Icon, that's the proclamation made by Naughty By Nature for their 5th album. While many may question if this bold statement holds weight or is just another self fulfilled proclamation of greatness that every artist holds themselves to these days, one cannot front on what Naughty has accomplished in their 10 years in the game. Hailing from Ill Town New Jersey, Naughty helped set the standard to what hip-hop party anthems were all about during the 90's. While most artists have to water down their style or sell out to the white majority in order to gain commercial success, Naughty has been able to gain commercial acceptance without compromising their style one bit. Hits such as "O.P.P." "Hip Hop Hooray" & "Feel Me Flow" are all classic hip hop joints that were able to reach pop status at the same time. However, the road to success hasn't been a pleasant one the past few years for Naughty. After the disappointing "Nature's Fury," legendary producer Kay-Gee left the group to pursue other interest, which left the group in a state of limbo. With no deal in tact, record companies weren't sure Naughty still had the big hit making capabilities of the past without Kay-Gee. Eventually, TVT records stepped up to the plate and took a chance on the hip-hop veterans when no one else would.
With their newest installment in the Naughty By Nature legacy, "iicons' is a different path then the ones of previous years. With Kay-Gee gone, the production aspect now has to be handled by a combination of producers such as Da Beatminerz, The Underdogz, Junod, Allstar, Dream Team & The DJ Twinz among others. While not horrible, the production on "iicons" is definitely its main downfall. Tracks like "N.J. To L.A." featuring Road Dawgs & Rottin Razkals, "Rah Rah" featuring Rottin Razkals, "Wild Motherfuckas" featuring LiL Jon & Chyna Whyte and "Swing Swang" all feature uncharacteristic production, not to mention less than stellar guest appearances.
Even though the Naughty sound has changed on "iicons," Treach and Vinny were still able to recapture that commercial success they were known for with "Feels Good" featuring 3LW. While not on the same level as previous singles, it is still good to see Naughty in the spotlight. While "iicons" isn't the comeback album we all hoped to see from Naughty, we do get a glimpse of the Naughty of old on tracks such as "iicons," "Let Me Find Out" and "Rock & Roll" featuring Red & Meth. The finest moments come from the two gems "Ashes To Ashes" featuring Icarus & Bumpy Knuckles and "Family Tree." "Ashes To Ashes" is the bangin DJ Twinz produced track that features an intense and hungry Treach not seen in recent years, along with up and coming emcee Icarus and the always controversial Bumpy Knuckles, who once again throws out some fire, this time towards Bubba Sparxxx. The true gem on "iicons" is the heartfelt "Family Tree" where Treach & Vinny have some harsh words for their former partner Kay Gee. The track is beautifully put together by Da Beatminerz and Treach & Vinny rip the track, providing their insight to the KayGee situation.
While solid at times, "iicons" falls short of delivering that classic Naughty By Nature feeling. Whether it's due to KayGee's departure behind the boards or Naughty's lack of hunger, there is definitely a big hole of emptiness felt throughout the album. Die-hard Naughty fans will be pleased with the overall result of "iicons", but in today's generation of hip-hop listeners, many do not remember what Naughty has put down in the past decade. In today's attitude of "what have you done for me lately", Naughty By Nature is unfortunately just another group past their prime.