The best fake fact on Wikipedia is that MC Ren studied classical literature at Brown. It's a strain of truthiness so absurd as to be almost believable. Except when I mention it to the former enforcer of N.W.A, he roars. “Fuck no, I didn't go to no Brown,” says the man born Lorenzo Patterson. “I didn't even go to college. I wish I did.”
The Villain in Black never needed Nietzsche. Critics fauxlosophized that the “N” in N.W.A also stood for nihilism, but Ren took a simpler approach. See the title of his 1992 solo debut: Kizz My Black Azz.
And now the man who co-wrote “Straight Outta Compton” lives in Palm Springs. That's like finding out that Genghis Khan lives with cats in a Burbank condo.
You imagine 43-year-old MC Ren sitting on a throne of skulls or leading guerrilla rebellions in the Arab world. You don't expect him in salmon-colored Palm Springs surrounded by Semites named Saul.
“I've been here for two years,” Ren says via phone. “It's hot as hell and I ain't got a pool, but I got family out here. It took getting used to.” That may be an understatement. After all, Andre 3000 declared on “Aquemini” that “Faith is what you make it/That's the hardest shit since MC Ren.” And during the heyday of gangsta rap, Ren was so hard that he delivered lyrical chin checks while simultaneously sermonizing on racial and economic inequity.
But the menacing one has mellowed. He's extremely private and rarely grants interviews. Yet he readily retells most of his story, using the phrase “whoomp whoomp” like Elaine Benes employed “Yadda yadda.”
He was born and raised on East Pauline Street, next to a busy Compton intersection where Eazy-E used to slang drugs. His older brother befriended Eric Wright, and after “Boyz-n-the-Hood” blew up (but before Ice Cube returned home from his brief collegiate detour in Arizona), the younger Patterson was invited to join N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton soon turned them into national sensations.
Ren describes touring with MC Hammer and watching the famously clean rapper curse out his sound man.
Then there was the BBQ at Cube's mom's house where Ren and Cube tried to write a song together for the first and only time. (“We was like, 'Fuck that,' and went back to our own corners.”)
Then there was the afternoon when Dre told Yella and Ren that he was leaving N.W.A.
Maybe the best anecdote concerns the comic eccentricity of Eazy-E. “E was always joking around,” Ren says. “He used to buy expensive-ass video cameras and make movies of himself. He showed me one once of him talking to the camera alone. It was funny as hell. He was even teaching himself to edit.”
Following N.W.A's dissolution, Ren recorded Kizz My Black Azz and Shock of the Hour, a pair of overlooked gems of the G-funk era. He teamed up with Dre for The Chronic 2001's “Some L.A. Niggaz,”and the 2000 N.W.A reunion track “Hello” remains a KDAY staple.
But despite rumors, a full-fledged N.W.A redux never occurred, which Ren says he's fine with. (“We went out with a perfect record.”)
Currently, Ren's recording an EP, and a new track of his recently surfaced on a compilation issued by Hoopla Records. He also has become a voracious reader.
“My house is filled with boxes of books. I read [about] everything from subatomic particles to Egyptology. I'm practically a historian,” Ren says. “I know so much shit that motherfuckers would think I'm crazy if I said everything that I've learned.”
Your move, Brown. MC Ren could give new meaning to “cap and gown.”