After a forgettable debut album, The New Style changed their name to Naughty By Nature and released back to back platinum selling albums in Naughty By Nature and 19 Naughty III (you can read my thoughts on both here and here), that were both damn near classics. By 1995, Naughty By Nature were bonafide rap stars, thanks to their ability to craft crossover hits and make dope albums that both the critics and the streets respected. They would return in ’95 going for the trifecta with their fourth release, Poverty’s Paradise.
Like the previous Naughty By Nature albums, Kay Gee would handle most of the production on Poverty’s Paradise with a little help from a few outside parties. The album received positive reviews, but would be their first album under the Naughty By Nature name to not earn a platinum plaque. It did earn a gold plaque and would win the trio the first ever Grammy for Best Rap Album in 1996.
But forget about the accolades. How has Poverty’s Paradise held up over the past 25 years?
Intro Skit – The album opens with Naughty performing “Hip Hop Hooray” live…
Poverty’s Paradise – Then our hosts follow an intro with another intro that has Vinnie introducing the listeners to Poverty’s Paradise. What the hell does “scuffin’ those knees” mean? I’m sure it doesn’t mean what it sounds like. And why didn’t they just combine the opening intro with this second opening intro so they could have one opening intro? Well, at least the soulful instrumental playing in the background was enjoyable.
Clap Yo Hands – The first real song of the evening comes with a feel good bass line, clapping drums and a warm horn loop. Treach handles the instrumental with ease (I always laugh when I hear him say “hoochies, pop their coochies, and slap their hips”), while his partner in rhyme, Vin Rock tries his best to keep pace with it. I had no idea this was the lead single from Poverty’s Paradise. I actually watched the video for it for the first time while working on this post. This was a nice appetizer before the main course.
City Of Ci-Lo – Minnesota gets his first of two production credits on Poverty’s Paradise, as he, per the liner notes, “equates” a dark and drowsy backdrop for Treach who uses it to compares life in the hood to a game of cee-lo (or ci-lo). Not my favorite song on the album, but it’s decent.
Hang Out And Hustle – Naughty makes this a family affair, as they invites a few crew members from Road Dawgs and Cruddy Click and lyrically hang out and hustle together. Everyone turns in a solid verse (including Vinnie!), but of course Treach reigns supreme with his polished flow and confident delivery. Kay Gee samples Charles Sherrell’s record with the same name for the backdrop and hook (he also adds a slick vocal snippet from Extra P into the hook) and turns it into a funky bop for the boys to slang to.
It’s Workin’ – Sticking with the cipher theme, this time around Treach is joined by the Rotttin Razkals, as they pass the mic around like a blunt over a West Coast synthy Kay Gee produced instrumental. This was a decent track with not much replay value.
Holdin’ Fort – I wasn’t crazy about this one, but it’s not terrible.
Chain Remains – Treach takes a minute (or four and half) to explain why he wears the chain and lock around his neck. Someone named Brice lays down a smooth mid-tempo instrumental with west coast sensibilities that Treach uses to spit some of his most heartfelt rhymes, as he points out the parallels of the African slave trade and the prisons in America today that keep brothers in bondage at a high percentage: “Learn the ability to find their goals, locked in a facility where time is froze, God knows the heart hurts to see no sky, just dirt, they give a black man a cell before they give a man work, so we get into this black this black cat syndrome, grow older like there’s no heart and no soul ingrown, bars and cement instead of help for our people, jails aint nothin’ but the slave day sequel”. The addition of real inmates giving their name, prison number and release date in between verses drives home Treach’s message even more. This is definitely one of the strongest songs on Poverty’s Paradise.
Feel Me Flow – This was the third and final single from Poverty’s Paradise. Kay Gee hooks up a feel good groove with a bouncy bass line that Treach rides to perfection with his flawless fl0w. Naughty doesn’t get enough props for their ability to create hip-hop classics with a pop appeal, like this one.
Craziest – This was the second single from the album. I’ve never been crazy (no pun intended) about the instrumental, but Treach manages to make it sound better than it is with his hard rhymes and superior vocal tone. After disappearing for the last four songs, Vinnie returns to squeeze in a forgettable verse in between Treach’s. I literally lol every time I hear Treach threaten to go in Jermaine Dupri’s pockets, claiming that he owes him “loot for that “Jump” shit” (referring to Kriss Kross’ smash hit that he allegedly co-wrote but was never compensated for). Side note: The smooth instrumental on the Crazy -C produced remix (how ironic is that?) sounds a lot better than this version.
Radio Skit – Short skit that sets up the next song…
Sunshine – Treach picks up where he left off at on 19 Naughty III’s “Written On Ya Kitten”, as he salivates and celebrates the kitty cat: “Are those bullets in your bra or are your nipples glad to see me? Been waiting since I’m three, now I’m finally seeing a genie, open that kitty, pretty let me write it in graffiti”, your name Sunshine, how dandy been known by the glow in your panties, sweety”. You can’t go wrong using Roy Ayers’ classic record “Everybody Love The Sunshine” for the backdrop, and Treach rides the mellow vibes, beautifully. And they get extra credit for sampling one of my favorite movies (Boomerang) at the end of the song. This is definitely one of my favs from Poverty’s Paradise.
Webber Skit – This skit always made me laugh and it still does. Was anybody really waiting with great anticipation for a Chris Webber verse or album? TFOH!!!
Respect Due – Wait? Did Vinnie just recycle part of his verse from “Craziest”? Dude, you only rapped on four songs up to this point and you’re already reusing shit? Anyways…this one was middle of the road for me.
World Go Round – Minnesota returns and blesses Treach with this creamy soundscape and a soulful vocal sample from a youthful Michael Jackson. Treach uses the brilliant backdrop to get introspective as he ponders life and the world we live in:” Get high to tell ya lows, that’s how it’s done on the bricks, we all mad at the world when the world aint done shit, just the people in it and the scavengers who function, who destroy the earth then blame the earth for its malfunctions, and getting maybe a tad bit too much to follow, but the black form is strong and far from being hollow, Why do we get so much into this freeing Willy when Willy is free? He and them aint doing shit to free my city, and it’s a pity for those who can’t get the nitty gritty, that’s when the gritty gets grimy and the wicked gets witty”. This is probably my favorite song on Poverty’s Paradise and arguably Treach’s best lyrical performance of his career.
Klickow Klickow – And just like that we go from the stars and heavens to the grimy gutters of Illtown. Kay Gee concocts a hard gully backdrop for the entire crew (Naughty, Rottin Razkals, Cruddy Click and Road Dawgs) to get dirty and spit their filthy rhymes on. This was tough.
Double I Skit -Short, but enjoyable little jingle.
Slang Bang – This may be the first instrumental that Treach has rapped over and got the better of him, as he never seems to get a good grasp of it. Kid Nyce’s jazzy backdrop is decent, but it jumps around way too much, which may be the reason Treach is unable to master it.
Shout Out – Vinnie and Kay Gee take 7 minutes to individually name and shout out every radio station that has played Naughty By Nature’s music since 1991, while Gordon Chambers sings a refrain in between their verses. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a “shout out” song formatted with verses and a hook (speaking of shout outs, Naughty does send ATCQ a shout out in the liner notes…Tribe Degrees of Separation: check). This was overkill.
Outro – Naughty combines a funky Fred Wesley loop with a vocal snippet taken from John Belushi in Animal House to close out the album and set up the last song of the night…
Connections – This song was originally released about a month before Poverty’s Paradise on the New Jersey Drive Vol. 2 Soundtrack. Kay Gee lays down another grimy groove as Treach, Vinnie, Cruddy Click, the Road Dawgs and female emcee, Kandi Kain spit bars over it. Kandi Kain (which is a dope alias, by the way) gets the last word and holds her own, challenging Treach for the strongest verse on this one. I wonder whatever happened to her. Regardless, this was hard.
Treach (who is one of my favorite emcees of all time) seemed to have peaked lyrically on Poverty’s Paradise, as he spits some of the strongest, most insightful and mature bars of his career up to this point, while Vin Rock does Vin Rock. Poverty’s Paradise has a handful of great songs, but it also comes with one or two too many cameos, a few mediocre moments and a couple of songs that probably should have been scrapped. Poverty’s Paradise doesn’t stand up to Naughty By Nature or 19 Naughty III, but it’s still a solid album from the legendary Jersey trio.