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MC REN (Buy CDs by this artist)
Kizz My ... Black Azz EP (Ruthless/Priority) 1992
Shock of the Hour (Ruthless) 1993
The Villain in Black (Ruthless) 1996
Ruthless for Life (Ruthless) 1998

An unheralded force in N.W.A, MC Ren (Lorenzo Patterson) actually co-wrote "(Fuck) tha Police" and "Straight Outta Compton." His first solo record, a six-song EP released shortly after the band's last album, showcases a strong, grumpy rapper with a straight-talking natural flow and a mean streak. The sex scene of "Behind the Scenes" goes the extra mile to be distasteful, as does the violence of "Right Up My Alley." In "Final Frontier," the MC evenly announces, "Kick a little ass in my spare time/To keep myself occupied when I'm not busting up a rhyme." Ren is not, it appears, a very nice man. But the record ends on a surprising note: the hip-hop orthodoxy of "Kizz My Black Azz," which decries stage costumes and live instrumentalists at rap concerts: "Save the shit for parades...people don't go to rap shows so they can hear a band/It's like a man trying to fuck a man/It defeats the whole purpose/It's like a fish trying to swim up on the surface."

Although the back cover of the EP announces "From the upcomin' album 'Life Sentence'," that didn't happen. Ren dropped the all-new Shock of the Hour instead. Moving away from the blunt, N.W.A-grade beats of Black Azz, these tracks slump down into the cushiony deconstructions of Dr. Dre's G-funk era. As the album grooves along like a low-slung sports car crawling the streets with blacked-out windows, Ren clears his throat with six tracks of the "Same Old Shit," holding his dick and a 40, looking for ho's and sucka MCs to vanquish. He raises his target sights much higher on the album's second half, delivering fiery promises of racial armageddon: the Public Enemy-styled "Mayday on the Front Line" only warms the plate for the violent and threatening "Attack on Babylon," "Do You Believe" (which uses a sampled Farrakhan phrase to set off an entire Muslim-inflected racist diatribe) and the similarly themed payback vendetta of the title track.

[Ira Robbins]
   See also NWA