John Cena and Tha Trademarc
You Can’t See Me

yeah, online music critic-me-dos may not be the most obvious place for it, but I’m gonna run down, as I see them, the three major rules of professional wrestling, and how it works as a business.
1) Wrestling’s popularity, and thus ability to make money, goes through more peaks and troughs than Courtney’s dress size. It has its boom periods when a main attraction crosses over into the mainstream and becomes a legitimate “celebrity.” Thus Gorgeous George, Hulk Hogan, and The Rock (who, at their peaks, could all have turned up on any TV show in the country and been the main attraction) did a lot more for the pro-wres than Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, or Dory Funk ever did.
2) Protect your star at all costs. Smoke and mirrors should take over 20% of your budget. If he’s short, get him to stand on a box. If he has a receding hairline, get him to crop his hair. If he drools when he talks, put him in a mask. And so on and so forth.
3) The three key demographics of wrestling fans are teenagers, homosexuals, and Mexicans.
So, enter John Cena, the self-proclaimed “Doctor of Thuganomics.” Already popular with two of the three key demographics (the teenagers love his try-too-hard thug gangbanger get-up, and my puddle-jumping brethren approve of his adopted image, which can be found in Wikipedia under the entry “homo thug”), he’s been positioned as the new blue-eyed boy of the WWE. Only problem is, he’s quite possibly the least suited of the World Wrestling Federation’s standard-bearers since the Ultimate Warrior roided around for a couple of years in the early 90s (Cena’s problems: he has bad matches, his interviews consist solely of a bunch of homophobic gags, and, to be quite frank, he looks like a Triga contract boy). So some of the smoke and mirrors from point 2 need to be employed, in order to turn him into the cross-media celebrity of point 1. And what’d be the obvious jump-off point to do this? Why, get him to record a rap album with guest vocals from Freddie Foxxx, stupid!

It’s not (totally) inane as it sounds. See, as well as rocking the throwback jerseys and dumb jewellery like any media-thug should in the oh-fire, Cena has also been known to drop the occasional (prewritten by someone else) freestyle before his wrestling matches. He was even scheduled to battle Jay-Z on PPV at one point, before Hove found something more interesting to do (there was probably a Fall Out Boy gig that night). So they’ve decided to capitalise on his UNIQUE SELLING POINT by releasing this, which must be the least eagerly anticipated pro-wres/music crossover since Hulk Hogan did that song with Green Jelly.

Problem #1: obviously the intent here was to record an album as radio-accessible and mainstream-friendly as possible (the more the sales the more the exposure, see?) To that extent, all of the productions are yes-I-suppose-you-could-call-that-pop-hardcore-at-a-push, and all strangely reminiscent of Bad Boy circa 2000 (which is what happens when you bring session producers in). However, John Cena really doesn’t have a style to match it. He’s got a cornier-than-Kanye punchline heavy style (within the first eight bars we find out that he keeps it “on lock like I’m part of a jail” and that he has plans to “brush ya mouth like Colgate,” whatever that means), combined with a delivery style that makes him sound like the long lost member of Non-Phixion. This doesn’t gel at all with beats that make you think Black Rob has decided to make a comeback.

Oh, and also he’ll “wash your dishes but I ain’t a busboy.”

Anyway, in order to prop him up, Weekend at Bernie’s stylee, they’ve got another rapper on board by the name of Tha Trademarc. Kind of a weird cross-between Flava Flav, Royce Da 5’9”, and Art Garfunkel. Except, roffley enough (and quite possibly deliberately), they have what seems to be the exact same voice and delivery style, to the extent that when they do the “alternating flows tell two stories that are different yet similar” (“Just Another Day”), you think someone has been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.

He’s got a couple of minor level heaters to hit you with though. The single, “Bad Bad Man,” sees Bumpy Knuckles turn up and, instead of maligning the fact that he didn’t put aside enough money from “Militia” to ensure he didn’t have to do this shit, he instead goes in with nuff energy to drag the other two up with him. He also dresses like Mr T in the video.

Foxxx features on two more tracks as well (guest rhymes by the pound?) which stand-out, and similar guest shenanigans come from underground funster Esoteric on “Beantown,” a tribute to all that is great about Boston, except, for some reason, “More Than A Feeling”. You do get the impression of overbearing slumming from the guests though, which is immediately confirmed when they leave and we’re left with “This Is How We Roll” (as good as it sounds) and “Chain Gang Is The Click” (even worse than it sounds).

Just like the average John Cena match, it’s all passable enough dumb entertainment that really doesn’t stand up to any manner of close analysis or repeat experiences. Chalk it up as a failed experiment. Next week: Tyson Tomko goes reaggaeton.

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2005-07-14
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