Let’s see if we can track the origins of how this album came to be. (Not meant to be complete but the general chain of events) It starts on WWE: Smackdown a few years back, Kurt Angle is in the ring offering to give someone a shot at stardom, out comes one John Cena, sadly, while he shows some spark, he doesn’t really grab the crowd, Halloween roles around and all the wrestlers are in costumes, in comes Cena done up like Vanilla Ice and gives a goofy little rap, the rap thing becomes a part of the gimmick, gimmick becomes popular, then talks of an album comes up. That brings us to the present where a wrestling gimmick inspired a rap album. The big question is it any good? Also, will he have any credibility in the music industry? Hmmmm.
When I got this disk in my hands, I was afraid it was going to be laced with wrestling references and other such nonsense. I am a wrestling fan, but in order to have any chance at being taken seriously as music, it can’t be filled with headlocks and bodyslams. The cover didn’t help matters as it is looks just like Cena’s WWE Championship belt with the WWE logo plastered front and center. The future does not look good.
I slipped the disk into the car stereo, turned up the volume and waited for the worst. As the tracks played I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it wasn’t all that bad. It is kind of hard to describe what I thought while the beats played on. On one hand I was impressed, Cena has some actual skill, on the other hand he is very green. I was also glad to find that there weren’t any gratuitous wrestling references.
Now I am not the biggest hip hop fan in the world, nor do I have any claim of extensive knowledge of the genre, but I know what I like, and this, this I sort of like. Cena has a good flow and timing. The beats have an old school feel to them. Also, Cena hasn’t come alone, he brings along The Trademarc and, on a few tracks, Bumpy Knuckles. Both of those guys help to cover up his weaknesses, add a few more voices to the mix.
The album opens with “The Time is Now,” which serves double duty as the CD opener and John Cena’s entrance music when he wrestles. It is an OK track, except during the opening I keep expecting some to yell “Viva Cuervo!” I don’t know why, well maybe it’s the horns. “Bad, Bad Man” was the first actual single from the album, featuring Bumpy Knuckles on the chorus. It is complete with a video parodying the A-Team. This one is also pretty good. The track to avoid is “Right Now,” some advice to John, don’t play mellow, it is not your strong suit.
I’m not going to run through all of the songs, but I will say it was surprisingly entertaining. Of course, I was going in with low expectations, and more of a curiosity than a desire for high quality music. I don’t fell that this will buy him that much credibility in mainstream music, and I am not sure how well this will play outside of the wrestling audience. It has got to be a tough one to market. I was glad to discover the absence of wrestling references, outside of the cover. Cena does have some mic skills, and he shows that he could potentially hold his own. It will be interesting to see if he pursues this career path in parallel with his wrestling. Could become something like fellow wrestler Chris Jericho, who has a rock band called Fozzy which has released three albums so far.
Bottomline. The album features 17 songs, most of which are decent, some of which are kind of lame, but overall it is worth a listen. It is a decent attempt at a genuine hip hop album. It has an old school flavor to it. I think the biggest roadblock to potential success is the credibility, or lack thereof, in the hip hop community, and the somewhat limited audience of wrestling fans. Not exactly a must buy, but one you also aren’t likely to regret if you don’t have terribly high expectations.
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