John Cena

You Can't See Me

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April 2005: LA's Staples Center. At WrestleMania 21, John Cena defeats JBL for the WWE Championship, capping his raucous three-year climb to professional wrestling's top turnbuckle. That's more or less how Cena's WWE SmackDown! boilerplate reads. But there's also Cena the freestyle rapper, who tries to have as many shout-outs to, say, Ultramagnetic MC's as he does the Ultimate Warrior. You Can't See Me is Cena's studio debut as an MC. Released amidst the hubbub of his WrestleMania win and featuring his customized championship belt (with spinners!) on the cover, the album will boost his ringside marketing. But it isn't a successor to 1985's hokey, crassly promotional Wrestling Album, where WWF personalities like Captain Lou Albano and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper slobbered their way through insultingly chintzy theme-pop. Cena includes his theme music, and retains his in-the-ring brashness. But he's also as foul-mouthed (the Eligh-produced "Don't F*** With Us") and boastful as any of his microphone heroes (at times his style seems to cross 50 Cent with vintage Everlast), and the unremarkable production is still capable enough to move You Can't See Me out of the novelty aisle. Besides "Don't F*** With Us" and a few tracks from Jake One, most of the boards are handled by Chaos & Order. They establish a mildly funky percussion roll for Cena and collaborator/cousin Trademarc to rap over; standouts include "Make It Loud" and the mildly crass "Summer Flings." Cena also gets assistance from hip-hop veteran Bumpy Knuckles/Freddie Foxxx -- they're best on "Bad, Bad Man." When he's not bragging about his lovemaking or MC'ing skills, the rap-wrestler takes off-kilter shots at pop culture and sports drinks, referencing everything from soft-core porn and "Mean Jean" Okerlund to his "Oh" face, Manny Ramirez, and the Legend of Bagger Vance. It's not a hip-hop body slam by any stretch. But for fans of John Cena's bold persona, You Can't See Me will be Chain Gang-approved.

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