Naughty by Nature: Jamboree
From 19 Naughty Nine: Nature’s Fury (Arista, 1999)

(Editor’s Intro: DJ Cosmo Baker is one of the core members of the DJ collective, The Rub, and he’s a master in the mix, whether hip-hop, funk, or electronic. I’ve been chasing after him for a summer songs post for years and Cos didn’t disappoint with his ode to “Jamboree.” As you’ll note, this post is running on his born day so happy b-day Cos! –O.W.)

    When I was asked to write about one “definitive” summer song I had to give some thought about what direction I wanted to go in. You see, to me there’s two types of summer energies and they effect me in different ways, and they both have a particular “sound” to them. I think of late summer when the days are hot, and long, and you can see the heat radiating off of the asphalt, making you want to reach out and try to touch the waves bouncing back up to the sun. Time seems to move slow on these summer days and there’s a feeling of tranquility, but also a strange ominous feeling from these days as well. But that’s not the shit that I’m on right now, because there’s also the festive, “school’s out so fire up the BBQ and open up the hydrants because we’re partying in the streets all day and night” summer vibe. And today that’s exactly where my head is at. Two different energies, two different summers, two different sounds. Dig me? Okay, so let’s continue.

    I make no apologies about my sincere love for Naughty By Nature but it’s something that a lot of my friends love to try and clown me for. To me Naughty has always been one of the most “complete” rap groups of my time. Treach is one of the finest rappers and lyricists to have ever blessed the mic and still to this day he so often gets overlooked when the “GOAT” conversations come up that it’s a shame. Kay Gee on the beats always brought the heat and in my opinion was the key component to Naughty’s success. I think the sound signature that he crafted allowed them to live both in the hardcore and pop worlds of rap comfortable, without compromising the credibility in either end of the spectrum. And Vinny, well.. let’s just say that Vinny was integral so that Treach could take a breather every once in a while.

    When Naughty dropped the dubiously titled Nineteen Naughty Nine: Nature’s Fury back in (of course) 1999 they had fallen off the radar of a lot of rap fans and pop-music consumers alike. With the mid to late 90s see-saw that was the takeoff of “jiggy” rap to the backpack backlash to the new rise of New York with Jay-Z, Ruff Ryders et al – and Dirty Jersey’s finest party-rocking crew wasn’t really that relevant anymore. But leave it up to Kay Gee and Co to concoct a recipe for a summer jam that would usher the group into the 21st century. The song is based mainly around a sample of Bennie Golson’s “I’m Always Dancing To The Music” which just sounds like a carnival. And so why not film the video at an actual carnival, complete with bikini clad ladies and super soakers. Now I don’t know about you but that just screams “summer” to me. To the song Kay Gee added some real groovy synths underneath the beat and enlisted long time collaborators Zhané to sing the hook. Couple that with Treach bringing his A-Game on some party rocking rapping, and you have a major win. The public thought so too, making “Jamboree” Naughty’s 4th gold record, helping put the crew (briefly) back on top.

    The summer of 1999 was pretty great for me. I spent the summer rolling around the city of Philly maxing in the parks during the day and balling out with friends at night. I had spend most part of the previous year in the hospital so ’99 was an awaking of sorts. I was a free man, was making great money, had great friends, and had limited real-life responsibility. Plus I met my now wife that year, so the whole summer was full of massive amounts of win. It was like the whole summer was a celebration. So at the very hight of the summer, when one night at my weekly party a rep for Arista came up in the club and handed me doubles of Naughty’s new 12″, I put the record on almost immediately and my party was propelled to the next level – forever linking this song in my mind with good times and celebrations during the summertime. I played it again on my birthday party and ever since then, every year on my birthday (July 9th) it’s one of my few “must hear” songs. I’ll always rock it on the born day, or have whatever guest DJ is rocking for me play it. It’s my own personal “summertime party anthem.” And so, when people might look at me funny when they see my reaction to this joint, I don’t really need to explain myself. Life is good, and “Jamboree” reminds me of that specific time for me that life really started to get good again. So let’s jam…

(The accompanying image – used, um, sans permission – is by Zoe Strauss, an accomplished Philly photographer who also happens to be Cosmo’s sister).