After doing over a hundred shows last year, the ’90s tour added a few new faces to the lineup, and I recently got the chance to speak with Vin Rock of Naughty By Nature about what the group was up to since their reunion only a few years ago.
Naughty By Nature is one of those quintessential ’90s hip-hop groups that played such a vital role in the early years of that genre. Without them, the hip-hop world as we know it would probably be much different.
In fact, the trio won the first-ever Grammy for Best Rap Album back in 1996 for their iconic record, Poverty’s Paradise, which featured legendary tracks like “Feel Me Flow,” “Craziest” and “Clap Yo Hands.”
The group’s best known tracks like “O.P.P.” and “Hip-Hop Hooray” are right at home on any ’90s hip-hop playlist, which is probably how you know them even if you don’t recognize their name right off the bat (which I will forgive this one time).
Awhile back, Treach and Vin had a bit of a beef, but they ultimately worked things out. As Vin put it, “The brand is bigger than the bulls**t.” So, containing the inner fan girl inside me, I sat down with Vinny on the phone for a bit and chatted with him all things hip-hop earlier this week. Read the interview below.
Void: What made you guys decide to reform the group?
Vin: I have a quote that states, “The brand is bigger than the bulls**t. So when we had that hiccup back in 2013, it’s just growing pains. At the time, we were like 22-23 years in the music industry and things happen over awhile. But, once the dust settles, you size up your options. Having our brand and the hit records that we have, it’s really a gift man. Sometimes when you live in it and you’re in it, you may not appreciate how blessed you are. Having a hiccup like that helps us realize it.
Do you feel like the younger generations respect you guys and give credit where it’s due?
Yeah, definitely. I think they look to us almost like for the generations under us, we’re their version of Run DMC. Actually, I was just out here [in Las Vegas] at a pool party yesterday and tons of young people came up and just gave us so many props. They definitely see us out there and look to us as like legends in hip-hop, which I never expected.
Tell me a little bit about the current tour and how it’s going.
Yeah, man. The arenas and amphitheaters are packed out, and the thing about the I Love the ’90s Tour is that we have multiple acts on there. Most of the sets come in around 20-30 minutes and then your headliners do 40-50 minutes. It’s a nonstop party, almost like a live DJ mixing these songs. With that being said, the crowds really appreciate it and they stay engaged and keep rockin’ with us.
It sounds like the tour is taking up a lot of your time, but do you guys have any plans to release new music or anything in the near future, any solo tours?
This I Love the ’90s run will take up most of the year. We’ll easily be doing 80-100 of these dates, so it’s taking up every week. There’s really not much time for anything else as far as touring. We wanna get in here and get coordinated and focus on gettin’ some new music done, but now that we have this I Love the ’90s thing going on, we pretty much know what we’ll be doing as far as touring all year. We’ve been trying to get this Naughty documentary done celebrating our 25 years in the music industry and that will lend itself to new music.
It’s been like two decades since you guys won the first-ever Grammy for Best Rap Album, how has the game changed since then in your eyes?
For that to happen at the time we didn’t realize what kinda milestone that was. Even for us back then, the rap category, for the most part, was never televised or anything. I remember going to the theatre for the awards show and by the time we got there once we got outta the car, they said “You guys already won the [best] rap album.”
Since then, it’s been a love/hate relationship with the hip-hop community and the Grammys because a lot of people, you know, never accepted hip-hop or rap music as a legitimate music form. So with all the neglect during the years, the Grammys have been trying to make an effort to be more inclusive and receptive of hip-hop. All we could do was keep makin’ music and breakin’ down doors and barriers. After awhile, they can’t do nothin’ but respect tha gangsta.
Do you think the scene, in general, is going in a good or bad direction?
You know what man, I think hip-hop music is definitely a youthful culture. So instead of me whining about “what it used to be” and “what it used to sound like” I look at that as, “Hey man, this is the grid.” So you have a history, you have a starting point and everything else is gonna evolve. Personally, I don’t want today’s hip-hop to sound exactly like it did when we came up. When we came up in the ’90s, our version of hip-hop didn’t sound like the early ’80s or ’70s when hip-hop started. I always say, “Let the youth be the youth. Let them embrace the culture. Let them ingest it and then regurgitate it in their own form.” It’s not supposed to be for you [older generations], it’s supposed to be for the younger generations.
That being said, what are some of your favorite rappers in the game right now personally?
I definitely like J. Cole, I like Kendrick Lamar and I really like Drake. I like the diversity of him. He’s able to sing and put a lot of melody and stuff into his songs, and he’s definitely a good rapper. One thing I always tell my DJ KG about is these guys’ work ethic. If you really look at an artist like Drake, look how consistent he’s been, look how much good music this kid is putting out. I think he’s a smart musician, and I think he’s smart enough to collaborate with other artists. He doesn’t have an ego where [he thinks] “I have to write every song.” He’s like, “Look, with a team of musicians, I know what I can do as a rapper and as an artist,” but when you collaborate with other people, that’s how you get the best music. I think a lot of people are frustrated with Drake because he’s out hustling them. I definitely like that kid.
So have you ever been to Jacksonville or the surrounding area before?
Yeah I have a friend who’s an attorney and she lives in Jacksonville. So she would always take me around. One time, we drove out to St. Augustine and hung out there for a bit and she’d take me to Amelia Island. She loves real estate, so she likes to ride around and look at the homes. I’m familiar with the area.
Going back to the show in St. Augusine, what can people expect when they show up to the I Love the ’90s Tour?
Like you mentioned about Kendrick Lamar, he’s a great live performer, and Naughty By Nature has always been known for our live performances. So, we’ve been around for 26 years now, and we get to cram that into about 40 minutes. We definitely have a high-energy stage set with a lot of crowd participation and interaction. Before you know it, it’ll be over and you’ll be sweating.
Catch Vin and the rest of the Naughty By Nature crew when they perform at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre this Friday, March 24. Find tickets for the show here.