Naughty by Nature had already been around the block before “O.P.P.” hit. Under the group name The New Style, they released an album in 1989 called Independent Leaders. Although the album was put out by renowned indie hitmaker Sugar Hill Records (on its Bon Ami imprint), it was mired in the silt of the label’s dying days, and the group was dropped in 1990.
TREACH: With The New Style, we thought things was about to pop off. But then nothing happened. We didn’t see no money. We was basically a [tax] write-off to them [Sugar Hill/Bon Ami]. After that we was basically out on the streets again, hustling.
CHARLES DIXON [TOMMY BOY RECORDS RADIO AND CLUB PROMOTION]: When they were The New Style, [their look] was really Jersey club style. They were dressed more like house music guys. New York wasn’t really looking for that.
TREACH: When we was out hustling, that’s when the braids came in. The Dickies coats, the boots, the grimy Jersey shit. No more high-top fades.
The group soldiered on, working on music with engineer Dave Bellochio, based out of a studio in Fairview, NJ, called Marion Recording Studios. (In “O.P.P.,” the song’s second line, “Dave, drop a load on ‘em,” refers to Bellochio, who is seen playing piano in the video.) Later, they moved to another New Jersey studio, Hillside Sound in Englewood, owned by singer Tony Bennett’s son Dae. “We were using our own money for the demos,” says Kay Gee.
KAY GEE: Dave [Bellochio] became our main keyboard guy during The New Style album, and after that as well. He added a musical element to my production. With him, we could do stuff that I couldn’t do myself. After Independent Leaders, we definitely got more advanced, musically. With The New Style, it was strictly sampling and loops. I didn’t have my own equipment, so I would go into the studio with breakbeats and give them to the engineer. "Loop this, loop that." I didn’t get my first equipment at home until after the Tommy Boy deal [in 1991]. "O.P.P." was when our production really started to advance. I brought the records in and Dave looped them. We also had Dave play the bassline and other parts on keyboard. I was just scratching that Jackson 5 ‘ABC’ section one day, and Treach heard it and wanted to build on it.
TREACH: Writing that song was just divine intervention. The idea was really born in 1989 or 1990, probably a year before we started using the name Naughty by Nature. At the very beginning, I said to myself, "'O.P.P.,’ how can I explain it?" I wrote that down and it stayed as the first line of the song. I wrote a verse at a time and just pieced everything together. It wasn’t an overnight thing. It took time. I had a notebook with catchy verses and phrases, and once I heard the music [for "O.P.P."], I knew it would work with the concept. We knew there had to be something for the guys and something for the girls. Pussy and penis. And the edited version of that was "property."
KAY GEE: The first version [of the song] was more raw, only because it wasn’t mixed right. I went back and changed everything by the time it was ready for the album. And Treach’s lyrics for it were always the same, I don’t remember any of that changing. Just the music.
TREACH: The actual phrase "O.P.P." came about from an OG in our 'hood, Mu [Mustafa] Brown. He always used to say, "I’m down with O.P.M.: other people's money." It would always get a big laugh. One day -- and we didn’t even do it consciously -- we said, "Fuck that, we down with other people's pussy, and other people’s property." Mu Brown never smiled, but he cracked up so much at what we said, that he shed tears. At the time, it wasn’t for a song, it was just a joke we had. We kept saying it, and the phrase just grew.
We could never come out and say exactly what "O.P.P." meant, so we had to be witty about it. I was taking lessons from my favorite MCs and groups: Slick Rick, KRS-One, Run-DMC, Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz. The witty battle guys. Those were my dudes. I made the lyrics a big puzzle, so it wouldn’t be easy to figure out. We were laughing, like "Nah, they [radio program directors] ain’t gonna catch this. Or by the time they do, it’ll be too late." My favorite line is the one that goes, "There’s no room for relationships / There’s just room to hit it." When you say that, it’s all over. If you don’t know what the song’s about at that point, you’ll never figure it out.
KAY GEE: We basically got really good at call-and-response stuff because we did so many club gigs and talent shows when we were trying to get a deal. You have to win over the crowd in a situation like that, because a lot of times the crowd vote would be what really won you a talent show. We carried that experience over to making records.
TREACH: It’s a call-and-response song, and we’re talking about fuckin’ other niggas’ bitches. The record probably would have been banned if radio had known what we was talkin’ about. It took them a year or two to figure out what it meant. But I was trying to make the record so to-the-point where mo’fuckas would figure out what I was talkin’ about. The curiosity factor was also big -- people asking, "What’s ‘O.P.P.?'" and they would want to know more. I wanted people to understand, I didn’t want the meaning to get lost. Since I was fast, people had to catch on to my flow, and catch on to what the record really meant. But we didn’t try to make a pop hit, it just happened.
KAY GEE: Of course you never know if something is going to be a hit, but with "O.P.P." we just had a feeling. Everybody who heard it, loved it. We knew it was 10 times better than [The New Style’s lone 1989 single] "Scuffin’ Those Knees." And it did really well at live shows, with the call and response. We knew we had something, but we didn’t know how big it was. We just had to find a label.