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NJ Next: Ren Thomas on New Music, Vh1, and His Top 5 Rappers of All-Time

“NJ Next” is The Pop Break’s monthly column dedicated New Jersey’s urban music scene that covers new and emerging MC’s, producers, DJ’s, artists and the behind-the-scenes people that are propelling one of the most exciting parts of NJ’s music landscape. If you have any tips on who we should cover next contact The Pop Break’s music editor Laura Curry or writer Angelo Gingerelli at editor@thepopbreak.com

Ren Thomas has been a mainstay in NJ’s Hip-Hop scene for years, but his career leveled up in 2017 with the release of his I Been Nice album, a role on VH1’s Signed and a steady stream of shows, freestyles, radio appearances, merchandise and collaborations throughout the year.  The NJ native is already starting off 2018 strong with the release of a collaborative album (One Day Without Windows), a headlining tour and a few projects so exciting he can’t even talk about them yet.

Angelo Gingerelli, The Pop Break’s resident hip-hop head and Ren Thomas fan, caught up with the man that lives by the phrase “What would Sean Price do?” in between tour stops for the following interview.

When does Hip-Hop enter your life and who were some of your first favorite MC’s and groups? 

I was about 10 years old when I first started listening to hip hop by stealing CD’s from my older brother, at that point I was listening to Wu Tang, 2pac, Biggie, Kool G Rap, Miilkbone Boot Camp Clik, and Redman. 

When do you go from fan to artist?  What did your first few verses or songs sound like? Can we find them online? 

Around 12 my older cousin and his friends would record songs over B-Side instrumentals in his basement. My cousin was very important in my growing up because I looked up to him very much so I decided I wanted to be a rapper because that’s what he was doing and I fell in love with it. At first I was awful… haha! Nah those songs are on cassettes somewhere that I don’t even know.

Since you dropped “I Been Nice” in early 2017 you’ve appeared on VH1’s Signed How did you get on the show?  What was that experience like? 

In 2016 I competed in TeamBackPacks MUNY and out of thousands of emcees I was picked as the winner. Someone in the crowd was working for a talent scout who was working for the company casting for Signed and submitted me to them and I was picked. The show was cool but also eye opening to how fake certain things are. I killed every single thing I did on the show and they said I wasn’t marketable because I was doing classic hip hop, so on the last episode they make it look like I messed up even though my performance was flawless. All in all, I’m not mad because now thousands of new people know who I am.

What exactly is One Day without Windows?  How did that project happen and what can fans expect to hear? 

ODWW is a project we did in a 13 hour studio session. Seven songs done from scratch in one day at Brick Window Studio in Raritan, NJ with my longtime collaborator Tab, who produced, rapped, sang, mixed and executive produced the project Its different then my usual boom bap classic style, it’s def got a different vibe, but I’m in love with this project.

You are currently on a headlining tour, how did you pick what cities/venues to hit? How have the shows gone so far? 

We looked at the map and started reaching out to promoters and artists in cities that where on the way from NJ to LA and we put the whole thing together in about a month. I’m currently writing this in Cleveland and about to head to Indiana when I send this email. The shows have been packed and it’s crazy that people in places I’ve never been know my lyrics and want to wear t-shirts with my face on them. It’s all been super love.

What else should we look out for in 2018? 

More touring. “Renaissance” the album produced completely by Nemisis. More music and a lot of big things I’d rather not say because I’m superstitious about saying things before they happen. 

Five Rapid Fire Questions:

Because I feel obligated to ask every rapper this question, who are your “Top 5: Dead or Alive”? Sean Price, Raekwon, Redman, Kool G Rap and Big Pun. 

Where are your 4 favorite cities or venues to perform? Philly, NYC, LA, Toronto.

 If you could work with any 3 producers on your next project (money is no object) who do you pick? Rockwilder, Erick Sermon, Statik Selektah.

What 2 albums do you currently have in heavy rotation? G-Eazy: The Beautiful and Damned and Statik Selectah’s No. 8. 

Give us 1 reason everybody should check out Ren Thomas… I’m next and you don’t want to be late to the party…LOL.  I feel I’m super versatile and no one is doing the mix of things I’m doing with Hip-Hop. 

Check out Ren Thomas’ tracks wherever you stream music and look out for his live performances in your city soon. 

Just Dropped…

This section of NJ Next is dedicated to upcoming local releases that you should be keeping a look out for.

Joe College – CIV X Sav Forever

Neptune’s Joe College and his Civilized Savage (aka CivXSav) family’s 12 track LP is full of the introspective lyrics, witty wordplay and updated classic era production fans have come to expect from one of the Jersey Shore’s most talented MC’s.  Look for Joe and his squad to have a big 2018.

Joe College performs tonight at House of Independents in Asbury Park, click here for tickets.

All The Way Live…

10 Years in the Breaking Album Release Show

Who: Chris Rockwell

Who Else: Kosha Dillz, Lyons, Cranston Dean Band, Drew the Recluse

Where: House of Independents, Asbury Park (click here for tickets).

When: March 9th

Why You Should Go: MC, poet, writer, designer and all-around renaissance man Chris Rockwell is celebrating the release of his 10 Years in the Breaking
 album with a show at one of Asbury’s coolest venues and a line-up of some of best musicians at the Jersey Shore.

Staten Island Meets Asbury Park

Who: Bobby Briz

Who Else: Kidz From The Burbz, New Star, Rising Sun All Stars

When: March 31st

Where: The Saint, Asbury Park

Why You Should Go: Staten Island’s Bobby Briz continues his string of collaborations with Jersey artists like KFTB at a show that will bring together the best of both area’s emerging Hip-Hop music.

Angelo Gingerelli
Angelo Gingerellihttp://fifthroundmovement.com/
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 https://twitter.com/Mr5thround, at his website www.FifthRoundMovement.com or interviewing rising stars in NJ’s Hip-Hop scene on “The A&R Podcast” (iTunes/SoundCloud).

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