“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright (Ghetto Bastard)” by Naughty By Nature (1991)

Three things to unpack here:

  1. “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” was originally titled “Ghetto Bastard”. Presumably, when Naughty By Nature and Tommy Boy realized that it was going to be the second single from Naughty’s debut album, a title change became necessary. It may not be the case anymore, but in 1991, no radio station was about to air a song with the word “bastard” in the title. You couldn’t even say “ass” on the radio. It managed to be a modest hit, saving NBN from one-hit wonder-do and also removing the potential stigma of them being a novelty act. “O.P.P.” was and is dope, and I didn’t really consider it a novelty song until I was reading an old issue of Cashbox magazine not too long ago and the writer of the piece called it just that. What was really smart on the artist side was that the framework of what made “O.P.P.” so great from a production end was still present on “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” (great singable hook, head-nodding beat, Dave Bellochio’s live piano, somewhat recognizable and prominent sample), but the subject matter was way darker.
  2. Treach was the first rapper to perfectly land on a combination of thug appeal, commercial viability and being a sex symbol. Hip-hop’s biggest pop stars at the time had no street cred (Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Young MC, Marky Mark), and then you had dudes like LL and Heavy D, who had a degree of mainstream acceptance and a degree of acceptance by hip-hop’s core audience, but seemed like they were in some sort of weird no-man’s land. Treach was able to make anthemic records that pop radio recognized PLUS he had unbelievable amounts of sex appeal and charisma, PLUS he was kinda scary. This is the dude that showed up on a televised award show with cornrows way before they were “in”, brandishing a machete. If I saw LL or Heavy on my street in the early ’90s, I’d want to give them a pound. If I saw Treach on my street back then, I would’ve approached with caution, or not approached at all. At the very least,  I wold have considered the fact that some very real shit might go down. Of course, some of that was imagery. Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with LL, Hev (may he rest in peace) and Treach. Both times I met Treach, it was long after Naughty’s career had peaked. The thing I came away with in both situations was how non-threatening he appeared. I’m a relatively small/average sized guy (a generous 5’8″) and I might be an inch or so taller than Treach. I don’t know-I just find that funny.
  3. “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” was one of the first hip-hop pop hits that made the kid in the ghetto a sympathetic character. Treach raps from the perspective of someone who’s gotten shit on his whole life and has no time for your outsider’s opinion. You can hear the pain in his voice while he raps. Despite the hardcore imagery, there was a vulnerability that made his lyrics cut even deeper. I know what it’s like to be poor, black and fatherless, and although my home life was nowhere near as unstable as the one Treach outlines in his lyrics, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” was a song that I related to quite a bit. I’d have to imagine a lot of other folks related, too.
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