Hip-hop does not look kindly on its veteran artists apart from anything other than lip service -- names are dropped all the time, but it's hard to sustain a career into a second decade for many rappers. Naughty by Nature acknowledge that situation with a wink on their fifth album, titling it Iicons and offering a definition of the word on the cover, thereby setting themselves up as icons, as titans of their genre. Which, in many ways, they are, as this rock-solid record proves. They might never have been innovators on the level of Public Enemy or Ice Cube, but they were always strong, forceful MCs and good songwriters who made strong records. Iicons is firmly within that tradition. There are a few things that make it feel modern -- some guest MC appearance, a production that is on the whole kind of spare, a stellar duet with Pink -- but the overall aesthetic is from the early '90s, when the group was at their popular peak. This doesn't mean it sounds outdated; it means that the group still crafts dynamic, varied albums, where the singles aren't the only songs that are memorable. Sure, it's a bit traditionalist, but in the best possible sense -- it keeps what's best about the form, giving the album a strong foundation, and builds on it, resulting a record that feels fresh and classic and thereby proving that it is possible to sustain a career in hip-hop without a loss of musical quality. Maybe these guys deserve to be called icons after all.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Road Dawgs