Naughty by Nature is a Grammy Award-winning American hip hop trio from East Orange, New Jersey that at the time of its formation in 1988 consisted of Treach (Anthony Criss, born December 2, 1970), former member Vin Rock (Vincent Brown, born September 17, 1970), and the DJ Kay Gee (born Keir Gist, September 15, 1969).
The group formed in East Orange, New Jersey, (colloquially referred to as Illtown in the 1980s) in 1988. The group first appeared on the music scene in 1989, releasing an album called Independent Leaders under its then-name the New Style. The album generated the minor hit “Scuffin’ Those Knees”. After the release of its first album, the group was mentored by fellow New Jersey native Queen Latifah, and subsequently changed its name.
The group’s first hit as Naughty by Nature was a track called “O.P.P.,” which sampled the Jackson 5’s hit “ABC” and was released in 1991 on their self-titled album Naughty by Nature. The song peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the most successful crossover songs in rap history. The song has become well known in pop culture, being mentioned in TV shows and films such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Malibu’s Most Wanted, My Wife and Kids, Monk, and The Office. “O.P.P.” also gained critical acclaim, being named one of the top 100 rap singles of all time in 1998 by The Source magazine, and being ranked the 20th best single of the ’90s by Spin magazine.
The album also generated another hit, a reworking of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” called “Everything’s Gonna be All Right” (the track was also called “Ghetto Bastard” on some explicit releases). That song detailed the experiences of Treach growing up in poverty, and now rising up to live a better life. Powered by the success of that song and “O.P.P.”, their self-titled album went platinum.
Fellow New Jersey native Tony D, a respected and prominent producer, accused Naughty by Nature of stealing a sample from his breakbeat album Music Makes You Move and using it on their track “O.P.P.” The matter was settled out of court. Between albums, the group also scored a major hit with the track “Uptown Anthem”, from the soundtrack to the 1992 film Juice. Treach also got a cameo acting role in the film, his first acting role. Fellow rapper 2Pac also acted in the movie, and Treach would befriend him. This led to a long acting career for Treach and a long friendship with 2Pac. In 1993, the group starred in the superhero comedy film The Meteor Man, as a street gang. When 2Pac died in 1996, Treach made a tribute song to him, called “Mourn You Till I Join You.”