Before they called themselves Naughty By Nature, the East Orange NJ rappers Tony “Double T Treachery” Criss, Kier “Kay Gee” Gist and “Vinnie Rock” Brown released an album for RCA Records under the name The New Style in 1989. Soon after, Criss flipped a local gangster’s epigram – “I’m down with O.P.M., other people’s money” – into a cheater’s anthem as “O.P.P.”

After writing down the phrase, “OPP, how can I explain it” in a notebook, Criss developed the concept by adding “catchy verses and phrases” to the song over several months:

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.’

The New Style began performing “O.P.P.” to enthusiastic crowds. Kay Gee remembered:

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.

After changing their name to Naughty By Nature, Tommy Boy Records (who initially passed on signing the group until a Warner Brothers VP convinced them to) released “O.P.P.” as the rebranded group’s debut single.

Initially, larger New York radio stations balked at airing the song, so Tommy Boy started a campaign to get the song played at pop-crossover stations – appealing to their love of Michael Jackson’s music, as he was sampled in “O.P.P.” Also, the song’s video became requested constantly on the show The Box – where viewers used a 900 number to call in their requests:

New videos would be introduced on Saturdays. I woke up that first Saturday morning, turned on The Box, and “O.P.P.” was playing. I was like, “Oh wow, what a great surprise!” Then another video came on, and after that “O.P.P.” came on again. And then again, right after that, back to back. Then another video, and “O.P.P.” one more time.

The song began gaining nationwide popularity, eventually climbing up the pop charts to #6 in late 1991. The phrase “Down Wit' O.P.P.” also became a nationwide craze, beginning with stickers, then t-shirts and more.