Album Review: Ren Thomas, ‘I Been Nice’

Written by Angelo Gingerelli

2017 is off to a great start for Ren Thomas. The New Jersey MC has already had successful shows, collaborated with legends, sold a ton of merchandise, received accolades from the biggest Hip-Hop websites and released a full length album and it’s not even Groundhog Day.

I Been Nice is both a declaration of Ren’s place at the table of great East Coast MC’s and a reminder to new fans that even though he’s getting more attention now, he’s not a new to the game. The album starts off with the powerful “Bobby Tommy” that sets the tone for the entire project. Over a dramatic beat he laces his verses with pop-culture references that range from Full House “Make rappers say “Uncle” like Katsopolis or Gladstone” to rap legends “I live by these five words: What would Sean Price Do?” Check out The Pop Break’s Sean Price retrospective here.

The momentum continues on the party themed “Lifted Up” which proves that quality MC’s can still spit quotable rhymes over feel-good beats (video available exclusively here) and the title track. “I Been Nice” is produced by the legendary Pete Rock (one half of Pete Rock & CL Smooth and producer of dozens of classics by other artists). These two tracks are clearly the highlights of the project and work perfectly to showcase Ren’s versatility, song writing and persona.

After setting the bar incredibly high on the first three tracks, Ren Thomas keeps the hot streak alive with songs that range from street to introspective and touch on a wide range of topics like family relationships (“Mama I Made It”), wild nights (“Six Bad Bitches” and “40 Cigarettes”), the opposite sex (“Oil & Water”) and his personal history (“Gutterball” and “Can’t Make This Up”), before ending the project with “The Beginning” where he shouts out his Jersey brethren and everybody that made I Been Nice happen.

This release shows an MC clearly ready to take the next step in his career with a collection of songs that show both his own abilities, the talents of his crew and cosigns from legends like Pete Rock and Lord Sear in one cohesive package. When you see Ren Thomas doing big things in the near future don’t make him tell you… “I Been Nice”!!!

Best Songs: “Lifted Up,” “The Beginning,” “I Been Nice”
Perfect For: Anybody looking for traditional Hip-Hop updated for 2017
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Also Worth Checking Out: The All Jersey Edition:

OFFTOP – Four Jersey Shore MC’s join forces in this collective of rappers, producers, graphic designers, skateboarders, etc. that has been producing great music and incredibly energetic live shows. Check them out here and try to catch them live soon.

NewStar – “Swirl”: Posse Galore’s NewStar debuts a solo track that addresses the complicated issue of interracial dating with a bouncing beat and an extended ice-cream metaphor that makes the track simultaneously fun and thought provoking. Check it out.

Angelo Gingerelli has been contributing to The Pop Break since 2015 and writing about pop culture since 2009. A Jersey shore native, Gingerelli is a writer, stand-up comic, hip-hop head, sneaker enthusiast, comic book fan, husband, father and supporter of the local arts scene. He likes debating the best rappers of all time, hates discussing why things were better in the “Good Ol’ Days” and loves beating The Pop Break staff at fantasy football. You can catch up with Angelo on Twitter/IG at @Mr5thRound, at his website www.FifthRoundMovement.com or interviewing rising stars in NJ’s Hip-Hop scene on “The A&R Podcast” (iTunes/SoundCloud).