Recruited by Eazy-E for N.W.A., MC Ren helped anchor the group, and went on to solo success on Eazy's Ruthless Records label.
Though not a household name like compatriots Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, Ren more than held his own in N.W.A., with a distinctive, commanding – at times terrifying – vocal presence.
Some have called him the outfit's best rapper.
He hasn't been in the news as much in recent years, due in part to a move out to Palm Springs to be closer to his parents, and partly because he hadn't released much music.
But that's changing, as last week he released the much anticipated remix to his new single “Rebel Music,” featuring Ice Cube and produced by venerable West Coast producer E-A-Ski. (You can hear it below.)
Ren goes extremely hard in the song, and he talked to us about his upcoming release plans. We also got into the N.W.A. movie – which seems close to finally happening – and a funny story from long ago about when his idol Ice-T saw his first group perform.
So how do you like living in Palm Springs?
It's cool, but I think I'm going to move soon and get back to the city, because it's too far to be going back and forth. I got stuff I got to do so pretty soon I'll be headed back that way.
It looks like the N.W.A. biopic is gaining speed. I saw that YG was trying out to play you.
Yeah I saw that. I ain't hear nothing about if he got the role. I also heard Pusha T wanted it too.
But the part is to play a young you, right? Pusha T is .
Yeah he's older than YG. He's still tight though.
Are you involved with the movie at all?
I'm supposed to be a consultant on it when they start shooting, but they haven't started shooting yet. I know they have a big ass cast in it. I saw they had all these castings, so they must be doing something.
Are you excited for the project generally?
Yeah 'cause I know it's going to get it right. Me and Cube talked about it and he told me how they was going to do it – the '80s, the crack game, all the way up to the time we came out. Then you got F. Gary Gray you know what I mean he's good director, he's from L.A., so he knows. It should be cool.
When you look back on that time, does it seem like a dream now?
It just seems like it went by so fast, you know what I'm saying? Like I look back now and it's just like [snaps his fingers] fast. It came and went, you know what I'm saying? I think back on the tours, going on the road, studios, all of that. It seemed like it was going slow but [snap] you look back and you're like, “Damn that was so fast.” You know what I'm saying? Crazy.
As far as your next album, what's the timeline?
I don't have no time line, I'm just taking my time. I ain't in no rush, I ain't on no record label, I ain't have no commitments. That's what's good about the artists today, they're just doing they shit independent and all of that. What a lot of people do nowadays, they put out all these mixtapes one after the other, like they rushing with everybody and all that shit be bullshit. I took my time on the single and everybody is feeling the single, and I'm going to take my time on the album and make that shit the same way.
How did you get started as a rapper?
Me and my homie used to have to walk a while to find somebody to battle with, 'cause if you was an MC you wanted to battle, because you thought that's what they're doing in New York. So you'd do that, and you got your talent shows and all of that little shit. I was in a group and we was doing all of that stuff for so long. His uncle was managing us and we did some shows.
What was the group called?
We was the Awesome Crew 2, and it was two of us.
Everybody had a number in their name back in the day.
Yeah yeah. It featured my homeboy Chip – shout out to him my homeboy Chip. So, we did shows…We did a show at the Roxy. We was still in high school at this time.
Whoa, pretty big deal.
Yeah, it was crazy, we was in 12th grade. It was me, Chip and my other homeboy, who [did] the beatbox. At this time we would wear matching Kangols. Run-DMC, East coast stuff, you know what I'm saying? We did a show there and Ice-T was at the Roxy. He came up talking to us.
So we started the show and we was nervous at first because we were like, Ice-T is out there. You gotta think, bro, we in high school so when we hit the club it's like we underage, so we somewhere we ain't supposed to be, so that shit lit up like a movie. We were pumped up – but halfway through [one of our songs] the beat was supposed to change, for the beatbox. But the [DJ] speeded the shit up, to like a fast, fast record, so we had to rap so fast. It was fucked up.
Then after we came off the stage and Ice-T said, [sarcastic tone] “Nice.” [Ren cringes at the memory.]
Later I asked Ice-T if he remembered it, and he was like nah.
You thought that was going to be your big moment.
He was signing a lot of people back in the day, too.
I'm happy he didn't sign us. I wouldn't be here talking to you.