Artist: Naughty By Nature
Rating: 1 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
Hip hop is a fickle bitch. There was a time when Naughty By Nature were the kings of the hill. Sales. Critical acclaim. They had it all. No one could touch them. Beats, rhymes, whatever… they had it all. It was never ‘conscious’, it was never all that lyrically adept (although Treach could flow for days) – it was just fun party music – something hip hop has been sorely missing lately.
Of course, we all know what’s happened. NBN always followed a formula – super hot summer anthem track, with a bunch of well produced beats backing it up and a street appeal. Since the first few ‘OPP’s’ and ‘Hip Hop Hooray’s’ though, the formula seems to have soured. If a word can sum up what’s happened to NBN over the years, it would be ‘mediocrity’. And that’s being very nice to them.
So, when I started receiving notices in my mailbox about the upcoming NBN album, “Iicons”, you know what my response was? YAWN. I mean seriously, the last time I got remotely interested in a NBN album was with ‘Nature’s Fury’ from almost 3 years ago, and that was more due to nostalgia. And what did that get me? It got me an album from a group that sounded lost – that didn’t sound like it knew what it was doing anymore. A group that sounded like it was grasping for straws, and grasping for relevancy.
Hearing the lead single, ‘Feels Good’, featuring 3LW, did little to allay my concerns. I mean, ANY pop rapper could have made that track, and not only that, it featured an R&B group for crossover appeal. Not a GOOD R&B group mind you – but 3LW.
So did I enter this album with that dreaded word – BIAS?
Truthfully? No. NBN is sort of like the Wu to me. I WANT them to succeed. My memories are littered with NBN songs from the summer. It’d be refreshing to hear them succeed again. Unfortunately, that success isn’t going to be occurring with ‘Iicons’. Much like “Nature’s Fury”, this LP is severly in need of an identity. Worse than that, it suffers from a formulaic format. Gone are the inventive beats. Treach still has the flow. I doubt that will ever leave him. In place of actual GOOD songs, NBN has reverted to the tried, tested, and shitty hip hop idea of THOUSANDS of guests on their LP. It doesn’t work.
From a murky mismatch with Peter Gabriel in ‘Fight Back’ (which isn’t on the commercial version of the LP, from what I understand), to the ego driven inclusion of Pink on the obvious crossover attempt of ‘What You Wanna Do’, to the utter uselessness of Lil Jon on ‘Wild Motherfuckas’, this album is littered with collabos that go nowhere and sound brutal. Even the mighty power of Red and Meth, masters of the guest verse, on ‘Rock N Roll’ can’t do anything to make me nod my head. If anything, the weakness of the rhymes from Red and Meth, and the fact that they still outshine NBN BY A MILE only reinforces how the mighty have fallen.
About the only collaboration that works on the album is the Icarus and Bumpy Knuckles assisted ‘Ashes To Ashes’, and that is STRICTLY because of the mighty Bumps, and the hot beat. NBN could be missing from the track, and NOTHING would be changed, their verses are so redundant.
Unfortunately (that word is getting a workout), the results are just as bad when NBN has no one helping out with matters as well. Tracks like the title track, and ‘If We Don’t Ride’ all have shiny beats that are begging to be played on radio (but never will), and the same old tired clichÃ©d shit.
In this reviewers opinion, “Iicons” is an unmitigated disaster. I honestly can’t find a single thing to like about this album other than the ‘Ashes To Ashes’ track. Since El-P got 1 out of 5, and had 3 songs I liked, this can do no better, and in fact will do worse.
A sad day for this nostalgic bastard. But not one that I didn’t expect.
AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE.