Exclusive: Vin Rock tells DX how the Jersey trio's love of mobile devices may make them Windows Mobile's partners.
New Jersey Rap pioneers Naughty By Nature [click to read] are hard at work with their first completely reunited (and yet to be titled) album (with Kay Gee) in over a decade. Recenly, Vin Rock spoke to HipHopDX about how the '80s and '90s Rap veterans may be partnering with Microsoft to take "O.P.P." to the personal PC.
"First and foremost, I am a Windows Mobile power-user," began Vin. "I've had these devices since the Treo and the iPhone and all of that, but once I got introduced to the Windows Mobile platform, I realized those were mini-PCs. For the past four years or so, I've just been riding with Windows Mobile devices - even before the iPhone came out."
Vin spouted off a grocery list of devices he's previously owned, before championing the AT&T Tilt to HipHopDX. "After the Tilt came out two years ago. I got that and I got one for my neice; we both gave the iPhone back because we were so used to all of the features and a physical keyboard on the Tilt." Taking it a step further, the "Jamboree" songwriter says, "Eventually I locked onto HTC as the hardware manufacturer, so I'd go onto the websites and see which devices were coming up."
After reading blogs and following trends, Vin says he got in custom themes, "HTC came with the user interface on top of the Microsoft platform which is called TouchFLO 3D. So I started going onto underground blog sites and saw that there were basically developers that hacked into that interface with custom themes for them. Once I saw that, I started looking for these designers, which were basically graphic designers." One in particular impressed Vin. "I found the guy Probex, who basically did this Jessica Alba theme. I found Probex, I got him to start developing a Naughty By Nature the for the TouchFLO 3D interface. While that was going on, we were working on a new album, and I knew that I wanted to cross-promote into some element of the mobile world."
"I was developing this app for a Windows Mobile phone," revealed Vin, taking matters into his own hands. Then fate changed things a bit. "I was on a plane maybe a month-and-a-half, two months ago. I saw a guy with an AT&T Tilt, which is a Windows Mobile device. I always make small-talk with people with a Windows Mobile device. I said, 'Hey buddy, I see you're a fellow AT&T Tilt user.'" The stranger turned out to be a Microsoft executive. Recalling the meeting, Vin shared his thoughts with a laugh, "Aw man, this is divine intervention."
The meeting also allowed the avid tech fan to share some of his knowledge with the Microsoft employee. "He wasn't even really aware of the Touch Pro 2." The impressive information session led Vin to revealing to his new friend, "I'm tracking down your marketing department to cross-promote this with the new album." The two exchanged info before departing in Michigan.
"By the time I got back home from Detroit, I had an email from Microsoft," Vin told DX with a laugh.
Pitching his marketing idea to his newfound Microsoft marketing contacts, Vin stated, "Whether or not you're marketing properly to the Hip Hop community, or you're just neglecting them, it needs to be done."
Agreeing to begin collaborating, Naughty By Nature and Windows Mobile launched a Facebook campaign. With Naughty fans contributing traffic to Windows Mobile's Facebook page, fans have been entering to win a device, with a trip to see the New Jersey trio perform at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater on August 15. Runners up will win new Naughty music and MP3 players. The contest runs from June 15 to July 15.
The contest has reportedly already opened the door to more opportunities. "As that energy started flowin', Microsoft and the ad agency they work with decided to shoot a mini-documentary on [me in particular] on a day-in-the-life basis, and how [I] use my device," Vin said. The three-minute documentary, airing on YouTube and Facebook captured the group performing at a Funkmaster Flex event at B.B. King's. Vin added, "They're using this stuff to convice the front office that these guys need to tap into the Hip Hop market." If all goes according to plan, the union will grow deeper. "Once they do that, Naughty By Nature will be the first group to do a major campaign with Microsoft and Windows Mobile."
Vin, who spoke about the comebackn with HipHopDX in September of 2008, adds that this opportunity furthered the possibilities for the group's reunion album. "The music was already in the can, and we were already talking to distributors about distributing the product." He said that the partnership only expedited the process and increased interest from distributors and deejays. The group reportedly also received Microsoft ad-buys on HOT97 during Flex's top-rated show, for their aforementioned concert.
Typically in Hip Hop, mobile devices (read: ringtones and partnerships) have been reserved for new artists. Vin attributes his potential partnership to his team, making Naughty By Nature, a 20-year group, working with a top technology company. "I'm working with young people who are at least eight-to-10 years my junior, and they're huge Hip Hop fans. You know how that corporate structure works? They're trying to shake them out of that good ol' boy network. It's not just for businessmen with the white shirt and the tie. It's a lot of kids out here. That's particularly where Windows Mobile is getting out-marketed by the Sidekicks and the iPhones of the world. So it's kind of a blessing in disguise that we found each other. There's a real artist - it's not just a check for me, 'cause I'm a real user of this product, and I'd throw every other device out, 'cause that's how passionate I am about it."
As for the music, Naughty By Nature already has one of the top deejay's support, and an impressive guest-list.
"We have a single called 'Get To Know Me Better,' and this song will definitely catch everybody off-guard. I'm on there and I'm doing something different with my voice. People don't really know that it's me. It's a club-banger," said Vin, who wished not to say if he was implying the use of Auto-Tune.
"The B-side is a joint called 'I Got A Lotta,' which Treach, he's on there by himself. It's definitely a street track. Funkmaster Flex, it's one of his favorite records. We just did a clean vocal edit on it, 'cause the original version just had too many mutes in it."
The new album is said to also feature Akon, Jamie Foxx and Flavor Unit family Queen Latifah, as well as a cover of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army."
As Vin tells it, "The basics are there as a hot, dope album...We have a complete album again." Emphasizing a 30-and-older appeal, he added, "The sound isn't a throwback to the '90s, but the formula is."