Ghetto Love, 90s Sentimental Rap & Renee – Revisiting The Elements of the Perfect Lost Boyz Song
“A ghetto love is the law that we live by, day by day I wonder why my shorty had to die.” Those were the words expressed by young, New York based rapper, Mr. Cheeks. These particular words could be found in 1995, on a 16-track album entitled Legal Drug Money by a rap group named Lost Boyz. On track 6 of the album, Mr. Cheeks is able to present a very unique perspective of Black relationships, in which he labels as “ghetto love” in a song entitled “Renee”.
Mr. Cheeks was able to formulate a musical story that brought together a young Black male living in the poverty stricken/crime infested streets of New York and a Black woman maneuvering through the corporate world and law school. In the first verse of the song, Mr. Cheeks introduces Renee as a “honey” that is beautiful and rare to be seen walking around the parts of his neighborhood. He introduces himself and proceeds to order two hot dogs and two sodas from the nearest vendor for both himself and Renee as he tells her he is interested. The song instantly takes an ironic turn when Renee accepts his offer of a hot dog lunch and allows him in on her dreams of becoming a lawyer. From conversations dealing with the tough streets of New York to his infatuation with “Philly” blunts, Mr. Cheeks is able to bring Renee into his world and Renee does the same for him.
The statement “opposites attract” is truer than ever in this 90s Black love rap song constructed through the lens of Mr. Cheeks and his Lost Boyz. On one hand Mr. Cheeks represents the society-created stereotype of Black males being thugs chilling on the “stoop”, while Renee is supposed to be this career-driven Black woman that is too busy for a Black man. Both Mr. Cheeks and Renee are able to debunk these stereotypes and come together by providing each other with knowledge and a love that neither has seemed to have experienced before.
The mentioning of sex, laughter, life goals, and the constant use of marijuana throughout the song seems to bring the pair closer and helps the listener better understand this concept of “ghetto love”. Mr. Cheeks is able to add more drama to the song towards the end when he explains that Renee was shot during a drive-by shooting. What started off as a regular day in the “hood” according to Mr. Cheeks leads to the love of his life being killed in a manner that was often depicted in Black 90s music and movies as it relates to the infamous “drive-by”.
After learning of Renee’s death, Mr. Cheeks states “I’m pouring beer out for my shorty who isn’t here, I’m from the ghetto so listen, this is how I shed my tears”. This particular statement is able to offer insight into how Black males perceive themselves and how they are supposed to deal with death. Although throughout the song, Mr. Cheeks expresses his love for Renee, in her death he is not able to shed a tear because of the constraints placed on him by the idea of Black male “toughness” and his image as a gangster rapper being questioned.
Songs such as Renee offered on the Lost Boyz album, plays a role in the concept of 90s sentimental rap music. The idea of needing love, but being afraid of it is a theme seen throughout sentimental rap music of the time. Expressing love by remaining “tough” speaks to a number of issues associated with the Black community from the 90s, but also still on display throughout the community today.
“Renee” and other songs like it were able tackle love, poverty, sex, drugs, and depression in a very unique way as it related to 90s sentimental rap. “Renee” by Lost Boyz is much more than a nice tune. Instead, think of it as poetry, love, and pain, all expressed over a beat that includes a sample from Janet Jackson’s 1986 song, “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)”.
Watch The Music Video For Lost Boyz “Renee” Below:
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