Review Summary: NBN arrive at the same destination as always, but take a slightly different course in getting there by using a greater variation of featured artists, as well as successfully incorporating a more contemporary R&B sound.
‘Nature’s Fury’ was always going to be an important album for Naughty By Nature (NBN). Not only had it been 4 years between releases (the longest gap of their careers), but the New Jersey trio had also switched record labels from Tommy Boy to Arista in the meantime. It was probably this change which resulted in a greater amount of contributors lending their voices to this album, a move which not only is successful in adding variety to NBN’s sound, but also in assisting to continue the consistency provided over the decade or so of the group’s career.
In a way, ‘Nature’s Fury’ shares a similar structure to the trio’s previous release ‘Poverty’s Paradise’, in that it takes a while to get going. ‘Ring the Alarm’ is a steady-as-she-goes pseudo-opener, while the following ‘Dirt All By My Lonely’ was flattered in being released as a single, despite the fact that it has an effectively twinkling piano part lurking in the background. This is a technique also used well later on track 14 ‘Wicked Bounce’.
As proven in the past with tracks such as ‘O.P.P’ and ‘Hip Hop Hooray’ though, NBN are at their best when they are performing feel-good party anthems. There are two such songs which stand out on this album, with singles ‘Holiday’ and ‘Jamboree’ both delivering the goods. The former has a simple, but catchy, chorus sung by Phiness, while the latter (more successfully charting) track is distinguished by the female contribution of Zhane to the chorus.
There are much bigger names to make appearances on ‘Nature’s Fury’ though and many of them contribute to the one song, track 5 ‘Live Or Die’. In addition to Phiness; Master P, Silkk The Shocker and Mystikal lend their well-known distinctive voices to this ominous sounding cut which unfortunately falls into the trap of getting a little too stereotypical and clichéd. In fact, that is one of the main criticisms labeled at this album as later cuts, the Public Enemy-sampling ‘On The Run’, the Mag & Krayzie Bone-assisted ‘Thugs & Hustlers’ and closer ‘The Shivers’, are also let done by this weakness which NBN have expertly been able to avoid on previous releases. The skill and talent of the trio does not go to waste though as they once more are able to use hooks to their advantage in order to lift a few cuts that should be simply average, to something clearly better. Take for example the gimmicky and at times poppy ‘Radio’ and the old-school sounding ‘Work’ which features Mag & Castro.
What ultimately lifts ‘Nature’s Fury’ to the quality of NBN’s very good back-catalog of releases however, is the ability to successfully combine hip-hop and contemporary R&B on a number of cuts included on the latter half of the album. ‘Would’ve Done The Same For Me’ is the first of these tracks and is a likeable and accessible song that preaches the virtues of those who assist in allowing one to achieve their goals, especially women. Highlighted by a cleverly written non hip-hop sounding chorus that includes backing vocals by Coffee Brown, Treach shines here as he convincingly delivers the chorus of “Why do I stand for my fam and put it down for my peeps? Coz they would’ve done the same for me. Why do I see my women fallin’ down and put ‘em back on their feet? Coz they would’ve done the same for me. Why do I put it down for the streets and my R.I.P’s? Coz they would’ve done the same for me. Why do I embrace the face that sets the mind free? Coz they would’ve done the same for me”.
Penultimate track ‘Live Then Lay’ sees Phiness return once more on a fantastically controlled, methodical and involving piece which further adds variety, while still being able to achieve that fruitful combination discussed in the previous paragraph. But it may be track 13 ‘The Blues’ which stands out most for a variety of reasons. Featuring Minneapolis-based contemporary R&B trio Next (who were initially discovered by Kaygee), this is filled with attention-seeking lyrics. But if they can be ignored at all, this cut reveals itself as one of NBN’s most under-rated and hooky songs over their entire career.
Not doing anything early to hide the subject matter, Treach initially raps ““Life sure hurts with your d!ck in the dirt, with your thing in a sling from the work of a skirt. Balls turned black to blue from a tease or two, well one tease is a few, save your balls from the blues”. Next then come in with the chorus of “You’re giving me the blues, girl I’ve got the blues. It’s all because of you and those freaky things you do”, before impressively adding to the storytelling with the soulful 1st verse that begins “As we leave the club, you know what’s up, thinkin’ I’m gettin’ some, damn was I so dumb”. Although, it is Treach who probably sums the song up best later with the line of “Got the vessels in my testicles stopped on gridlock”!
When all is said and done, Naughty By Nature arrive at the same destination that they always do with ‘Nature’s Fury’ and have delievered another excellent hip-hop album. However, this time they take a slightly different course in arriving at that destination by using a greater variation (and more well-known batch) of featured artists, as well as successfully incorporating a more contemporary R&B sound to keep them relevant and accessible to as wide a variety of listeners as possible.
Recommended Tracks: Jamboree, The Blues, Holiday & Would’ve Done The Same For Me.