1. The Time Is Now
2. Don’t Fuck With Us
3. Flow Easy
4. Right Now
5. Make It Loud
6. Just Another Day
7. Summer Flings
8. Keep Frontin’
9. We Didn’t Want You to Know
10. Bad, Bad Man
11. Running Game
13. This Is How We Roll
14. What Now
15. Know the Rep
16. Chain Gang Is the Click
17. If It All Ended Tomorrow
So as you may or may not know, I got kinda called out in That Bootleg Guy’s column a while back for a comment I made in regards to John Cena’s first single, “Bad Bad Man”. I believe the capital offense I committed was admitting that the track wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And I admit, I made the comment. But it also got me to thinking. Like pretty much everyone, when I heard Cena was dropping a real, honest-to-God Hip-Hop album, skeptical would have been the best-case scenario to describe how I felt about it.
See, I grew up in Hip-Hop. Kurtis Blow. Run-DMC. LL Cool J. EPMD. Schooly D. Boogie Down Productions. I was coming up when LL was battling with Shan and Kool Moe Dee. When KRS-One proclaimed “The Bridge Is Over”, kids from Queenstown couldn’t show their faces on the streets for weeks. I was first in line to catch Krush Groove and Wild Style and Beat Street. I was growing up when Hip-Hop was pure, when it was a true art form.
This bullshit today, it’s not Hip-Hop. It’s mass-marketed, zero-calorie filler crafted for the MTV generation, tracks made with the only purpose of being made into a video with a bunch of thug motherf*ckers wearing Rolexes and gold, waving C-notes in front of the camera, standing in front of exotic sports cars in the driveways of mansions while a bunch of scantily-clad chicks fight to see who can make their ass vibrate the most. It’s a bunch of fake, wannabe, minstrel-level crap.
So understand that my feelings when I heard that John Cena was gonna try to drop a real album went way beyond “skeptical”. Pissed would be a more accurate description. It wasn’t bad enough that some punk like 50 Cent, a mushmouthed, mumbling knucklehead whose only claim to fame was that he got in the way of 9 bullets, could go multi-platinum without a shred of skill. Some…pro wrestler was going to try to represent Hip-Hop?
Get the f*ck outta here.
So imagine my utter shock when I heard “Bad Bad Man” for the first time. Rather than some embarrassing, Randy Savage-level atrocity, it was actually decent. Nice production value, good beat, and Cena actually had a decent flow to him. His cousin/rap partner Tha Trademarc had some skills. Toss in the ultimate pro Bumpy Knuckles, aka Freddie Foxxx, and you had a first single damn near anyone, much less a pro wrestler, would like to hang their hat on.
So I decided to give his album, You Can’t See Me, a listen. A fair evaluation. And see whether or not I would find it necessary to charge the ring with a lead pipe the next time the WWE came through Dallas.
You know what? It’s not bad. Not bad at all.
I’ll give Cena credit. He didn’t try to carry this ball all on his own. With production from Chaos and Order, and backup from Tha Trademarc (who gets co-credit on the album), Cena kickstarts his rap career with a solid offering of 17 tracks that hearken back to the old school era of Hip-Hop. He starts things off with a track wrestling fans will recognize as Cena’s entrance music, “The Time is Now”. Phat horns ride over the track as Cena and Trademarc proclaim their appearance on the rap scene and get the album off to a good start.
There’s quite a few solid tracks on the album. “Flow East”, with Bumpy Knuckles, is a laid-back track that provides a nice framework for Cena’s lyrical skills. “Just Another Day” provides a nice juxtaposition between Cena’s rhymes of fame and Trademarc’s tale of struggle. “Beantown”, featuring Esoteric, is a nice ode to Cena’s hometown. And “Know The Rep”, with Bumpy Knuckles, is an old-school slice of braggadocio.
There are a couple of missteps. “Right Now” has a slowed-down beat that just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the tracks. “Summer Flings” is a tossaway paean to quickie hookups. And “Chain Gang Is The Click” could have been left off the album and not been missed. But, for the most part, this is a solid debut from the WWE champ. If you’re tired of the same tired, played-out fake gangsta crap filling the airwaves, and have an appreciation for old-school style Hip-Hop, then do yourself a favor and give this album a spin.