with Cris Ruff
Thursday, Oct 18, 2012 8:00 PM PDT
(8:00 PM Doors)
Roxy Theatre, West Hollywood, CA
Four months after nailing his X Factor audition with a show-stopping performance of the self-penned “Young Homie,” Chris Rene is releasing his fiercely personal anthem as a single. Newly signed to Epic Records, the Santa Cruz-based rapper/singer/songwriter/musician came in third place on The X Factor and enamored audiences with his breadth of talent and then-recent triumph in overcoming addiction. Masterfully capturing Rene’s struggles with substance abuse and journey to recovery, the revamped “Young Homie” now boasts a fatter beat and smoother groove perfectly suited to Rene’s inspired fusion of hip-hop and soul-pop.
To create the intensely infectious midtempo track, Rene joined forces with J.R. Rotem (Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross). In laying down his redemptive story of surviving addiction and “turning negatives to positives,” Rene swings from soulful singing to rapping, revealing his remarkably dexterous flow. Dynamic yet tender, “Young Homie” also deftly flaunts Rene’s elegant piano-playing and balances the throbbing beat with soaring synth effects.
“The song’s about learning how to be a grown-up,” says Rene, who was working as a trash collector and only ten-weeks sober when he performed “Young Homie” at his X-Factor audition. “When you’re young, you feel like there’s no limit, no consequences to your actions. So it’s me talking to my younger self and to all the young brothers out there, telling them that life’s too beautiful to live like that.” But despite the weightiness of that message, Rene never comes off preachy or heavy-handed in “Young Homie.” From the high-reaching vocals in the song’s intro to the old-school vinyl crackle and turntable-scratch of its final seconds, “Young Homie” retains a breezy sweetness that’s a testament to Rene’s lyrical flair and long-cultivated pop sensibility.
Rene started writing songs at age 12, the same year he picked up a guitar for the first time. “I took one guitar lesson and learned the pentatonic scale, but since we didn’t have money for lessons after that, I just messed around and learned how to play on my own,” he says. Around that time, Rene also taught himself to play piano. “At first my hands were just going all over the place,” he recalls. “So I said to the piano, ‘I don’t understand you, but someday we’re gonna be best friends.’ I got so frustrated, I just eventually just started figuring it all out.” That year, Rene formed a punk band that included his brother Mike on drums. Called Diversion, the band featured Rene on guitar and vocals and ended up releasing a self-titled album in 2000.