Poverty's Paradise (Tommy Boy)
Naughty By Nature

By Kory Wilcoxson

"We came back 'cause we heard hiphop needed another anthem," raps Treach, the leader of Naughty By Nature, on "Feel Me Flow."

Indeed, if there ever was an "American Pie" of rap, it had to be 1993's megasuper-monster hit "Hip Hop Hooray," which literally swayed a nation. Before that Naughty By Nature checked in with "O. P. P.," whose chorus burned itself into the mind of America's youth.

Anyone who only knows Naughty By Nature from those two songs is missing a wealth of material that presents some of rap's best work in the '90s. Their last album, Nineteen Naughty Three, was especially superb, elevating the group to the genre's elite.

How do you follow a great recording with the anthemic "Heeeey, Hoooooo" on it? Naughty By Nature does the smart thing on their third album and does not try to top it. Instead, Poverty s Paradise offers a slightly different version of the group than seen on the last two albums.

Certainly, no song stands out on this one with this year s hip-hop catch phrase. The closest they come is "Craziest," a high-energy tribute to "niggas" across the country. But it lacks the defining hook that made "Hip Hop Hooray" and "O. P. P." such successes.

What the group lacks in signature songs, they make up for in pure rap prowess. New Jacks no longer, Naughty By Nature are established superheroes of rap and they bring their music like they know it. It is not a strut or a swagger, just a knowing stride that lets people know.

Kay Gee lays down sparse but strong beats that allow Treach to go to war. The battle lines are drawn in "Holdin' Fort" and crossed in "Slang Bang, " with Treach serving up some smart, funky rhymes. His delivery, one of the best in rap, is dead-on and his lyrics go beyond the usual bravado and posing, as in "World Go Round": "Oh how come every time we have problems they nix none/Sending people to other planets when they still ain't fixed this one." His mixture of street toughness and harsh social criticism is a powerful combination.

Treach also shares the spotlight on several songs with rappers from the Cruddy Click, Rottin Razkals and Road Dogs, a sure sign that Naughty By Nature has made it; they are starting their own farm teams. They have two singles on the dance charts and Poverty's Paradise is already in Billboard's Top 5. Less road-tested rappers would let success swallow them, but as long as Naughty By Nature keeps their music close to the street, the street will keep it playing.