, some people might be a little more current or still doing it in a different way now. But we’ve done it, you know, from day one, and we’re still doing it. We laid that blueprint baby?!
So are you in the studios right now?
We hasn’t been back in the studio with the new Naughty stuff yet. You know what I mean, we just letting people know all over the world know that we’re back as a unit everywhere from Atlanta to Iraq. We’re doing this and once it comes, just be ready for it because it’s going to be one of them undeniable, home back, anthem classics, like Naughty is known for doing.
Yeah. What was it like playing in Iraq?
Yeah, we did it way back from Kuwait. We came back from Kuwait and Iraq. We went over there with the US Army and performed for the troops. We were over there for about a week.
Have you guys done that before?
No, first time we went out there with DJ Skribble.
Can you talk us through that experience?
Yeah, I mean that was an experience of a life time. It’s something you don’t expect like the soldiers and everything that’s going on because you know what, whether you support war or not, you see a lot of these soldiers, they going out there, they are just going and they die. What they do like at the end of the day, they keep this country what it is. You know what I mean, if these people are not there, somebody is just going to come over to the United States and there’d be a whole different regime and we have to follow them and forget all we have and our family. And there’d be civil war. So all of us that we our there are fighting for a reason and fighting for freedom so it’s like a lot of the troops out there, they don’t have a touch on back home. We felt as though we wanted to do something that will make it seem like…because y’all can’t go home we’re going to bring home to y’all.
Yeah. And lastly guys, a message for anyone coming to see you guys at the Vibrations?
Yo, just look out for one of the hottest hip hop shows, one of the hottest entertainment performing shows of all time. It’s not like we’re saying it, it’s what people tell us. The fans tell us. The critics tell us. They have never been disappointed by a Naughty show. We give it our all like it’s our last show. Just look out and we’re definitely going to hit y’all with the fire.
Naughty By Nature play as part of the 2010 Good Vibrations Festival in February.