Whether as K-Kwik, Ron Killings, or R-Truth, rapping has always been a part of Truth's gimmick, but it is more than just a gimmick. Before lacing up his boots, Truth attempted a career as a rapper in the early-to-mid-90s and got to meet several of the top rappers of that era.
One of those was Tupac Shakur, and there's a picture that's gone viral of a young R-Truth posing with Tupac. Truth talked about that encounter with one of hip hop's all-time greats when he joined The New Day: Feel the Power podcast.
"I was very young still then, in those pictures. I was just happy to be there at that time. We went from Atlanta, to VA, to DC. It was a thing called The Jack the Rapper Convention. Back then, it was demo tapes. I had my box of demo tapes, vinyl, and that's where Tupac had just done the movie Juice when I met him," revealed Truth.
"Just passing through and seeing him at every Jack the Rapper Convention, every promotion thing we were doing from Georgia to DC to VA-- Probably one of the greatest icons ever to host the music industry. Not only the music industry but the acting world too. He was a hell of an actor, and just to see him from afar and watch the people-- he just did the movie Juice, so he was just on the up and up. He had something about him that attracted the people to him. I was just watching him and being in awe of somebody coming from where he comes from that has the mind that he has, and he was all about being a sharing, good-hearted dude. I sat around him and he'd buy me hot dogs and stuff. Very good-hearted man, and I would always try to get people acknowledged. Always."
For many Superstars, the gimmicks they portray on TV are very different than what they're like in real life. But that's not the case with Truth, whose gimmick is essentially himself. He talked more about his wrestling career compared to his rap career and how they aren't that different from each other.
"I think they go hand-in-hand. Being in the wrestling business as long as I've been in, I've learned so much about it to be able to work and handle the music business. Even though the music business is what led me here, I've matured in this business. Because of wrestling, I have matured," stated Truth. "When we come out, our music is the first thing that sets us off. It sets the pace; it sets the tone, so the music goes hand-in-hand with it. Once you put a character with it - which my musical character is just me, I don't have to put anything with it but just energy, and it's just me. So, I think the two coincide to help each other out."
Truth had a tough upbringing that landed him in jail a couple of times, but he still clung to his dreams of being a successful rapper. He discussed how both his rapping and his legal problems led him to the world of pro wrestling courtesy of Jack Crockett, whose brother, Jim, was a president of the NWA.
"I met Jack Crockett at a halfway house and he saw me being me. He saw my picture back then with Tupac. He saw all of that, and he said, 'You don't belong here. I think it's just one of your pit stops in life.' But then again, I had somebody else still acknowledging me. God has always put what I call 'rams in the bush' around me to protect me, to give me whispers in my ear on what I'm supposed to do. I have that good angel and bad angel on both sides, but God has always protected me and put people in the right spots," said Truth.
"Now, I thought Crockett wanted to give me a job in cutting his grass or something because he said, 'I want to give you a job.' Who meets somebody at a halfway house and be on the up and up about doing something with him? Now the plan was to meet somebody to invest in my music career, and once they invest in my music career, I become a big rap star, and I can get these deputies who are watching these inmates as my personal security. That was the plan. Crockett said, 'God told me here's a gift back to you. It's not going to cost you money. It's not going to cost you anything but time and dedication.'
"I actually turned him down for two years because I don't think I was grown up yet enough. I turned him down because I still wanted somebody to give me what I wanted. That wasn't the plan. Back and forth to jail again within those two years, to where I was a willing vessel and I was ready for a change. I didn't have a kid at that time. I knew going back and forth to jail was going to be going back and forth to jail. It wasn't me."
Truth spent 13 months in jail for selling drugs, and when he got out, he turned to robbing drug dealers to help fund his flailing rap career. He knew this wasn't going to end up anywhere except another jail cell – at best – so he reached out to Crockett again.
"The music thing was looking bad, so I called Crockett up. I said, 'Hey man, whatever I need to do, I'll do it. I'm just ready for a different life.' He said, 'Kid, this is going to cost you nothing but time and dedication.' He took me to three WCW shows, and the first person that came out was Ric Flair," recalled Truth. "When Ric Flair's music hit and that crowd came up, Crockett was standing beside me, and says, 'You see Ric Flair? That's you. You can be there rapping, rapping all those raps when you were in jail and dancing. You can get in the ring, you can fight, and dance. You can mix it all and create this character, but be yourself because people like you as you. Be original, be authentic. Just be yourself.'
"I soaked it in like a sponge, and I think I did the independents matches for maybe three years. God has always put those rams in the bush around. Once people knew Jack Crockett brought me up, people were offering me to show me everything, offering to take me here, offering to book me here. He was right that it was going to cost me nothing but time and dedication.
"I met Manny Fernandez; Manny Fernandez said, 'Kid, I don't know what it is, but I want to train you. Manny trained me for two years and ended up at NWA Wildside. Rick Michaels and his dad said, 'Hey, you can go and be a big star.' I was doing something different, I was doing none of the street stuff. I was rapping my own music that I wrote to instrumentals and I was creating my own little audience. Sent a tape in and I got a call from Terry Taylor in WWE within two weeks. That next week, Vince [McMahon] flew me up. The next week, I had a contract at my door."
Truth signed with WWE in 1999 and was sent to one of their developmental territories in Memphis, but the wrestling career that he imagined wasn't coming to fruition in those early years and Truth became discouraged to the point where he nearly quit. He talked about the beginning of his WWE career, and who talked him out of packing up his bags and heading home.
"The overwhelming feeling, I just embraced it and took it head on. Road Dogg saw me in developmental. I was about to quit because I was in developmental for almost nine months - they told me I would be there for six months. I was there for nine months and it didn't seem like anything was working out," stated Truth. "I was running out of money, I was sleeping on Daniel Bryan and Spanky - Brian Kendrick's - and Shooter Schultz's floor. I was ready to quit. I was discouraged because I was doing something new and different. It wasn't a typical street. I was questioning myself. It was a whole different route that I embraced, and it was not paying off. It was not giving me what I thought I would have. I'm not a big wrestling star, so I was discouraged and ready to quit.
"Back then, it was Kevin Kelly, and Bruce Prichard, and Terry Golden, and I told them that I'm not re-signing. I'm done; I'm going back home, and Terry Golden was like, 'You're going back home to what? To do what?' I wasn't going to go back to the streets, but I didn't know what I was going to go back to. I just felt that it was too overwhelming. It was too much for me. It wasn't working out. Nothing was paying off, and Road Dogg came to the TV taping and saw me rap going out. I think I wrestled Jerry Lawler that night. When I came back to the locker room, two or three guys told me Road Dogg was asking about you. I said, 'Road Dogg of DX?' They said, 'yeah'. Got in the locker room, and we all know Road Dogg. Road Dogg came to my face and said, 'Was that you dancing and rapping to the ring?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Do you want to be my tag partner?' I said, 'Man, I was about to quit. I don't think this is for me. I think I bit off more than what I can chew.' He said, 'I'll tell you what - I know you have been discouraged. You give me one month and I will have you on TV.' I said, 'Alright.'
"It happened in less than one month. They were coming up with the idea of me and Road Dogg in New York at [The World], and it happened in less than a month. I was making my RAW debut."
Truth made his WWE debut as K-Kwik in 2000 but would depart for TNA/Impact two years later. There, he would once again team with Road Dogg before making his WWE return in 2008. By 2012, Truth was put in a tag team with Kofi Kingston and together, then won a Tag Team Championship.
Kingston talked about the list of tag team names that WWE had come up with for Truth.
"I remember a couple of them off the list: there was 'R-Boom', 'The Booming Truth'. There were a lot of times I would go and try to look for these names, but what I did find was names that we gave as suggestions for what we wanted to call ourselves. To be honest, they're not that much better than the list they gave us," admitted Kingston.
"One of them was' HD Boyz'. I'm looking at the email. It was June 4th of 2012, and this was right when we went to HD TV. '2X What?' was one. 'The Shockboyz' was one, as in 'we shock you in so many ways'. The other one, and I thought this was a great idea - I remember Truth was deprecating on it because he didn't want this - I wanted to be called 'The Go Boyz' or 'The Go Boy Coalition'.
"Here's one that they gave - 'Ghana Get Go't. That's G-H-A-N-A, where I'm from. 'The Truth Squad', 'Trouble in Truth', 'The Kings Of Truth' because of Kofi Kingston and R-Truth.
"This one is embarrassing, and I wrote a full email explaining this too. It says, 'Thinking about what you said, I see your point about us not being underdogs, especially in the tag division now. That being said, I think we might have it to the point and easy for everyone to understand: 'The Dynamic Duo'.' I said, 'We are dynamic to watch and the moves we execute are very superhero-like. We like it. Let's marinate on it. Maybe shop it around and get together next week. Have a good rest of the week – Kofi.'"
Despite all of the creativity in the name suggestions from WWE, Kingston, and R-Truth, the pair never went with any of those tag team names. They were simply referred to as "Kofi Kingston and R-Truth."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The New Day: Feel the Power with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.