As hip-hop turns 50 and we pull back the lens to see its full story, we are able to appreciate the rappers who truly modified the sport from an inventive and business perspective.
That list wouldn’t be complete without including the groundbreaking trio from East Orange, Latest Jersey: Naughty by Nature.
They started off acting at their highschool talent show and went to the moon.
Initially, Vin Rock (Vincent Brown) and DJ KayGee (Keir Lamont Gist), who joined me on this week’s “Renaissance Man,” enlisted Treach (Anthony Criss) to round out the group.
“We began in 1987 in highschool and we didn’t actually have a name once we did that talent show,” KayGee told me.
“Then, once we did the talent show, I just scratched, ‘It’s the brand new style!’ So, you understand, we just start calling ourselves the Latest Style. We began doing a bunch of talent shows and it evolved.”
They modified their name after their first album to Naughty by Nature — and the remaining is history.
Now, they’re celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of their album “19 Naughty III,” which featured their anthem “Hip Hop Hooray.”
Two years earlier in 1991, they released their smash hit, “O.P.P.,” which was utilized in “Sister Act 2” and adjusted to a much cleaner “You down with G.O.D.”
And in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Leonardo DiCaprio danced to “Hip Hop Hooray” on his yacht.
“It’s a really classic film. So to see our music in that scene, it was like, ‘Oh, we actually mean something to popular culture,’” said Vin.
As kids, they were influenced by Run-DMC and films like “Wild Style,” “Beat Street” and “Breakin.’” KayGee would DJ while Vin beatboxed and break-danced.
“I used to be good for the backspin, windmills, I had a headspin. Those were the gorgeous days of hip-hop and you only loved it due to art and creativity of it,” Vin said.
They noted considered one of their early collaborators was Terry Peppers, the daddy of former Michigan star and current Latest England Patriot Jabrill Peppers.
They were also early on the branding front, selling their merch themselves as an alternative of getting ripped off by firms.
“We put money into ourselves. And that’s what made us put up our own retail store,” said Vin, adding that their formula became the norm for rappers going forward.
In addition they got a leg up from fellow Jersey native Queen Latifah, who signed them to her Flavor Unit Management company.
“We met her in front of a Roy Rogers chicken restaurant on Central Avenue [in East Orange],” Vin recalled.
“After which next thing you understand, we invited all of Flavor Unit to a gymnasium.
“And we placed on our own show, gave them our demo … And it’s still like much, much love and respect for her.”
Interviewing them jogged my memory of the Fab Five. 4 of us are close, but we’re still attempting to reel in our brother Chris Webber. All of us hope that in the future, we are able to sit courtside while Juwan Howard is coaching.
So, I desired to know why Treach wasn’t there to have fun this milestone.
“Treach is doing his thing. He’s acting. He’s doing a play. And, for the time being, he desires to have his space and do him for the time being … He’s our brother. He’ll come back and we are going to all get back to the stage again, with the three-man threat,” said KayGee.
Vin explained that they’ve been together since they were teens.
“We were child stars, man. It’s not personal, it’s only a soul-searching type of thing,” he concluded.
And I hope that search lands all of them back together before the following big anniversary.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the faculty hoops world within the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons within the NBA before transitioning right into a media personality. Rose is an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive-produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the writer of the best-selling book “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.