This Saturday night, taking the stage at Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, will be the SNL Host who puts the “you can’t see me” in NBC’s Must-See TV. That’s right, the prince of jorts himself John Cena is hosting Saturday Night Live. The third professional wrestler to hold such a honor (after Hulk Hogan in ’85 and The Rock in 2000), Cena managed to begin transcending the squared-circle into mainstream crossover celebrity status. After acclaimed comedic performances over the past year in the films Trainwreck, Sisters and Daddy’s Home as well as the good will earned for currently holding the world record for most Make-A-Wish wishes granted, people beyond wrestling fans are starting to get behind Cena in a big way.
Of course, this is something the hip-hop community has known for years. When Cena first gained popularity as a battle rapping wrassler, it was seen as the first time a competitor who was genuinely true to the hip-hop culture was excelling on a major wrestling platform. He was appearing on WWE Smackdown in stocking caps with the Hieroglyphics logo and bigging up Canibus in backstage interviews. Cena’s first non-wrestling foray was a full-length rap album, but even that was after years of pretty big name credible indie rap collaborations.
That in mind, why is Cena only hosting SNL and not its musical guest too? He can clearly make as many yuk-yuks as Drake can, and Drake got to rap. No disrespect to Marin Morris who just got a Grammy nomination this week, but there’s only one man who should be under the spotlight live from New York…and his name is John Cena!
Need further proof? Fine, here we go.
John Cena rap battle vs. Rey Mysterio circa 2003
Before Cena was spitting blistering rhymes over beats, he was bringing the acappella street battle format into prime time network television, winning over the crowd (despite being the “bad guy”…or “heel”) because his wordplay was just too tight. Case in point the crowd rallying behind him here despite facing perennial favorite Rey Mysterio. Plus, Cena knowing when to stop rhyming and let the crowd cuss for him shows he knows his proper timing with a live mic without the need of a six second delay.
Murs featuring E40, Chingo Bling and John Cena — “Hustle (Remix)” 2004
Murs’ 2004 album with 9th Wonder, Murs 3:!6 - The 9th Edition, was one of the best received rap albums of the year. How do you top it? Remix the second single and get three hip-hop heavyweights on it. You have the legend E-40 from the Bay, Texas’ beloved Chingo Bling at the height of his popularity and then-WWE United States champion John Cena. While 40 Water and Chingo couldn’t make the video (their verses can be heard intact here. Cena shows he can spit fire int he booth and it translates to camera too.
The Perceptionists featuring John Cena - “Champion Scratch” 2005
Why should Murs be the only Definitive Jux-signee to have John Cena on the track? The B-side to indie-rap supergroup The Perceptionists’ “Black Dialogue” single, Boston’s Mr. Lif and Akrobatik go back-and-forth with battle rhymes over a Fakts One beat before Cena pops up to battle on the mic as well. The Newbury-Beantown connection has never been tighter than this record.
John Cena featuring Esoteric - “Beantown” 2005
Another Boston MC who jumped on the track with Cena is MC Esoteric, who fans today may best know as one-third of CZARFACE with Inspektah Deck and 7L. This hometown anthem is probably the best track on Cena’s debut album You Can’t See Me, and you can really feel the love Cena has for where he’s from. FUN FACT: 7L also did Cena’s original “Basic Thuganomics” entrance music, and his currently infamous “My Time is Now” theme is produced by current indie *it* producer Jake One.
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John Cena featuring Bumpy Knuckles (Freddie Foxxx) - “Bad, Bad Man” 2005
Of course, we have to mention You Can’t See Me’s first single “Bad, Bad Man.” A fun video with an '80s theme, with Foxxx legit being one of the realest in the game, his co-sign of Cena is a sign his credibility goes a long way.
John Cena featuring Wiz Khalifa - “All Day” 2014
Cena was put in charge of curating the soundtrack for WWE video game WWE 2K15, and being it would fall on the tenth anniversary of You Can’t See Me, Cena decided to step back in the booth. Joined by Wiz Khalifa for two tracks, between them both we prefer “All Day.” There’s just something about the way he says “they should have never let Cena spit with Wiz Khalifa” that gets us.