MC Ren, N.W.A. :: Kizz My Black Azz, 100 Miles and Running :: Ruthless
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by DJ Fatboy

The EP is about as alive today as the 8 track and the 7" single: sure, you'll see one around every now and then, but more than likely, most people will pick it up and go, "Aww shit, only 5 songs? Whatever," and set the shit back down. Why they do this when the majority of albums are lucky to have 5 decent songs for about 16 dollars is beyond me, but these two EP's, along with Digital Underground's "This is an EP Release" also released right around the same time, rekindled a little interest in the hip hop crowd in the dying format. While it may not be as long, the intent is to hook you, satiate you until the full length actually drops, and in the case of these two, be a strong standing work of art in it's own right, albeit in shorter form than usual.

MC Ren dropped "Kizz My Black Azz" hot on the heels of their multi-platinum chart topper "Niggaz4Life". It was a shocker back then, that an album as violent and straight fuckin gangsta as "niggaz.." would top charts. Now DMX farts on a bass drum and barks at you and it goes #1 in the first week; but I digress.

At that time, Cube had gone nuts. Eazy everyone knew about. Hell, Dre had even started rhyming (more on that later) but Ren, widely considered the real "MC" in the bunch, had yet to drop anything solo, so the EP came as a blessing to heads wondering if Ren could drop that ill shit on his own.

And hell yeah he did, but honestly, he's not the best thing on this EP; Bobcat is. His production (he worked for LL, too.) shines crazy on this disc. "Paul's Boutique" style layers of samples, thick bass souping up the hard and scratchy drum breaks provide amazing sonic backdrop for Ren's distinctive voice to flow over. Hell, the second best song on the EP is Bobcat's instrumental "Intro: Check it Out Y'All," a funky as fuck cut and paste job that runs a grip of Ren vocal samples into each other seamlessly as if Ren had meant for the lines to always go together that way. Underpinning the turntable trickery is a bubbling, everchanging array of samples and noises that recall that same era's Bomb Squad production, but with it's own West Coast twist (the bass is deeper and the beat is slower).

But that's not to say Ren gets overpowered by the groove. He wouldn't be The Villain if he did. On the high tempo title track, he spits flame at quite a few (unnamed) people in the industry, as well as jealous bastards. In hindsight, some of his rants seem a little off ("I'm tired of rappers with live instruments on the stage/save the shit for parades") but that'll happen when you're listening to shit from 1992.

"Final Frontier" is powered by a beefed up, juiced beat that incorporates "The Bridge is Over" and is anchored with a catchy ass vocal hook. If I remember right, the hook got turned into a T-shirt, actually. To tell the truth, the song is basically a pop party jam, but perverted and dirtied up. Where you'd have "the girl looked fine, I stepped to her" and variations thereof, you instead have "It's just hardcore niggaz actin crazy on the stage/wearin gangsta clothes, yo, and spittin on the hoes"

"Hound Dogz" is aiight enough, nothin real special, and "Right Up My Alley" is some of that Ren flavor that cats were already familiar with from N.W.A., but the cut that kills it for me, the cut you should buy the album for, is "Behind The Scenes." A crazy story rhyme, that crosses the line maybe once or twice (shit, the last verse deals with a family orgy) it's nonetheless a fuckin bomb ass cut. Beat is definitely off the hook, the coda at the end is depraved perfection (DJ train ceaselessly cutting up "She like suckin on DICK" from N.W.A.'s "She Swallowed it") and the storytelling ability of Ren shines.

But this was not Ren's first appearance on an EP. Largely forgotten in Dre's catalog and N.W.A.'s controversial cuts is the 1990 release "100 Miles and Runnin"; a glorified Maxi-single, basically. 4 songs deep, it showcased the "new and improved" Dr. Dre rhyme style, different from the laid back modes he rocked on the "Straight Outta Compton" and later Death Row albums. You can see why he never really went back to it. It's basically a bad Ice Cube impersonation. Better than the bad Ice Cube impersonation that Ice Cube is now, that's for sure.

This EP was the last of Dr. Dre's high tempo work. Apparently he hadn't been smoking NEAR as much Chronic when makin this EP, which preceded "Niggaz4Life." "100 Miles..." is worth a listen because it's basically the tail end of Early N.W.A. Dre mixed with the birth of Slow Synth Dre.

The title track is an example of this: Fast like a lot of 1990 shit was, but more layered and crisp sounding than most of the other shit, the beat clips along nicely, featuring a propulsive guitar sample and well timed chops and sound effects in the beat. This, in my opinion, is probably the best vocal appearance Eazy-E ever made. The man couldn't write a dope lyric to save his life, but whoever coached him on this one deserved some kind of fuckin reward. Also notable is that this is the first shot fired in the "N.W.A. vs. Ice Cube" battle that Cube later responded to with "No Vaseline."

Then there's the precursor to "She Swallowed It" - "Just Don't Bite It." This is probably most well known for it's skit that precedes it, "How to Suck a Dick," but the beat, with it's soft flute loop is a seductive motherfucker. It's gonna crawl up into your head and nest there, meaning it will be in your head for about a week after hearing it. But you can only be so smooth when you're rappin pretty explicitly about getting head. Still dope shit though.

The sequel to the firestarting "Fuck Tha Police" is on here, too, titled "Sa Prize (part 2)" Featuring more in the way of skits, (a funny fat cop/informant skit featuring D.O.C. to spark it off) and a slightly tweaked beat, the song tries hard, but doesn't quite get there. It's kinda hard to live up to a classic like that. It's like "Superman II" compared to "Superman:" Still real fuckin dope (the twist Dre provides to the beat makes it a LOT better than the original) but you just can't forget that the first was just *that* much doper.

"Real Niggaz" is pretty tight, though, and Ren, as he always did once Cube left, drops the tightest verse, although it's basically the same "We're hard, we'll kick your ass, don't fuck with us, where's your bitch, I need head" shit that N.W.A. always kicked after Cube left. This track is basically the start of N.W.A.'s declining into shock rap caricatures, with about an average of 3 "motherfuckers" and 2 "I'll fuck you up's" in every verse.

"Kamurshol" is just that: a commercial; with a sick fuckin beat though. Dre should revive it and let Xzibit rap over it or somethin.

So which is better? I'm leaning towards Ren, because Ren is a better rapper than Dre and Eazy combined, plus Bobcat actually outshines Dre comparatively on these two EP's. But you can't really go wrong either way: Both EP's are ridiculously tight, no filler and no real wackness going on at all...if only LP's could somehow avoid that problem, and if only more artists would quit trying to stretch EP's into LP's.

MC Ren: Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
N.W.A.: Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10

Originally posted: June 23, 2000