Sunday, May 15, 2011

HYPE'S RETRO REVIEWS:
N.W.A. ALUM BUSTS SHOTS ON SOLO EP

Artist: MC Ren

Release: Kizz My Black Azz

Label: Ruthless/Priority/EMI

Year: 1992


“Kizz My Black Azz” is the first solo EP from former N.W.A. member MC Ren. Quiet as it's kept, Compton, California native Lorenzo "MC Ren" Patterson allegedly signed on to Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records as a teenager with the intent of being a solo artist. So the story goes, a fateful opportunity presented itself when N.W.A. founding member Ice Cube took a leave of absence from the group to attend an architectural-drafting vocational college in Arizona. Eazy allegedly asked Ren to contribute to ghostwriting raps for Eazy and making guest-appearances on recordings like “Ruthless Villain”. By the time tech-school grad Ice Cube came back into the fold, Ren was a full-fledged member of the group.

While N.W.A. as a group managed to change hip-hop and pop-culture forever with their groundbreaking and controversial music, unfortunately, Ren’s solo debut was clouded in the aftermath of the group’s disintegration in the early 1990s. By the time of this release, Ice Cube had quit the group and had released two solo albums, and Dr. Dre (along with associate D.O.C.) had recently defected from Ruthless to form what would eventually become Death Row Records. Within N.W.A., Ren had done solo-style cuts before (“If it ain’t Ruff”) but this is effort is clearly driven by Ren’s direction.

“Kizz My Black Azz” finds Ren treading familiar territory, telling tales of wayward young women (“Behind the Scenez”), reckless gangbangers (“The Valley”), post-fame hangers-on (“Hound Dogz”) and bitter rivals (on the title cut).

The production on this release is exclusively handled by DJ Bobcat (see also- Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Tupac), who proves himself to be just as capable as his contemporary Dr. Dre in crafting head-nodding, sample-heavy breakbeats which alternate between uptempo and pre-Chronic G-funk.
The best song on the six-cut effort is the battle-anthem “Final Frontier”—no Star Trek references, but Boogie Down Productions’ “The Bridge is Over” is given a West Coast-revamp.

In retrospect, there are some criticisms to bear here- Ren continues the unabashed sexism of N.W.A. here, and, viewed at face value, “Behind the Scenez” crosses into gratuitous territory (the narrative climaxes with incest and group sex). Also the title cut finds Ren bashing rap acts that involve live musicians in their performance lineup; it proved to be kind of nearsighted in light of the rise of acts like the Roots, Black Eyed Peas, Lauryn Hill and others. Ren gets props for being honest in his opinions, but some of them were clearly off-base.

Ren’s future solo albums would prove to be somewhat uneven production-wise, so this is arguably his most sonically consistent release. For fans of Golden-Age West Coast rap, this is a worthy buy, but for the uninitiated, N.W.A. and Ice Cube’s first LPs should come first.

*Note: The 2003 re-release features the music video to "Final Frontier".

@ Amazon- http://tinyurl.com/6y938ud

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