BAD, BAD MAN CLOSES THE PANDORAíS BOX OF BAD WRESTLING ALBUMS
John Cena - You Can't See Me
Review by Mike Rickard II
During the Rock-n-Wrestling boom of the mid 1980ís, Vince McMahon opened a Pandoraís Box of crap with the release of
The Wrestling Album. Like the mythical figure Pandora, Vince McMahon opened a box which he thought contained riches and treasure, and instead released a series of plagues on the world. The World Wrestling Federation (WWF) forged a path of putridity with The Wrestling Album II: Piledriver, which lead the way for
WCWís Slam Jam and the abomination known as
Hulk Rules! Just when you thought things couldnít get any worse, came Be a Man, the hip hop styling of Randy ďMacho ManĒ Savage. Needless to say, anytime a wrestler has stepped into a music studio, itís a sure thing that their CD has been guaranteed both a spot at WrestleCrap and a quick trip to the deep discount bin of the nearby music store.
CHEAPER THAN A SLIM JIM
Needless to say, fans were more than a little concerned when it was announced that John Cena was on a rap album (especially given some fans dissatisfaction with the direction Cenaís character has taken over the last year). When Cena first adopted his rap gimmick, fans took a liking to his biting battle raps that he used to mock his opponents before a match. Cenaís edgy raps were so popular that it was only a matter of time before the WWE turned him face. Unfortunately the face turn seemed to dull the edge off of Cenaís raps to the point where some fans were comparing him to the Vanilla Ice persona heíd purposely adopted to get heat when he was a heel.
All doubts should be erased with the release of John Cenaís You Canít See Me , a CD that features tight lyrics, a variety of rap styles, and competent production, making for an enjoyable listening experience for fans of East Coast rap and Pop rap. John Cena has broken the string of lackluster to downright awful original recordings by wrestlers and recorded an album that holds up well against many of the current rap and hip hop artists. Frankly, itís not even fair to compare Cenaís work to other wrestlers because itís like comparing the ring work of Chris Benoit to a best of compilation from Jimmy Valiant, Nathan Jones, Heidenreich, and Christy Hemme. Not only is it a backhanded compliment but you shouldnít even mention their names in the same sentence.
So how does Cenaís CD compare to the mainstream hip hop and rap CDís out there today? In a nutshell, remarkably well. However before going into an analysis of the CD, itís important to point out that this album is by no means all about John Cena. Although the album is being promoted by the WWE as a John Cenaís CD, the truth is that itís a collaborative effort with his cousin Tha Trademarc. Both artists perform on all of the songs (and are joined on more than a few tracks by veteran rapper Freddie Foxx aka Bumpy Knuckles as well as Boston rapper Esoteric). You Canít See Me is a noteworthy freshman effort by Cena & Trademarc. Itís not without its faults, but it certainly has a lot to offer whether itís the various styles experimented with throughout the album, the extremely tight lyrics Cenaís co-written, or the smooth combination of rapping with his cousin Trademarc and veteran rapper Freddie Foxxx.
Listening to the album, John Cena fans will be reminded of the clever raps that made him so popular in the WWE. Cena co-wrote every song on the CD and no matter whether heís boasting about his game in Running Game, reminding people to take a minute and enjoy life with the ones you love on Right Now, or cleverly chronicling the difference between rich and poor on Just Another Day, you get a true appreciation for his writing. His rhymes are witty and he incorporates more pop culture references than an episode of
The Simpsons or a Kevin Smith movie. There are wrestling references as well but Cena keeps them to a minimum and they seem no more out of place than they would on any other artistís album.
When it comes to rapping, both Cena and Trademarc know how to flow. Their voices sound somewhat similar but there is enough of a distinction to make them complement each other. Cena and Trademarc cover all the bases of your typical rap album which in the immortal words of N.W.A. on Something Like That are: youíre either talkiní Ďbout the place to be (Beantown), who you are (Know the Rep), what you got (Keep Frontin'), or Ďbout a sucker M.C. (Flow Easy). If youíve heard Cena on WWE Originals singing Basic Thuganomics, you can tell that heís no wrestler recording a novelty act but a guy dedicated to the music he loves and whoís willing to work hard at improving his work. There is a noticeable difference between Basic Thuganomics and any song found on You Canít See Me.
Which isnít to say that the album isnít without its flaws? While it is interesting to hear Cena and Trademarc try their hand at different styles of rap and hip-hop, it will be important for them to establish their own style on their next CD. While both rappers do a good job with variety of styles they cover, thereís really nothing on the album that distinguishes it from the multitude of rap and hip hop albums out there (other than the fact that Cena is a rapper as well as a professional wrestler). With You Canít See Me, Cena proves that he is more than a novelty act. With his next CD, he will need to prove that he is more than just another face in the crowded milieu of rap. The other noticeable flaw on the CD is the production. While there are some catchy beats on most of the songs (Make it Loud, Summer Fling, What Now, and Right Now were my favorites), thereís nothing remarkable about them. Itís a real shame that the clever rhymes spit here donít have better music backing them up.
John Cena fans will no doubt find this CD to be everything they were expecting and much more. The CD features 17 tracks (including Cenaís new entrance theme the Time is Now) and is available in all its explicit glory or in the Wal-Mart friendly ďcleanĒ version. .Fans of rap may find themselves pleasantly surprised when they hear how good Cena and Trademarc are. Cena and Trademarc havenít developed a new style like g-funk or crunk but they can hold their own. With the right producer on their next album, Cena and Trademarc could really break ahead of the pack and make a name for themselves.
One thing I forgot to mention about Pandoraís Box is that Pandora took one more stab at seeing what was inside (she must have been one curious lady) and found the spirit of hope in it. By releasing hope, Pandora was able to give mankind a certain measure of relief for the terrible evils she had unleashed on humanity.
"Hope sole remain'd within, nor took her flight,
Beneath the vessel's verge conceal'd from light."
- Hesiod (Elton's translation).
Likewise with the release of You Canít See Me, Vince McMahon has given fans hope that not all original recordings of wrestlers have to be hastily thrown together hack jobs. While Cenaís CD hasnít made up for the musical trauma induced by Rikishiís Put a Little Ass on It, itís a good start.
Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.