I remember back in 1996 while working at a record shop, I just got news that MC Ren was about to drop his new album, “The Villain In Black”, and as a huge Ren fan, I was ecstatic to say the least. The day it came out I got in my Camaro, (which was fully loaded with the best sound system around), popped in the disc and BOOM! You could hear every word of the songs in crystal clear detail from well outside the car and the second the Bass kicked in for “Bitch Made Nigga Killa”, I knew Ren had out done himself. That bass just held on one key, and everything around the car shook, then when Ren came in with his verse, the bass just goes nuts! That was the moment I knew what Ren was capable of, and for me this album was his pinnacle moment. Don’t get me wrong, it may not contain huge mind blowing cuts like one or two off his previous album “Shock Of The Hour“, but where that album tended to peak and dip, the Villain In Black disc was very consistent from start to finish. The sad thing is, I remember thinking at the time that nobody would ever catch on to it, partly because none of it is radio friendly. But it’s Ren’s unwillingness to conform to industry trends that always made me stay loyal to him. He always gave the fans what they wanted, not what the radio jack offs wanted. He may have made videos but you rarely got to see them unless like me you paid to watch them. Remember the old music video station called the Box? it was essentially a video jukebox where you called in and ordered what music video you wanted to watch.
Upon initial release the Villain In Black enjoyed relative chart success, peaking at #31 on the Billboard 200. But despite this the album didn’t come without it’s critics, mostly on account of Ren’s partial transition from the socio-political tone and darker production of previous albums to a more g-funk sound that was so heavily influential during the mid 90s. But regardless I love the album and with Ruthless Records label mate Cold 187um producing just over half the tracks, how can you go wrong. “Mad Scientist” has probably one of the tightest beats ever done, just an all around tight song. “Live From Compton Saturday Night” is my next favorite joint, followed by “Mind Blown”. Ren brings back Big Hutch and the rest of Above The Law for the final track called “Bring It On”, (not to be confused with the legendary posse cut by the Geto Boys’).
Overall there isn’t a track on this entire album that I don’t like. The Villain In Black is probably one of the most unnoticed albums ever made, by one of the most underrated legends of the gangsta rap genre. To me, he will always be a west coast icon regardless, but just like Ren says, “Fuck a legend”. An all round solid disc, which I cant say enough about. To this day, Ren continues to be the most unsung and in some cases disrespected member of the N.W.A crew, when in all reality, he was the genius, and mastermind behind most of their best shit. So what if he may never have his own branded headphones, at least he stayed true to where he came from and kept it that way. I hope he never changes. Salute to “the Ruthless Villain”