- Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) was born, his father, Terry, was teaching moves of a different kind to a future star in a different field.
Vinnie Brown remembers being 12 years old and walking three blocks up from his house to 18th street in East Orange, N.J., to meet with Terry. He wanted to learn how to breakdance, and Terry Peppers was the best breakdancer in the area.
Once Brown was done breakdancing with Peppers for the day he would cross the street to Kier Gist's house to work on his beatboxing. Gist (aka Kay Gee) would handle the DJ duties, and Brown would put down the beat. Later on Anthony Criss (aka Treach) would join Gist and Brown (aka Vin Rock) to create songs and even further down the road the three would go on to create the platinum-selling rap group Naughty by Nature.
Peppers wasn't a part of Naughty by Nature, but he was a part of their circle. He continued to work with Brown on his breakdancing, but eventually they went in separate directions.
“My first breakdance crew was with Terry. He always encouraged me to be a better breakdancer than he was," Brown said. "When we were out just trying to make it as Naughty by Nature, we were all kind of dabbling in the streets, but we took the music route and unfortunately [Terry] got caught up in the streets.”
Peppers has been incarcerated for the past 10 years. He is scheduled to be paroled this summer.
Brown and Naughty by Nature went on to have success with hit songs “O.P.P.” and “Hip Hop Hooray,” among others. Touring kept them busy and because of their schedule it wasn’t until recently that Brown discovered the younger Peppers had talent. Jabrill has made a name for himself on the football field as the No. 2 overall prospect in the country, but he is also turning heads with his music.
Brown happened to be looking through his Twitter feed when an article came across his tweets that mentioned the younger Peppers, whose rap name is JReall, and his new song, “Don’t Take it Personal.” Brown read the article and watched the music video and couldn’t believe what he had seen.
“I would always hear about [Jabrill], and it was kind of like we let him do his thing and now he’s surfacing on his own. That was the first time I had heard him rap, I didn’t even know he had a crew like that,” he said. “I watched the video and listened to the song and it is really good. Jabrill’s song is like a throwback to ’90’s hip hop and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really impressed.’ ”
Since Naughty by Nature was on the road so often, Brown didn’t get the opportunity to see Jabrill grow up. He still refers to himself as an uncle or big brother figure to the younger Peppers, though, and was excited to hear from him through social media.
What was even more exciting was to learn that Peppers had been inspired by his music. From the song to the music video, Peppers had gained inspiration from Brown and Naughty by Nature’s success.
“They are pretty much my family,” Peppers said. “My dad rapped with them in his glory days. They are my uncles pretty much.
“They are from East Orange, N.J., or as we call it, ‘Illtown,’ and their influence on me was substantial. The way I rap and how I go about it, everything, I learned from them. Of course, other rappers as well, but since they are from my city, it was inevitable that I looked up and shaped my flow around their influence.”
Brown says it’s an honor.
“It’s kind of like you watch your kids from a distance do their thing. He understands our legacy and our history with his father and mother,” Brown said. “He took some of the iconic locations from our videos, ‘O.P.P.’ and ‘Hip Hop Hooray,’ and they went and shot their music video in the same locations as Naughty by Nature. They said we inspired them so it was to pay homage to their big brothers, Naughty by Nature. I thought that was pretty cool.”
Brown had no idea Peppers could rap and he still isn't fully aware of just how talented his "nephew" is on the gridiron. He admittedly isn't big into sports, but he says that he has been hearing about Peppers talent for quite some time now.
"They say he just goes crazy out there and he's doing really well," he said. "I've just been watching and hearing about Jabrill from afar, and now it's just good to see him coming into his own."
Now that the two have reconnected, Brown says he is willing to help Peppers with anything in the future. He hopes to return a favor to Peppers' father, since he lent him a hand so many years ago.
"Definitely because of these tweets and this interaction I'll go check him out and lend some advice to him. If they need a cameo from me I'll definitely do it," he said. "It's the least I can do since his father taught me. We're very proud of Jabrill and I hope he stays focused, keeps his crew tight and listens to his mom and dad. Stay focused and enjoy the ride."