Source: Ballin’ Out
Recently on Billboard's Ballin' Out podcast, WWE's John Cena appeared on the show. Among other things, 'The Face That Runs The Place' discussed his love of hip hop music and culture and how he was able to introduce that aspect of his personality into his professional wrestling character. Cena talked about learning from Vince McMahon everyday. Also, 'The Champ' shared his response to people who dismiss professional wrestling as fake.
"Beastie Boys' 'License To Ill' [and] Fat Boys' 'Crushin'' were the first two CDs I got, hip hop CDs I got in 1985, 1986." Cena continued, "I'll play 'Illmatic' till the tape breaks, the Wu Tang stuff. I love Jay-Z. I just think you listen to his evolution as a human being through his art. The original stuff he was doing till 'Hard Knock Life' till like '30 Something'. Obviously, that song resonates with me a little bit. Kanye West makes great music. Drake is, I think, phenomenal. I think I'm always drawn to like boombapish style hip hop. Like, I can go back to Grand Puba and all those guys."
On the subject of how he began to incorporate his interest in hip hop culture into his professional wrestling character, the former 'Prototype' recalled that WWE brass overheard him freestyle rapping in the back of a tour bus and asked him if he would be interested in rapping on WWE television.
"The people who make decisions on creativity in the WWE overheard me in the back of a tour bus. To pass the time on some of the long rides, when we travel internationally, we travel as a group because they don't want people spread out all over the country, so we all take these buses. And to pass the time, some guys play cards. Nowadays it's a lot different. You have entertainment in the palm of your hand. That wasn't the case at the turn of the century, so we would often, like, freestyle rap on each other and I always kind of did okay, okay enough for them to be like, 'hey, would you want to do that on television?'. And at the time, I was very undefinable. I looked like every other wrestler in boots and tights. There was no real gravity towards my character and I realized that it wasn't being done on television because WWE was a very rock focused company and I realized I could run as far as I wanted to, so I was like, 'yes, absolutely. I would like to do this'."
Cena admitted that he made his own theme music because WWE was not very savvy with respect to hip hop music at the time and he felt that he could make a song that was better. This project ended up turning into an entire album of material.
"At WWE, we have the opportunity to define your character as much as you want, so when I got the opportunity to rap on television, they gave me some stock music that was so bad. You could tell that WWE, to its credit, does rock n roll very well. It did not understand hip hop culture and I was like, 'well, I'm not any good, but I can do better than this' and I went into a friend's studio and recorded my original theme music that I used for a year or so and it was better than what they gave me. And I was like, 'okay, that's great' and then I enjoyed the time, like, it was almost a hobby when I would get a few days off, I'd go back to the studio, listen to beats, and be like, 'okay, lets mess around'. This is a lot easier now with technology, but it used to be like a process. And I heard the beat for 'Time Is Now' and I'm like, 'man, we're going to make this song' and I heard a few more beats and I was like, 'we're going to have eight or nine songs - we might be able to make an album'. And then, I went to my boss. I was like, 'I'm going to redo my theme music, so would you be interested if we make an album? Do you want to put it out?' and he said, 'absolutely' and it was a way to further solidify like, hey, 'The Doctor Of Thuganomics' moniker isn't just some phoney tag I threw on myself. I enjoy hip hop. I enjoy hip hop culture. I really appreciate this stuff and to the point of this is my best effort of what we can do."
Although some of hip hop's most celebrated artists do not write all of their own rap lyrics, Cena claimed that true artists should not use ghost writers.
"Yes, that is a big faux pas in hip hop to use ghost writers. I know that it happens and the bottom line is you want to make good music, but when you're going to fancy yourself as a hip hop artist, to have a ghost writer."
When asked what has been the best piece of advice he has received from Mr. McMahon, Cena admitted that there is no single piece of advice that he values most of all. Rather, Cena believes that it is most constructive to observe WWE's Chairman and asking him why he does certain things.
"From Vince McMahon, no one piece of advice because he is filled with advice, like, every single thing. He doesn't just give you Buddhist quotes. It's his actions. The best protocol with him is to ask 'why' because his perception of what we're all supposed to be doing, like, he's at the lead of it. He's at the front of it. If I can understand his perception, then maybe I can take my creativity and work with his perception and we can come up with something that is going to be positive. And that not only goes to the abstract art of what we do, but also goes into furthering the business as well." Cena admitted, "I learn from Vince everyday and it's just a matter of how he perceives where we're going and how I can use the tools that I have to fit in that mix."
In the view of Cena, people who deride professional wrestling as being fake are just being ignorant.
"When the company's name is World Wrestling Entertainment, we openly say in the name of the company that it is entertainment. You are buying a ticket, you are clicking on the WWE Network, you are watching USA Network to be entertained through sport. It is scripted. We say it in the title, so for somebody to come out and say, 'ah, it's fake!', it's like saying Game Of Thrones is fake." Cena reflected, "I don't mind if someone says, 'well, that type of entertainment isn't for me' because we're not for everyone. When they say, 'oh, wrestling's fake!', that is ignorant. That is no idea of what we do. That is a cop out. That's a short answer and that is like, 'well, I haven't even taken the time to give it a second thought'. That's not right and I don't even pay that any mind."
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