The West Newbury, Mass., native has been working feverishly — essentially giving up all his days off — for the last several months on the project, and now it’s on the verge of completion.
“I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t be ready to go by January,” Cena told WWE.com. He said the album should be available at record stores everywhere, and wherever WWE products are sold.
Cena said the idea to produce an album came to him last spring while he was working on his current theme song, “Basic Thugomonics.” The album, which is of the same name, was originally supposed to feature eight to 10 tracks, but will now be released with several more than that.
“It’s a little bit of what you would see on TV, but it’s a very hip-hop-related album,” Cena said. “It’s probably not something (fans) are going to expect.”
He added, “I want to get the message out that I really do keep in touch with the hip-hop culture.”
Cena also said that sports-entertainment remains his No. 1 priority; therefore, there are no plans for a concert tour. “As far as live performances, that’ll be few and far between,” he said.
Cena said the album brings hip hop back to its roots, which include four fundamentals: break dancing, graffiti, MCs and DJs.
The MCs on the album are Cena and his cousin, Trademarc, who Cena credits for helping him get into freestyle rapping. “He’s got a hell of a flow,” Cena says of his cousin. There’s a guest verse by Matt Hardy on one track.
Cena picked four DJs with four distinct styles. “The album is really well-rounded,” he said. “The spectrum of beats is huge.” But he added that, like old-school hip hop, every song on the album ties together; it’s not just a random collection of singles.
Cena had no record deal or distributor in place when he started the album; he’s paid for studio time and everything else out of his own pocket because the project is a labor of love for him.
One of Cena’s goals has been to shine the spotlight on outstanding “underground” hip-hop artists who currently get no recognition, which is exactly what this album does.
“I’m extremely excited about it,” he said. “A lot of people will base success of music on record sales and millions made. I already consider this project a success because everyone involved, musically, is a nobody.
“If (fans) like it and feel it, they’re feelin’ our stuff.”
The “stuff,” Cena says, is hard beats, rough MC’ing and musically diverse DJs.
To ensure that he wasn’t pressured to make the album sound more like modern day hip-hop, in which lyrical “hooks” have replaced DJ scratching, Cena made sure not to record the album at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Conn., where there was a danger of an official turning on the radio and saying, “This is top-40 rap. Play this!”
Instead, he used the Base Camp studio close to home in Lynnfield, Mass. He approached WWE officials and gave them the chance to release the album, which they agreed to do. “They’ve been unbelievably lenient” with creative control, Cena said, adding that there’s perhaps one song on the album that would qualify for top-40 radio.
“If they promote it, it’ll do well,” he said, “but at the same time, I didn’t make the album to do well.”