Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Frontier Is Over

Here's what I like about how MC Ren struck out as a solo artist. Eazy E focused a lot on drama and other novelty-value type gimmicks (high profile disses, silly videos, a Christmas song... even a lottery ticket-style scratch-off album cover), Dr. Dre obviously went the g-funk route, and Yella did, uh, whatever it was he was trying to accomplish with his solo album, Ren just came with no frills hardcore beats and rhymes. Everybody was waiting to hear what The Ruthless Villain would do, and when "Final Frontier" dropped in 1992, it was just what we were all hoping he would do.

This is a pretty straight-forward single. Still on Ruthless Records, "Final Frontier" just features the Clean Edit (which I of course never listen to) on the A-side and the Uncensored version on the flip. Ren's not saying much here... no shots disses or break-up talk as you might've been expecting, just straight-forward hardcore raps ("DJ Train'll grab the gauge, just in case the motherfucker talk shit - he's the victim of the front page. He's on his way to the morgue to kick it with the rest of them motherfuckers that I gave free room and board"). He occasionally flips a little tongue rolling style, which is cool; but would've been more impressive if he ran with it a little harder. But he's not really out to impress with his lyrics or delivery, so much as kick the basic hardcore fundamentals; no frills: "I hit a nigga off in the head with a chair. The reason for that? The motherfucker, he was standing there!"

Actually, to go back to the Clean Edit real quick. One thing that makes it interesting and possibly worth owning is that the lyrics are altered and re-rapped. They don't just bleep or reverse the curses. So the lines I quoted above become, "DJ Train'll grab the gauge, just in case somebody pisses me off - he's the victim of the front page. They're on the way to the morgue to kick it with the rest of them suckers, yo, that I gave free room and board," and "I hit somebody off in the head with a chair. The reason for that? Because the sucker, he was standing there!" Even the hook is changed to say "the black brother that they call Ren" (which, amusingly, still manages to be as redundant as the O.G.). So it's a fun alternate version at least for the serious fans and collectors.

Anyway, the label doesn't say so, but the track's produced by Bobcat, and it's pretty rugged and simple. It's got some cool vocal samples cut in (though don't expect any fancy scratching) and a little horn sample. But basically it's just "The Bridge Is Over"'s beat and infamous piano riff.

...And that's actually why I guess I don't really revisit this record much anymore. Once the popular NWA fever has calmed down, we're left with the fact that I'd rather listen to the "The Bridge Is Over." Ren comes off well, and it was the right statement for its time; but Krs-One's version is still the definitive use of this track. Listening to this, you want to hear Kris skat "a de de da da, de de da da, da da day - hey!" and take shots Roxanne Shanté. Listening to it today, it'll still get your head-nodding and you can appreciate everything you liked about Ren; but unless you're going on an NWA nostalgia kick like I happen to be today, it's not the winner. And life is too short to be spinning the runner-ups much.

No comments:

Post a Comment