Ready to feel old? You Can’t See Me, John Cena’s gold-selling rap album, came out 10 years ago yesterday. That’s right, Cena’s professional rap career is now a decade old. You Can’t See Me was actually a joint effort with Cena’s cousin Tha Trademarc (real name Marc Predka), who now works for the Peace Corps if Wikipedia is to be believed. In celebration of this very weird piece of nostalgia, I’ve decided to rank the tracks on the album from worst to best. After all, if the internet has taught me anything, it’s that internet nerds talking about hip-hop are basically guaranteed page views.
17. “Right Now”
Choice Lyric: “It’s okay to be hard and stay true man / But at the end of the day, we all human”
Oh boy. Right from the Michael McDonlad-esque synth intro (syntro?), you know this is going to be a mess. This is trying to be one of those laid-back “life is good” jams in the vein of “It Was a Good Day” or “Young, Wild & Free,” but it ends up sounding like Cena is scrapbooking or something. I mean, if you’re a fan of rap songs that tell you to call your parents and patch things up with them, knock yourself out.
16. “What Now”
Choice Lyric: “And when it pop off, we not soft / We like the Bentleys, y’all just the Chrysler knockoffs”
Is this song even about anything? Does it even exist? I listened to it a few times, and literally nothing made an impression on me, positive or negative. It’s slow, it’s weak, and the lyrics are literally saying nothing. Did I dream this? Where’s my totem?
15. “Don’t F*ck With Us”
Choice Lyric: “We into big things, bank account’s overgrown / All types of cheese – Swiss, cheddar, provolone”
Whoa there, John! An expletive right in the title? Maybe this was the sign that Ruthless Aggression was out, and TV-PG was being ushered in. This one is just unremarkable. You can tell from the title that Cena wants this to go hard, but the beat that he claims is a neck-breaker is every bit as weak as the rhymes. Remember when everyone on the roster was calling him a poser? Yeah, this doesn’t help.
14. “Running Game”
Choice Lyric: “Y’all got no flow, we be makin’ hits / You like a proctologist, you feelin’ my shit”
In case you were wondering if it’s possible to construct an entire rap song out of bad jokes and innuendo, John Cena has proven that the answer is a resounding “Yes.” He references Mean Gene Okerlund and Notorious B.I.G. here, proving that he respects neither his elders nor the dead. Honestly, he could have just called this “Cleverly Asking for BJs.”
13. “Summer Flings”
Choice Lyric: “That’s when she said she live right down the street / She love white chocolate, well I got somethin’ sweet”
Again, the punchline is “John Cena wants to have sex with women.” That’s it, that’s all you get here. I have to wonder what Nikki Bella thinks of the “I’ll f*ck for seven days, but stand for one night” line. This is really just the same song as “Running Game,” but with slightly less embarrassing lyrics. Slightly.
12. “Know the Rep (feat. Bumpy Knuckles)”
Choice Lyric: “It’s gas on the fire, any time a track blaze / Squad known to beef up the heat, just like the Shaq trade”
Minimal presence from Cena here, as Bumpy Knuckles and Tha Trademarc are doing most of the lifting. I like the beat, but they’re not really saying much outside of “We are tough rappers and we are better than you.” John somehow sounds like he’s out of breath in the booth. He’s 15 songs into the album at this point, maybe he’s gassed.
11. “This Is How We Roll”
Choice Lyric: “Throw me a whore and call me Kobe cause you know that I’mma beat the case”
Jesus, John. Abraham Washington got fired for the same thing, what were you thinking? This is just another weak beat punctuated with “I am awesome and I own awesome things” lyrics. However, it isn’t the Florida-Georgia Line song of the same name, so consider my blessings counted.
10. “Flow Easy (feat. Bumpy Knuckles)”
Choice Lyric: “Curse a fool like the Red Sox, we tighter than headlocks”
Have you seen your headlocks, John? They’re nothing to write home about. Again, this song is mostly Bumpy Knuckles and Trademarc, with Cena only throwing in a verse right at the end. It’s a very brag-heavy track, but like so much else on this album, it feels like it’s pretending. Trademarc’s verse referencing pedophiles and abortion clinics doesn’t help the case.
9. “Make It Loud”
Choice Lyric: “So clap your hands while we let the sax blow / Not quite Krispy Kreme, but we came to stack dough”
You know why this track almost works? Because it’s clearly John Cena (The Wrestler) on the microphone, not John Cena (the actual person). I mean, it starts with a sample of Cena himself at Monday Night Raw. I don’t think even Kanye West is at a point where he’s sampling himself yet. It’s one giant pat on his own back, but it’s almost parody at this point, so it doesn’t feel 100 percent ridiculous. The beat could use some work; I like a Sly and the Family Stone ripoff as much as the next guy, but as the background of a song that’s meant to be a club jam, it weakens the product.
8. “Beantown (feat. Esoteric)”
Choice Lyric: “Ain’t too many kids that flow better than me / Roll thick like Yaz’s sideburns in ’73”
Yes, that is Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” they’re using for the beat on this track. Let it sink in. Anyway, this one is Cena realizing “Hey, there aren’t any rap songs about Boston” and then cramming a track full of more Patriots/Red Sox/Celtics references than you ever thought possible. I googled “Boston rappers” after listening to this song, and I didn’t get a whole lot in return. I could’ve sworn MC Paul Barman was from Beantown, but it turns out that he’s a Rhode Island guy.
7. “If It All Ended Tomorrow”
Choice Lyric: “So when I ride on the Grim Reaper highway / No regrets, bitch, I did it my way”
Ah, that memorable banger from the end credits of The Marine. For the most part, this works. It’s a somewhat low-key look at mortality, which is a lot to process from a guy who is literally invincible. I think Cena’s verse is retelling the events of the movie, but it’s been a while since I watched it and my memory is failing me. All I remember is Robert Patrick being very hard to kill, but Terminator 2 taught us all that lesson many years prior.
6. “Chain Gang is the Click”
Choice Lyric: “Y’all think we lucky, that ain’t nothin’ new to me / ‘Cause luck is preparation lockin’ heads with opportunity”
This is the “All Business” track on the album. No punchlines, just rhymes. It’s still a little hard to take seriously coming from the walking self-caricature that Cena has become, but I guess I can respect the effort. The moments where he’s yelling into the microphone about raining fire like Apache helicopters kind of make you yearn for his long-forgotten days as a heel.
5, “Keep Frontin’ (feat. Bumpy Knuckles)”
Choice Lyric: “I f*ck like a fiend, fiend, fiend with three dicks”
This is one of the strongest beats on the album, but you do have to remember that it’s all based on a Big L sample. Bumpy Knuckles and Trademarc turn in decent verses, but Cena’s the weak link here. It sounds like he’s trying to make some kind of hip-hop nursery rhyme on a track where everyone else is actually attempting to go hard.
4. “The Time is Now”
Choice Lyric: “I got my soul straight, I brush your mouth like Colgate”
It’s pretty tough to judge this one on its own merits, considering that this track is just as much a part of Cena as his brightly colored shirts. It heralds the arrival of the guy who’s going to win the next match, and it sounds downright odd without a shouted “John Cena sucks” chorus from the unofficial choir of whichever city is hosting Monday Night Raw. How do you even begin to judge a song that’s more meme than theme? It lives and dies entirely by your opinion of Cena, which is why it hangs in the upper-middle echelon for me.
3. “Just Another Day”
Choice Lyric: “Beef I don’t sweat it, sleep I don’t get it / I remember your face, it’s just your name, I forget it”
There are two things you’re not expecting from this song. The first is introspection. Verse one is a pretty honest reflection on Cena’s success, asking himself if his critics are right and if he truly deserves his place at the top of the sports entertainment world. The second thing you’re not expecting is unintended comedy gold. Cena’s verse of glamor and extravagance is immediately countered by a verse from Trademarc detailing his life as the poorest rapper in the world. Then they trade lines at the end, with Cena booking private flights and Trademarc complaining about how public bus seats hurt his ass. It’s amazing. It’s like a Jay Z track featuring Ted from Scrubs.
2. “We Didn’t Want You to Know”
Choice Lyric: “Still walk tall with a staggered stance / Plus I hold on the club like I was Bagger Vance”
I won’t lie, I think I genuinely like this one. Yes, it’s basically Cena channeling Cypress Hill and making “(Rock) Superstar” without the guitars, but it works. It’s Trademarc and Cena at their least cheesy, which is still cheesy, but tolerably so.
1. “Bad, Bad Man (feat. Bumpy Knuckles)”
Choice Lyric: “Shocked the world, now I’m standin’ alone / I flip fools like them clamshell cellular phones”
Danielle has already touched on the “Bad, Bad Man” music video here. Much like her, I enjoy this one. Cena’s contribution is pretty light, but maybe we can argue that’s for the best? Whatever the case may be, this is one of the rare tracks on the album that sounds like everyone in the studio was having fun. We need more fun songs! And we needed more music videos with Gary Coleman, but alas, that ship has sailed. Also, I agree with Danielle, Trademarc’s “knee-slapping” line totally makes this a Young Bucks diss track.