Ah, the John Cena rap album, the latest attempt by a wrestling superstar to cross over out of wrestling and find some kind of mainstream audience. The album is actually a collaboration between Cena and ďTha Trademark.Ē I can only imagine that Trademark is related to Cena in some way, or that he has pictures of Cena with a goat, because the guy manages to be annoying in almost EVERY song, and while Cena is leagues better, he only does about one verse on every track, so weíre stuck listening to trademark or a guest (usually Bloody Knuckles) instead of the guy who, ostensibly, you bought the CD to hear. But how successful is Cena at making a go at a rap album? Hereís a review:
1. The Time Is Now
This is the song Cena is currently using as entrance music, so you will pretty much know whether or not youíll like it. As songs go, itís not awful or anything. But it was obviously written and mixed to be entrance music, and not a CD track. As such, it comes off sounding like it belongs more on WWE: The Music, rather than on a serious CD. But, I kind of like it. Not as much as ďWord Life,Ē but more than most WWE entrance music.
The Vocals: Cena carries the most vocal load on this track compared to any other song on the CD, and does a fairly good job. Heís got a good sense of the beat and his vocals are nice and even, and he avoids the tendency to run words together, which makes him easy to understand, thankfully. Tha Trademark does a verse and sounds fine, but Cena sounds much better on this particular track.
Production: Sounds like an entrance theme, like it was made for TV, and not an album track. The mix and the beats are fairly good, they donít overwhelm the vocals, the track itself is just under 3 minutes, and comes just about as it is packaged on Smackdown. I understand the necessity to put this track on the album (and first), but itís not the best song on the CD by a long shot, and itís by far the shortest.
***Ĺ (Of 5)
2. Donít Fuck with Us
Comments: Pretty much a train wreck. Each piece by itself, it probably wouldnít be horrible, but all together, itís a horrible mishmash of weak production and weak vocals, and when neither one can cover for the other, youíre left with what is, pretty much, the worst track on the album.
Vocals: Cena sounds obsessed with the fact that he could say the word ďfuck.Ē He pronounces it with such relish that youíd think heíd just discovered the word. A lot of the novelty of this track is probably lost on the ďNon-ExplicitĒ version, because you miss the pure joy in Cenaís voice as he says ďYou donít want to fffffucK with us.Ē Cena pretty much only covers the chorus, leaving Tha Trademark to handle the bulk of the verse in the track, and he spends it attempting to speed through bursts of lyrics, and ends up mumbling at a vocal range well beneath the sirens blaring in the background. Anything he said, is pretty much lost to the background noise. By the way? ďMore Drama than the Lakers Roster?Ē and referencing Fernando Valenzuela? Come on, dude.
Production: The background of the entire song is a sample of some kind of Sci-Fi siren, like you might hear at a rave. It drowns out a majority of the vocals, pretty much destroying any value the track might have had. It doesnít have a beat, it doesnít have a flow, it just blares in the background. Awful choice.
3. Flow Easy
This is the first track featuring Bloody Knuckles, who I gather, has some kind of following on the rap scene, which Iím woefully behind on. It certainly seems to add to the quality of the track, if not the quality of the writing. Everybody takes turns doing vocals, while Cena drops in with Bloody Knuckles for the chorus.
Vocals: Bloody Knuckles is probably the easiest of the three to listen to. Heís obviously the most polished, and he can keep a good even flow better than Cena or Trademark. Cena holds his own, however, and on this track, he is sharp for his one verse, though he seems to strain the lyrics a bit to try to keep pace with the song, so he ends up creating some really off, nonsensical rhymes, just to maintain the beat. Trademark is pretty bad sandwiched between the two, going for the route of not being entirely convincing as a hardcore rapper himself, so instead creating controversy by dropping in lines about abortion clinics and pedophiles (and thatís just in five seconds). Kind of a lame cop out, especially in a song titled ďFlow EasyĒ. He gains bonus points, however, for dropping in a line about Divas.
Production: Not horrible, kind of an old school generic electronic rap beat. It never threatens to overwhelm anybody, but Cenaís vocals on the chorus are about 50% louder than the rest of the verse, which is a little distracting from a sound mixing standpoint.
4. Right Now
John Cenaís attempt at a ďSoft Rap,Ē Cena suggests that we all stop fighting, have a drink, go for a drive with our homies, and call our parents and tell them we love them. Trademark suggest we toast the dead, our homies, and children, and have sex with our girls. The boys then launch into a list of people they love and respect. I donít have a girl, homies, or children, but Iíve got to say, if I did, theyíd probably abandon me for listening to this CD.
Vocals: Off the charts in pretty much every direction possible. Cenaís ďLook at how laid back I am, yíallĒ rapping style is silly, and Trademark seems, again, just to be trying to catch up. If this were played for comic sincerity, it would be awesome, but itís not. Donít you have to have had a few songs and albums before you launch into a mellow career retrospective?
Production: A choral arrangement whines ďRight now!Ē in the background while a track that I SWEAR Jimmy Hart wrote plays on. Then again, I this is the first song on the CD that I could see getting radio airplay, because itís deliciously inoffensive. Thereís nothing ďhorribleĒ about it, itís just not very good.
5. Make It Loud
A weird mix of a pseudo ďliveĒ song with a party song with a kind of lame dance track. I will say this for it, the lyrical breaks are probably the least noticeable in this track (even Trademark hits all his spots), and John Cena is MUCH more comfortable saying ďshitĒ.. I guess itís just not as fun to say. Though he also gets through ďmotherfuckerĒ and ďCinemax pornĒ without sounding like itís the best thing heís ever said, so maybe heís just over the freedom from the censors?
Vocals: A fairly smooth performance by both Cena and Trademark, though they both need to lay off making pop-culture references that add nothing to the track. Cena, himself, comes out looking strong, and itís probably his most polished performance on the CD. Trademark, for the first time in five tracks, actually doesnít get lost in the flow of the track.
Production: Just kills it. They mix in crowd noise from what Iím guessing was a live performance of some point, but they do it completely arbitrarily. It makes sense to have it at the beginning when Cena says ďMake it Loud!Ē and at the end when the crowd is chanting ďCena Cena,Ē but at a few points, the crowd just pops for no reason (as if they were just trying to pep up the song) and they chant along with the word ďLoudĒ in the chorus, but only on the first occurrence of the word. Weird. The beat itself? It was there. Not too bad, really, the vocals were nice and sharp over it (but under the crowd). They should have really just tried to stick with making this the ďParty SongĒ for the album, and left off the ďOMG JOHN CENA ACTUALLY PERFORMS LIVE~!Ē element.
6. Just Another Day
John Cena and Trademark whine about the trappings of fame. Every rapper has this song, and immediately follow it up with a song about Cash, Money, Hoes. Yeah, youíre really down and out there Cena.
Vocals: They try to tell an interesting story, at least. Cena complains that being famous is hard work because fans and travel is so demanding, while Trademark responds by remarking that being poor is hard too, because nobody gives a crap what happens to you. Cena sounds like heís a complete asshole, and Trademark sounds like he complains about everything that happens in every day life. Again, donít you have to have had a few albums before you can get all introspective?
Production: The song features a beat thatís REALLY far in the background, obviously to set up the dueling perspectives on fame (while Cena pains himself over what kind of car to buy while he has no friends). Unfortunately, this only serves to showcase how pedestrian the rapping in this portion is. Not that I could do any better, mind, but they were so strong in the last song with BAD production, that when the production is umpteen times better in this song, itís disappointing that theyíre so far off the mark.
7. Summer Flings
A ďsummer ridiníĒ tune. Itís certainly head and shoulders above most of the other songs on this album. Trademark is awful, but itís more to do with the fact that Cena is SO much better (even dropping a Flair ref) and his lyrics are so stupid that he can hardly get through them fast enough. Itís actually too bad, because I was thinking that this is probably their tightest and most marketable song, until at about the halfway point, it stops being a kind of good rap song about picking up girls, and starts being a dick measuring contest between Trademark and Cena about how hard theyíre gonna fuck their respective girls, at which point I knew they pretty much ruined the novelty of the song.
Vocals: Cena is tight and hits the beat well. Heís got a great voice for this type of slowish beat-heavy stuff when he really goes all out on it. Trademark spends the entire track tripping over himself trying to get all his clever lyrics in before the song ends. Whoever the girl was (sheís not credited anywhere) has very sharp background vocals.
Production: Good ďriding tuneĒ beat, doesnít overwhelm the track, but it adds to the effect. The vocals are mixed well, here it makes sense to have the background overwhelm the track (again they jump well above the performers) because her voice is so very different, that it needs to be put above Cena and Trademarkís to get noticed.
8. Keep Frontiní
The welcome return of Bloody Knuckles to the CD. Itís a pretty generic rap song, but itís not bad or anything. Itís certainly not going to change your life, but itís not too bad. Itís worth it at least to hear Cena claim to want to have a foursome with his three dicks (possibly with a 16 year old girl? Iím not sure what he was trying to say there, Iím guessing itís a reference to something I donít understand.).
Vocals: Cena is at the top of his sex lyrics prime here, and Bloody Knucklesí voice is a welcome break from hearing Cena and Trademark trying to figure out what their rap voice is. Trademark really struggles (surprise!) to keep up with the two better rappers, and ends up trying to push himself harder than he should. Honestly, at this point, Iím kind of wishing this was a solo CD with Trademark and Bloody Knuckles dropping in on a few tracks. Thereís a weird section at the end where one of the guys (I think itís Trademark) drops some stoner wisdom on us thatís just stupid and out of place.
Production: They do a nice job with some different beats and vocal samples. The production is actually surprisingly sharp, and I wonder how much of that has to do with having an experienced rapper as part of the process. The only time when the production interferes with the voice is when Cena tries to talk OVER the voice sample, and gets lost in it instead.
9. We Didnít Want You to Know
Best bass line so far. In terms of pure ďTop 40Ē rap, this is probably the strongest song. Itís got a great bass line, the lyrics are suitably ďWeíre SO much harder than youĒ (except for a line about Bagger Vance, of all things), and both guys are actually on top of things.
Vocals: Cena is solid, especially doing the chorus works, his voice is ultra smooth until about 3:30 in, when he tries to do his own vocal effects, and comes off cheesy. Trademark probably makes his strongest solo-vocal showing, as he seems looser than he does in just about any other track. These guys seriously need to drop the dumb pop-culture references.
Production: I like the beat, the bass is at itís thumpinest. It actually reminded me a little bit of generic radio rap, which is a good thing in this case. It was produced to sound like an Eminem song, or something of that ilk, and they did a good job, but for Cena trying to do sound effects at the end. This is probably the most marketable song on the album.
10. Bad, Bad Man
The first ďsingleĒ off the album, youíve seen it on Smackdown and RAW now, and itís pretty much untouched here (including ďvan peeling out sound effects). All three guys are really quite good here. Cena doesnít do a whole lot of actual rapping, which is unfortunate, but Trademark actually sounds, dare I say it? Sharp here. Bloody Knuckles sounds like Mr. T rapping (the reason for the video. probably), but is still the most polished of the three.
Vocals: From the three of them, collectively, this is the best effort. Bloody Knuckles takes the bulk of the rapping load, and turns in a very good, very even performance. Rather than trying to compete with Knuckles and Cena, Trademark actually relaxes and just does his verses, which makes him sound about a thousand times better. Cenaís only in at the beginning, but again shows a lot of potential.
Production: Kills the song again, but not to the point of unlistenability. The beat isnít particularly overwhelming or anything, but the biggest problem lies in the fact that sound effects from the video were superimposed over the track (tires squealing, explosions, guns cocking), which is really unnecessary, and doesnít really fit the song without the visuals (except the explosion, because Knuckles says ďboomĒ when it happens).
11. Running Game
Another ďridiní tune,Ē this time with a Gene Oakerlund reference. Cenaís voice actually seems to fit these songs really well. When he tries to be smooth and match the beat, he turns in a very strong performance, which helps the song immensely. Itís not a single or anything, but itís not too bad.
Song: Cenaís voice is even, and I think heís found his genre. Trademarkís harsh, uneven performance works in this song better than in any other song, because he comes in to interrupt Cenaís smoother flow, which changes the whole pacing, which is exactly what heís supposed to do. Heís not any less coarse or any better, but he works better in this track than in most others. Another not about the lyrics though, if Cena ever does another album, he can put in as many bitches and hoes jokes as he wants, but theyíve seriously got to come up with some lyrics that donít sound like they were transcribed in a high school locker room.
Production: Mellow and in the background, which is a good compliment to the song. They could probably have helped Trademark a little bit, by mixing up the middle of the song a bit to match his speed a little better. But as for a song to listen to when riding with theoretical homies, itís not too bad.
John Cena, Trademark and Esoteric give a verbal blowjob to the city of Boston and its sports teams. I could certainly see this being used in video packages for the Red Sox or Patriots, but pretty much nothing else. I guess if you donít live in Boston, this song is pretty useless to you.
Vocals: This song is going to sound really stupid in a few years when nobody referenced in the songs is with the team anymore, but whatever. The guys seem to genuinely want to show love for their local sports teams, and hey. Good for them. Esoteric by the way, speed raps a gazillion times better than Trademark, and even though I can hardly understand a word he says, I can at least tell that heís actually getting them all in there with good pronunciation.
Production: Not horrible, not great. The beat sounds like something somebody composed in about 20 seconds. Like Cena went to them and was like:
Cena: Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, YO! YO! Producer: HeyÖ. Cena: YO! Producer: Whatís up? Cena: I need a beat, man. Weíre gonna do a hot track about Boston Sports! Teariní up the charts with the CHAIN GANG! Producer: A sports song? All right. Whatever. Iíll come up with something at lunch. Cena: CHAIN GANG!
13. This Is How We Roll
Cena says ďbidness.Ē Of his ďridiní tunesĒ this is the most generic. Generic vocals, generic beat. Itís not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but itís not exactly inspired. Itís the kind of song that gets cut from a major artistís CD, but then gets released after their death as ďhot new content.Ē Not bad, but it probably doesnít need to be here. Better than some of the other songs, I guess.
Vocals: I swear, what the hell is it with Kobe Bryant? Cena or Trademark name-drop him in about every other song. Was the CD written during his trial? Thatíd probably explain it. Cena and Trademark arenít bad, but they get kind of lost in the beat. Christian should have turned in a guest appearance.
Production: The beat is actually not too bad, itís got a good bass thread going through it, but at times it completely overpowers the vocals, not to the point where you canít hear them, but to the point that the beat is much more interesting than the vocals, so you lose focus. Thatís the problem with the overproduction of these types of tracks, but then again, Britney Spears became a Dancehall Sensation through that very method.
14. What Now
I wonder if the girl featured on this track is the same as the one earlier. If so, sheís not nearly as good here, but itís still a nice change of pace. Not a terrible song, but it never gets to a point where I said, ďOk, Iím really digging that.Ē Cena sounds off, and Trademark isÖTrademark.
Vocals: Cena never quite gets into a groove, I think because this was meant to be Trademarkís song, but Cena just had to toss in a verse to keep himself out there. Trademarkís talk of being a lyrical philosopher is ricockulous. Not that I donít think heís not a smart guy, because I have no idea, but his attempts at flow is all over the place and he never says anything smart ever. Except how smart he is.
Production: Completely forgettable. Kind of a nice little bass beat with some snaps and a girl singing a few lines with the track and ďooingĒ in the background. The bass actually takes over the song a bit more than it should, but it makes it a nice song for people with thousand dollar subwoofers, I guess.
15. Know the Rep
This is another Bumpy Knuckles song, though youíd never know it from the CD cover (heís not mentioned on this song). Not his best song, as he tries to come out and be ďhardcoreĒ and everybody ends up mumbling all track long, tripping over themselves talking about how hardcore it is. More than anything else, this song probably sounded like a better idea in the studio (ďGo be hard guysĒ), but ended up just being cramped and trying too hard.
Vocals: Uneven and at times really bad. Cena suffers the most, because he loses all the cool he showed in earlier tracks, and stumbles out of the gate. I have no doubt heís probably a lot better at hardcore rapping than this, but trying to squeeze himself in after a off performance from Knuckles (who sounds more like heís trying to read really fast instead of rapping) and Trademark being Trademark at the end of the song.
Production: Itís really chaotic, which fits the song, but not really in a good way. The beat is slightly off kilter, never quite finding a decent flow, the faux trumpet, the voice sample and the twinkling sound effect at the start all donít quite fit together or the song, and it all just ends up seeming thrown together.
16. Chain Gang is the Clique
Cenaís ďwrestlingĒ song. He throws in a few ďBasic ThuganomicsĒ in there, and basically tries to make an anthem for his fan base to unite them. Itís actually a novel concept, and it works to a point. Cenaís section of the song references wrestling just enough that the wrestling fans will get behind it, but not so much that they canít think itís a ďcool songĒ on its own. ĎCept that Trademark carries the song, and heís not really in on the idea.
Vocals: Cena tries to put himself over during his vocals, with a pretty good vocal performance (certainly not his best, but still), and heís got the benefit of having a wrestling career which gives him the advantage of already having catchphrases (ďChain GangĒ and ďBasic ThuganomicsĒ namely) which he can put over without sounding stupid. Trademark, however, blows past the ďBasic ThugnomicsĒ/Cena/Wrestling connection and talks about his troubled past, which kind of defeats the purpose of the song. It doesnít help that his flow doesnít reallyÖflow. Again. Man, do I have something against this guy or something? Huh.
Production: Iím very sick of the Baaaanah-buuuuurnah sample that they chose for the song, but it actually works with Cenaís verses. Still, I wish they would have picked something more exciting, and the drum machine didnít help. Cenaís scratchy voiceovers were Ok, but didnít really add anything special.
17. If It All Ended Tomorrow
A ďDeath StoryĒ song. Carpe Diem, yaílls. Not the strongest ending song for a CD that Iíve ever heard (I would have closed on a stronger track like ďBad, Bad ManĒ), but itís probably apropos that the ďLive for the Moment!Ē song closes out the CD. Not terrible or anything like that, it just doesnít leave you with any strong impressions.
Vocals: Mediocre for both. Trademark isnít as bad as he is on some other tracks, but heís not as good as he is on some of the better tracks. Cena sounds tired, his voice is gravelly and it lacks the kind of force it should have if heís going to be talking about a guy about to shoot him. Heíd lost a lot of the edge he had earlier on the CD.
Production: I kind of like the slow drawling beat, and it fits well with the story the song is trying to portray. This is one of those cases, I think, where the producer was there with the right audio, but the rappers, for whatever reason, just couldnít bring it. As a result, the song ends up being bogged down, and sounds a LOT more mellow than it should.
So in other words, itís a perfectly serviceable rap album, not entirely unlike one that youíd find from any other first album rapper. The fact that Cena has a marginal celebrity to cash in on, means that he might get a little more buzz than most of those guys, and people will probably be pleasantly surprised that itĎs decent, though the album itself certainly doesnít mesh well with the younger audience heís currently targeting on Smackdown. The CD isnít going to turn any heads, itís not brilliant or even really good, but itís good enough that Cena doesnít lose anything for it. If he does release another album, he should probably do more on it, and limit Trademarkís involvement to a guest role.
Tonight I wanna ruin my life, I wanna throw it all away, In a spectacular way
Cena has a song called This Is How We Roll? More grist for the mill in a feud with Christian.
So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o'clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn't go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head 'round the door, and mentions there's a little sweets shop on the edge of town. So - we go. And - it's closed. So there's me, and Keith Moon, and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweets shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they've got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shopkeeper and his son... that's a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business, really, but sure enough I got the M&Ms, and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.--- Del Preston
Originally posted by Excalibur05 Cena sounds obsessed with the fact that he could say the word ďfuck.Ē He pronounces it with such relish that youíd think heíd just discovered the word. A lot of the novelty of this track is probably lost on the ďNon-ExplicitĒ version, because you miss the pure joy in Cenaís voice as he says ďYou donít want to fffffucK with us.Ē
This reminds me of running karaoke, when kids get up and do Sublime's "What I Got." They get excited when it gets to, "I can play the guitar like a mother FUCKING riot."
It always redlines my soundboard. Little bastards.
Also, you know it's "Bumpy Knuckles," right?
(edited by asteroidboy on 12.5.05 1628) -- Asteroid Boy
Bumpy Knuckles and The Trademarc are their correct names, I believe.
I don't get the statement that "We Didn't Want You To Know" has the best bassline on the record...because it doesn't have a bassline. It's that one deep bass note over...and over...and over....just BMMMMM.....BMMMMMM....BMMMM. I mean the song ain't bad, but you can't get a more un-creative bassline than that monotonous hum.
Originally posted by FurryHippieBumpy Knuckles and The Trademarc are their correct names, I believe.
As far as you should trust a white guy in his thirties (who nonetheless knows how to check the wwe.com website), I am pretty sure the official spelling would be Tha Trademarc, if you want to be a nitpicker about it.
Originally posted by FurryHippieBumpy Knuckles and Tha Trademarc are their correct names, I believe.
You are correct. I was incorrect.
I don't get the statement that "We Didn't Want You To Know" has the best bassline on the record...because it doesn't have a bassline. It's that one deep bass note over...and over...and over....just BMMMMM.....BMMMMMM....BMMMM.
My saying that was just an observation that this was the only track on which my subwoofer got any sort of workout, it was not a statement of how creative the bass, or the use of bass, was, but if you're listening to this record, and concerned about bass, it's probably just so you can turn it way the hell up and shake the hell out of your house/the neighbors house (or consiquently your car/the car next to you), in which case, this is the most productive song. I certainly respect that your criteria were different than mine in that reguard.
Originally posted by CRZResearch is a lost art!
Hey, when when somebody starts paying me to do it, I'll start paying more attention.
Tonight I wanna ruin my life, I wanna throw it all away, In a spectacular way
MonteCarl, that was a really, really good report. Two thoughts: ē This "Textbook" dude sounds awesome. A dorky white kid who wrestles and dances The Robot in mid-match? This could save the WWE. ē Bischoff making out with Steffo? That's odd......