Ren began his solo career signed as a solo artist to Eazy E’s Ruthless Records in early 1987, while still attending high school. By the end of 1987, after having written almost half of Eazy E’s debut album Eazy-Duz-It, he was included in the influential gangsta rap group N.W.A with Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and DJ Yella, which popularized the use of explicit lyrics in rap to detail the violence of street life. After the group disbanded in 1991, he stayed with Ruthless, putting out several platinum and gold selling albums, before leaving the label in 1999.
Lorenzo Patterson was born in Compton, California on June 14, 1969, one day before Ice Cube was born. He grew up with his parents, two brothers and a sister. Growing up in Compton, Patterson joined the street gang called the Kelly Park Compton Crips, he was a KPCC alongside Eazy-E, who was also a Kelly Park Compton Crip. He would later quit gang-banging because he wasn’t making enough money.
In 1983, Patterson began attending Dominguez High School, where he met his future collaborator DJ Train. At this time, Patterson developed an interest in Hip Hop, and began writing raps with his childhood friend MC Chip. Together they formed the group Awesome Crew 2 and performed at parties and night clubs. Before graduating high school, MC Ren decided to join the U.S. Army with a friend. He would change his mind about joining the military after watching Full Metal Jacket. He would then meet up with his childhood friend Eazy-E and start his career in rap.
In 1986 Eazy-E and Dr. Dre met rapper Ice Cube, who had found local fame with his group C.I.A .Eazy-E had at that point just founded Ruthless Records and requested Ice Cube to write a song for a group called H.B.O. The song, called Boyz-n-the-Hood, was rejected by the group so Dr. Dre convinced Eazy-E to do the song. Boyz-n-the-Hood became a local hit and sparked the collaboration between the trio. They decided to start their own group called N.W.A. DJ Yella and Arabian Prince were added in 1987, before the release of their compilation album N.W.A and the Posse. The album was, however, largely ignored and Arabian Prince left the group the next year.
MC Ren was first signed as a solo artist to Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records, while still attending high school in 1987. However, when Ice Cube went to study for a year, Ren was asked to write songs for Eazy-E’s debut album Eazy-Duz-It. After having written almost half of the album, MC Ren was added to the group and they immediately started on the N.W.A album Straight Outta Compton. In only four weeks and a budget of 8,000 dollars the album was finished and released in the summer of 1988. Propelled by the hit “Fuck tha Police”, the album became a major success, despite an almost complete absence of radio airplay or major concert tours. The Federal Bureau of Investigation sent Ruthless Records a warning letter in response to the song’s content.
One month after Straight Outta Compton, Eazy-E’s solo debut Eazy-Duz-It was released. The album was dominated by Eazy’s persona—MC Ren was the only guest rapper—but behind the scenes it was a group effort. Music was handled by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella; the lyrics were largely written by MC Ren, with contributions from Ice Cube and The D.O.C.
Following Ice Cube’s departure from the group in 1989, N.W.A quickly released the EP 100 Miles and Runnin’. Ice Cube, who by then had released his debut solo album avoided mentioning his former group mates. However, N.W.A would diss Ice Cube on their EP, in the title track and the song “Real Niggaz”, accusing him of cowardice, and question his authenticity, longevity and originality. All lyrics were written by MC Ren, with contributions by The D.O.C. The group’s second full-length album Niggaz4Life was released the next year. Selling 954,000 copies in the first week, it became the first rap album to enter number one on the Billboard charts. This album would become the group’s final, seeing that Dr. Dre left the group over money disputes with the manager Jerry Heller.
According to MC Ren, it was common opinion that Heller was the one receiving their due:
We felt he didn’t deserve what he was getting. We deserved that shit. We were the ones making the records, traveling in vans and driving all around the place. You do all those fucking shows trying to get known, and then you come home to a fucking apartment. Then you go to his house, and this motherfucker lives in a mansion. There’s gold leaf trimmings all in the bathroom and all kinds of other shit. You’re thinking, “Man, fuck that.”
In 1990, MC Ren produced the whole debut album for his protege group CPO, titled To Hell and Black. The group constisted of CPO Boss Hogg, DJ Train and Young D. After the release of their debut album the group split up. CPO Boss Hogg went to have a semi-successful solo career, featuring on high-profile albums of N.W.A, Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur, while DJ Train stayed with MC Ren.
As N.W.A no longer was in effect, MC Ren started recording his first solo release titled Kizz My Black Azz. The six-track EP was entirely produced by DJ Bobcat, except for one track which was produced by MC Ren himself. Released in summer 1992, the EP was an instant hit, both commercially and critically. Despite minimal promotion and no radio play, the EP went platinum within two months. It is also credited as the first EP ever to go platinum. Following the release of Kizz My Black Azz, MC Ren was set to play the role of A-Wax in the violent crime drama Menace II Society. However, Ren turned down the role for unknown reasons, and the role was later given to MC Eiht.
Ren began recording for his debut album, at that time called Life Sentence, in late 1992. In the middle of the recording process, Ren suddenly joined the Nation of Islam with guidance from DJ Train. This caused him to scrap Life Sentence, and Shock of the Hour was released in late 1993. The album debuted at number one on the R&B charts, selling 321,000 copies in its first month. Shock of the Hour was regarded as more focused, yet even more controversial, and critics accused him again of being anti-white, misogynist, and antisemitic. The album is thematically divided into two sides; the first half deals with social issues like ghetto life, drug addiction, racism and poverty. The second half shows MC Ren’s political side, as this half was recorded after he joined the Nation of Islam. The album features the hit singles “Same Old Shit” and “Mayday On The Frontline”.
In 1994, MC Ren had reunited with former N.W.A member Eazy-E, after two years of not talking to each other, in their duet “Tha Muthpukkin’ Real”. It was produced by DJ Yella, with MC Ren himself co-producing. The song was recorded two weeks before Eazy-E’s death.
MC Ren soon fell on hard times when both DJ Train and Eazy-E died before the release of The Villain in Black. The album, which was released in early 1996 and represented MC Ren’s first attempt at imitating the G-Funk sound of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, was not well received by critics. It was also heavily criticized for what many saw as MC Ren’s pandering to gangsta rap, and toning down of the socio-political content found on his earlier efforts. The album debuted thirty-one on the pop-charts, with the first week’s sales of 31,000 copies. By the next month it had sold 131,000 copies, a significant decrease from his earlier releases.
Before leaving Ruthless Records, Ren released Ruthless for Life in 1998 which proved a small comeback, selling moderately well. The album features fellow N.W.A member Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, RBX and 8Ball & MJG among others. This was the first time MC Ren worked with new producers. By the end of 1998, MC Ren had left Ruthless Records.
In 2000, he appeared on the song “Hello” which featured Dr. Dre and Ice Cube on Ice Cube’s War & Peace Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc) album. He joined the Up In Smoke Tour that same year just to rap this verse on this track. He appeared on the posse cut “Some L.A. Niggaz” from Dr. Dre’s 2001 album.
Other recent work has appeared on some more politically oriented projects such as with Public Enemy, specifically Paris’ album Hard Truth Soldiers Vol. 1 as well as on Public Enemy’s album Rebirth of a Nation.
In 2009, MC Ren released his fourth studio album entitled Renincarnated, which was released under his own record label Villain Entertainment on October 31, 2009. Renincarnated was only released in the US.
MC Ren is working on his second EP, titled Rebel Music. It is expected to be released by the end of 2015. So far two singles have been released: the title track, “Rebel Music”, and “Burn Radio Burn”. The official remix for “Rebel Music” was released in June 2014 and features fellow N.W.A member Ice Cube. The official remix for “Burn Radio Burn” is expected to released soon and features Chuck D of Public Enemy. The whole EP is set to be produced by E-A-Ski.
Official site: MC Ren