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Taken from Rolling Stone UK (Oct 13, 2023)

Ren gives us a track-by-track rundown of his new album 'Sick Boi'

Here's an in-depth guide to the meaning and inspirations behind Ren's latest.

by Rolling Stone UK

Ren (Picture: Wolf Johnson)
Ren (Picture: Wolf Johnson)

As Ren releases his latest album 'Sick Boi', the multi-talented singer and producer has given Rolling Stone UK an exclusive track-by-track rundown of his latest record.

As Ren himself explains, the album is a kaleidoscopic, genre-spanning effort that touches on his own personal struggles in recent years.

"Sick Boi was me challenging myself to create a hiphop only album, the album title based on my struggles with health over the past decade. I wanted to create an album that pushed my beat making and flow ability," he said.

Finding beauty in the bleakest of situations is a thread that runs deep through the Brighton-based singer's music. For the last few years he's undergone treatment for auto-immune conditions including Lyme disease, after years of misdiagnoses including depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.

This new album reflects those experiences, but also sees the singer proving that he's a musical polymath in his own right. Now, Over to Ren...

1. 'Seven Sins'

A modern twist on the seven sins. The song starts off giving homage to my roots in Wales, opening with a harrowing melody in traditional Welsh folk style, then goes onto give a brutally honest account of what it's like to live with chronic illness.

I wanted this track to capture the essence of the whole album, ironically the first track is also the last I wrote for this album. I really wanted the album to start off giant - epic and orchestral - and then move into a more modern Drill style to throw you headfirst into the album.

2. 'Sick Boi'

The title track of the album is about my journey with feeling dismissed by the medical industry, about my battle with Lyme Disease and frustration with a conveyor belt style of diagnoses. How parts of the medical industry have a 'pill for everything' mentality, I then remove it from myself and try and talk about the sickness of humanity as a whole, how we commoditise and try and attribute monetary value to everything, which sometimes strips it of its essence.

3. 'Animal Flow'

This one was inspired by George Orwell's Animal Farm, and Lord Of The Flies. I was also massively inspired by Black Skinhead by Kanye for the beat. It brings you into this dark tribal chaotic world. I loved playing about with the sonics of this one in the production

4. 'Money Game, Pt. 3'

I grew up watching films like Scarface, Godfather, and shows like Breaking Bad. I love stories of character development from innocence to pure corruption and wanted to try and capture that in song, because I hadn't really heard it done. It's the story of the life of a character called Jimmy, who slowly sinks more and more into corruption and moral depravity.I also liked the juxtaposition of putting rap over a classical piano and string arrangement, two things that shouldn't necessarily work together, that combine to create something pretty unique.

5. Lost All Faith

This was heavily inspired by bands like System of a Down and Linkin Park. The song draws on a lot of religious themes but it's actually a double entendre for how I feel about the medical industry. I was also playing around a lot with the duality of two opposing characters that exist inside me: this loud mouthed geezer who lives for the weekend, and an antisocial introvert who just wants to be left alone.

6. Genesis

Genesis is about my struggle with mental health. I absolutely loved producing this one. It's a pretty simple drum pattern over an acoustic guitar line I came up with, but the relaxed, more understated delivery really helped glue this all together. I was listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar when I wrote this one.

7. Murderer

I grew up listening to a lot of reggae, I was really inspired by Barrington Levy's Murderer for this one, and put together a tongue in cheek account of living in Brighton. The verses are more akin to early Eminem, and just having a lot of fun with flow and lyricism over an old school beat, while the chorus is sung bringing in a lot of early reggae influences.

8. Suic*de

Suicide is one of the darker, more heavy songs on the album. A decade ago I lost one of my best friends to suicide. I thought I would make him this song as a tribute. I produced it during one of the lockdowns when I was in a darker period mentally. The very last verse is my tribute to a very dear friend of mine who I loved very dearly and miss very much.

(Picture: Joseph Flack)
(Picture: Joseph Flack)

9. Illest Of Our Time

The title is a double entendre, ill meaning sick with rhymes but also physically sick. I loved messing around with the production on this one, drawing in some acid baselines that almost make it sound like some mad futuristic video game soundtrack. The lyrical concepts are a bit darker here, and I drew in some inspiration from the Prodigy for the production. I was hit up by one of those guys who told me they really dug the track which was very cool.

10. Love Music, Pt. 4

This is me creating a track that doesn't take itself seriously at all. It's kind of the middle finger of the album, me playing around with a lot of euphemisms and wordplay, over a more old school style live sounding beat. It was a lot of fun to write.

11. Uninvited

This one is probably the most pop sounding track on the record. It's a bit of a parody on cheesy love songs, packed full of euphemisms, and horrendously catchy.

12. What You Want

This is a tribute to all the early hip hop I grew up listening to, particularly groups like the Beastie Boys, tribe called quest, KRS-One. I loved messing about with that early 90s flow. It was lots of fun.

13. The Hunger

I wrote this in 2015 and never knew what to do with it but felt that it fit really nicely on this record. One of the more experimental beats I came up with, then just having a lot of fun with word play and flow.

14. Down On The Beat

Definitely more of an EDM, club banger. It has a feature from one of my best mates Viktus. I wanted a track on the album that got people dancing, or that you could blast in the gym.

15. Masochist

On face value this is probably the darkest track on the album, it seems quite disruptive but for me it's got a positive message about destroying everything that no longer serves you and starting again. A song about rebirth. It's called masochist because sometimes destroying those support systems hurts yourself.

16. Loco

Loco was recorded entirely acapella, all the drums, accompanying melodies etc were done entirely by voice. The vocals are just me having fun with flow, it's got a kind of punk-hiphop feel to it, really like that one.

17. Wicked Ways

The song is about my own self contradictory nature, knowing what's good and righteous but acknowledging I don't always live up to the things I know to be good. Wrote this one while I was listening to a lot of Kendrick.

18. Sick Boi, Pt. 2

Sick Boi Pt.2 is an extension of Pt.1 and explores those lyrical themes of sickness and the sickness of society over a big heavy baseline.




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