These days, it seems Naughty By Nature is doing everything but rapping.
Don’t get them wrong, belting out realistic lyrics and attaching them to smooth, hip-gyrating beats are still their top priorities. But the East Orange, N.J., natives are finding a market for some of their other talents.
Treach, one of the trio’s two lead vocalists, has a burgeoning acting career, and DJ Kay Gee’s producing skills have been heavily sought-after since he propelled the female R&B; duo Zhane to the top by bringing the public their jazzy, harmonious style.
But besides capitalizing on the entertainment industry, Vinnie Brown, the other Naughty By Nature vocalist, is helping the group hold true to a pledge made a long time ago.
Before Naughty By Nature’s debut album of the same name went platinum and the group became one of big players in hip-hop, the musicians made a pledge to give back to the city they came from.
Brown, 24, has turned Naughty By Nature’s pledge into reality by spearheading community groups and businesses in an effort to rebuild the city of East Orange.
“When we first came out, this was all new to us. We had all of East Orange supporting us,” Brown says. But city officials “didn’t want us to have anything around there and that’s what got us real tight with the community.”
One organization Naughty By Nature has started is Ujima, which in Swahili means “collective work and responsibility.”
Ujima members attend city council meetings, register voters and give weekly talks in high schools, colleges and community centers. Some of the subjects covered include nutrition, rape awareness and career opportunities.
“It’s like a community support group,” says Brown. “They keep up with what’s going on. We know when we get older we have to inherit the city.”
The group has opened a store in East Orange that sells Naughty By Nature clothing, and the store is managed by the group’s family members. This fall, Naughty By Nature will showcase their clothing line at fashion trade shows.
“After ‘O.P.P’ came out, they bootlegged the mess out of us,” says Brown, referring to merchandise marketed by others that carried the catch phrase from their debut hit. “We just kept it going from there.”
On the music side of things, Brown says the group doesn’t mind the pop play it has received. Naughty by Nature just wants to keep its sound fresh, real and fun.
“Our music is party oriented,” he says. “Our label has strong political ties with the mainstream outlets. If they get us that exposure, it’s all good. Any recording artist wants to get rotated on MTV 30 times a week. You want as many people to hear your record as possible. We don’t hang around suburban kids. We don’t know what makes them move. We can’t intentionally create a record for a pop audience.”