A mysterious Naughty By Nature album called Illtown Sluggaz popped up on streaming platforms over the weekend, one nobody knew was coming. The 10-track project features songs such as “Thug Love” and an E-A-Ski “Feel Me Flow” remix.
The problem? It’s not actually a Naughty By Nature album. The cover art was instantly suspect as Naughty By Nature’s de facto leader Treach was noticeably missing.
In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, Vin Rock cleared up any confusion and confirmed Illtown Sluggaz was, in fact, never supposed to be released under the Naughty By Nature moniker.
He explained his digital team scoured the internet for unreleased and/or abstract music from Vin, Treach and Kaygee and compiled them into one playlist, giving it the appearance it was a proper studio album.
In light of the flub, Vin did confirm an official Naughty By Nature album is on its way in 2020. He’s also laying the foundation for new projects from Slugga Music, his label and management company with Kaygee.
Elsewhere in the DX interview, Vin talked about touring with New Kids On The Block for The Mixtape Tour, the time Treach let snakes and rats into the Tommy Boy Records offices and their relationship with the label today.
HipHopDX: What up Vinnie! I’m trying to figure out what this project is.
Vin Rock: Illtown Sluggaz is a real project. Kaygee and I, we control that project. We own that project. We went out on the New Kids On The Block tour this summer and we had the Sluggaz project. We always have new artists we’re releasing under the Slugga Music brand.
We just set up our digital team to set up that entity online. They just happened to find some abstract music out there from us and posted it up. They put it on iTunes and Spotify and we’re like, “Oh whoa, whoa, whoa.” Because we’ve been getting calls like this, you know? Some of those samples aren’t even cleared.
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HipHopDX: I knew something was up because there’s no way we would have not known an entire Naughty By Nature album was coming.
Vin Rock: Right.
HipHopDX: Yeah. I looked at your Instagram and there was no mention of it. I was like, “What is going on?”
Vin Rock: Exactly, exactly. This will help clear up some of the clutter, you know?
HipHopDX: Speaking of the NKOTB tour, how did it feel to see generations of kids and adults singing your music?
Vin Rock: Oh man, you know, that New Kids On The Block Mixtape Tour was incredible. For one it was New Kids On The Block, Naughty By Nature, Salt-n-Pepa, Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. It’s been a long time coming. Our relationship with New Kids On The Block and Mark Wahlberg goes back to the early 90s in London. We’ve done some shows together. We’ve toured together in the early 90s and done some spot dates here and there.
And then fast forward, it was 2010 that Donnie Wahlberg called us out to Radio City Music Hall because they were just getting the band back together like a year or two prior. They had a song with “hey-ho” in the chorus, so Donnie thought that it would be a great idea to invite us out and surprise his fanbase. When he called us, since I handle the merchandise, I thought it would be great to combine both logos on a t-shirt. So I took our Naughty, from Naughty By Nature, and their Kids On The Block from their logo and I showed up with Naughty Kids On The Block t-shirts.
HipHopDX: [Laughs] good idea.
Vin Roc: It really caused a frenzy way back then. Since then, we’ve popped up on different events like the New Kids’ cruise and certain events with them. We’ve been working on that tour since 2010, so it was really like eight, nine years in the making and we finally made it happen. So that tour was incredible.
New Kids On The Block have an incredible fan base. It’s like 100 percent women, but it made sense to bring Naughty on because we brought out a lot of men and New Kids fans were able to bring out their husbands and boyfriends and what have you. So everyone had an incredible time and that was one of our best tours that I can recall since the early ’90s.
HipHopDX: I remember when I was like in 3rd or 4th grade, my dad was like, “OK, you going with your little sister to the New Kids concert.” I protested and pretended to hate them, but I secretly liked them.
Vin Rock: Right, right, right [laughs]. New Kids seem to be a guilty pleasure for some people, you know?
HipHopDX: For sure. OK, so Illtown Sluggaz isn’t an official Naughty By Nature album, but can you tell me a little bit about the new Naughty By Nature album that is coming next year?
Vin Rock: For Naughty, we’ve been through our drama over the years. People understand that. But our brand is bigger than the bullshit. We’ve literally never stopped touring since ’91, but it got to a point where we weren’t feeding our core fanbase new music, you know? So we’re like, “Listen fellas, every year we always come up with a new big tour, a new whatever. We’re running the merchandise. We have a robust online presence with social media. It’s only right that we feed our core base with new music.”
So basically that’s what this project is about. We also know that Tommy Boy is in control of our legacy catalog and we have a healthy relationship with them. They’re doing a good job exploiting that legacy catalog and reaching out to us to help them exploit it. So it only makes sense since Tommy Boy has the legacy catalog and we have full control of all the new music we make. We might as well support them and we can take advantage of all the data that they’re accumulating and collecting from the legacy catalog.
It’s only going to benefit us with the new music, you know? On top of that, like I said, we have our own in house digital team and obviously they’re on point and know what they’re doing because they can get a rise out of people. So once we make everything official and you know, hire out publicists and push out this new music properly, everyone will feel it. They’ll definitely feel what we’re doing.
HipHopDX: So obviously you want to keep your relationship with Tommy Boy solid and I know there’s been a lot of discourse between De La Soul and Tommy Boy. But I have to ask, did Treach really let out rats and snakes in the Tommy Boy offices?
Vin Rock: Yes, he did.
HipHopDX: Tell me the story as you remember it.
Vin Rock: We learned in particular from Eazy-E. When we collaborated with Eazy-E — and we were always fans of N.W.A — we noticed they had their online shop. Well, it wasn’t really an online shop. They had their merchandise embedded in every cassette and CD they released. So when we worked with him, I asked him, “How does that work?” He said, “Well, there’s an outside company I give a license to that will sell our merchandise and they cut a deal with our record label.” I guess at the time, it was Priority Records.
And he was like, “We give them permission and they pay us some royalty.” So at the time I was like, “Well hell, we just went platinum with Tommy Boy so I could do it myself. I’ll put up the money for the inventory and we’ll have Tommy Boy put our insert in there and we’ll do business as such.” So we went to Tommy Boy and said, “For our next album, which was the ‘Hip Hop Hooray’ one, we want to insert our merchandise in there.” They said, “OK, no problem.”
They never mentioned any terms or any up-charges on anything. They just said “No problem.” Well, once they released the album, they sent the document to our lawyer saying they’re going to charge us like 50 cents or $1 per copy for having our merchandise in there, you know? We were like, “Man, are you out of your mind?” We would never agree to that because we were selling 2 million copies at the time.
HipHopDX: That would add up to a lot.
Vin Rock: Right, that would easily equal, a million, two million dollars. We were like, “Hell no, we’re not committing to that.” Especially after the fact. So Treach felt that they were being snakes by doing that and he went … at the time, Tommy Boy was on First Avenue in Manhattan and there was a pet store underneath.
HipHopDX: Right beneath the offices on First Avenue, there was a pet store?
Vin Rock: Yes. One day, Treach went in there and bought every snake, every rat and every marsupial they had in that pet store, took it upstairs and told them, “You guys are snakes and rats for what y’all did” and then he let all of those animals out in the office.
HipHopDX: Oh my god, I bet they didn’t know what to think.
Vin Rock: Right, right. I’m sure they had exterminators there for the entire year.
HipHopDX: That’s Hip Hop history, Vin.
Vin Rock: Yes it is. And we know De La has their issues with Tommy Boy and we have as well. You know, we’ve had our issues with Tommy Boy. But we were able to correct our differences. Thanks to Queen Latifah and Shakim [Compere] from Flavor Unit, we had great deals. And we had definitely better business deals, better record contracts, you know, being the new guys on the block. It’s really thanks to De La Soul, Queen Latifah and Digital Underground, who were already on the label. I mean, the deals weren’t as good back then, but once we came upon the scene and based on the fact that Queen Latifah was signed to Tommy Boy and managed us, we were able to cut a way better deal than even she had.
HipHopDX: Thanks to your predecessors, right?
Vin Rock: Yes, definitely, definitely.
HipHopDX: Do you have a name for the upcoming Naughty By Nature album?
Vin Rock: No, we didn’t, we don’t. We’re just working right now, so. I can give you this jewel. We have a collaborative record song with all the artists we put out. So there’s a song coming called “Celebrate” and it’s going to have Next, Zhané, Jaheim and Naughty By Nature all on the same record.
HipHopDX: So, it’s an official posse cut.
Vin Rock: Yeah, yeah. So it’s Hip Hop and R&B. We’re the only Hip Hop group, but Kaygee produced all of those R&B acts and we’re about to do a super all-star banger, coming up soon.