On their first two albums, rap's Naughty By Nature celebrated life on their home block in East Orange, N.J., with tough, tongue-twisting precision. Listening to Poverty 's Paradise, the trio's third set of semi-minimalist hip hop, is almost like being right on the street with them. The new CD vividly captures the joy and frustration of inner-city life in all its rundown glory.
Fleshed out with bits of cocktail jazz, lazy blues and groovy bass lines, the album brims with pop-culture references (Free Willy and John Travolta get nods), playful cuts ("Craziest" booms party spirit) and street songs expressing venomous indignation. On "World Go Round," the album's hardest hitter, Naughty blasts a pack of societal ills with a slinky, funked-up flair. Nothing here is as immediate or anthem-bound as "O.P.P.," the group's 1991 breakout hit, but if you're jonesing for a good, curbside view of the 'hood without leaving the couch, it don't get no better than this. (Tommy Boy)