Before we start December of 1993, I figured I’d slip this November release in, as it somehow got removed from my spreadsheet. If you’re keeping track at home, insert this one after Black Reign.
We last heard from MC Ren with the release of his debut solo project, that was the 6 song EP affectionately titled, Kizz My Black Azz. For those who read this blog on a regular basis, in the wrap up of the Kizz My Black Azz review I mentioned that I wondered what a full-length project from the former NWA emcee would sound like. Well, lucky for me, I came across a copy of his full length debut Shock of the Hour, a while back.
Like Kizz My Black Azz, Shock Of The Hour would be released on his long-time homie, Eazy-E’s (rip) Ruthless label. DJ Bobcat was at the helm for most of the production work on Kizz My Black Azz, but he would not be present for Shock of the Hour. Instead, Ren would bring in a few relatively unknown producers, Tootie and Dr. Jam to handle the bulk of the production load. It’s worth noting that the album is divided into two parts, as the first half of songs were recorded before Ren converted to the Nation of Islam and the second half after his conversion.
Hopefully the songs sound as epic as the album cover’s artwork looks.
11:55 – The album opens with a dark instrumental and a few sound bites, before Ren’s buddy Laywiy gives the listener a spoken word piece that touches on everything from the Apocalypse to drive-bys, and everything in between. I found this pretty useless, but at least it’s short.
Same Old Shit – This was the lead single from Shock of the Hour, and boy is it a dandy. Tootie hooks up a dark and very hard instrumental that Ren uses to discuss the scandalous deeds he commits on a daily basis. Ren sounds right at home and his booming baritone compliments the edgy backdrop, perfectly.
Fuck What Ya Heard – Ren uses this one to address all the rumors floating around about himself, and to talk random shit. Dr. Jam provides a decent extremely west coast sounding backdrop for Ren to vent over. Not great, but I’ve heard worst.
All Bullshit Aside – Ren continues his tough guy talk over a Dr. Jam & Madness 4 Real produced track. It’s not a great song, but the instrumental’s mystic low-key vibe will grow on you and win you over.
One False Move – Ren invites hid buddies Da Konvicted Felon and Dollar Bill to rhyme next to him on this one, with Don Jaguar adding a reggae chant on the hook. Ren sounds decent, but his boys stink up the place, along with Tootie’s instrumental which is pretty weak as well.
You Wanna Fuck Her – Dr. Jam slides Ren some old smoothness that he uses to get his misogyny on. As disturbing as this may sound, he sounds pretty damn good disrespecting women over it. Guilty pleasure.
Mayday On The Front Line – This was originally released as a single from the CB4 Soundtrack. Ren does a complete one-eighty as he goes from a full-blown gangster on the first half of the album to a Black Militant activist on this song. I guess it’s not a complete one-eighty, because he still has his hardcore edge. He just redirects his aim at the white man instead of his own brother. Initially, I wasn’t crazy about Dr. Jam’s instrumental, but the more I listen to it the more I love it.
Attack On Babylon – If hip-hop were around back in Nat Turner’s day this song would have definitely been on his rebellion playlist (right in between P.E.’s “Fight The Power” and N.W.A.’s “Fuck The Police”). David “Rhythm D” Weldon hooks up a dark unsettling instrumental for Ren to paint the gory details of the day the black man takes over America by force. Ren’s very convincing on this one, and sure to make even the coolest white boy a little uncomfortable.
Do You Believe – Can a brother get a question mark, please? Tootie serves up a solid backdrop, as Ren continues his militant rants, calling out black men who marry white women, worship a white Jesus, keep their slave master’s name, eat pork and gangbang. I don’t agree with a lot of his opinions, but it’s interesting to hear the reformed gangster spilling some consciousness in his rhymes.
Mr. Fuck Up – Our host takes a bathroom break and lets his crew, The Whole Click (yes, that is actually the name of their crew): Grinch, Bone, Juvenile and J-Rocc, take over this one. Unfortunately, none of them impress on the mic and Tootie’s instrumental sounds lazy, so all parties involved live up to the song title.
Shock Of The Hour – Ren saves the title track for last and invites Laywiy and KAM to join him on this warning of the looming apocalypse. Ren and KAM sound decent enough, I guess, but listening to this Laywiy dude is like listening to someone press a piece of chalk against a chalkboard. I see what Tootie was going for with the instrumental and he succeeds with its unnerving dark feel, but overall it’s pretty anticlimactic and doesn’t complete what it set out to accomplish.
This may sound wrong, but I think I prefer the ratchet Ren over the righteous Ren that shows up for the second half of Shock of the Hour. In my opinion, Ren’s strongest attributes have always been his strong booming vocal tone and his direct rhyming approach. Both attributes are present throughout Shock of the Hour, but his direct rhyming comes across more effective when he’s thuggin’ opposed to when he’s trying to enlighten the listener. I was less impressed with Tootie and Dr. Jam’s production. Even though they manage to slip Ren a dope instrumental, here and there, most of their work is average and mediocre. All that said, Shock of the Hour isn’t a terrible album, but it leads me to believe that Ren may be stronger in a group than as a solo artist.