Dwayne Johnson is a man who’s good at a frankly absurd number of things; wrestling, weightlifting, getting film projects green-lit, and of, course, being a movie star—something he ranks among the very best in the world at doing.
Among the rare deficits in the Johnson skill catalog, though, is music; his single song on the soundtrack of 2016's Moana, “You’re Welcome,” is energetic enough, but you’re mostly getting carried along there by the melody, and the sheer weirdness of hearing The Rock sing a song. Beyond that, Johnson’s discography is more-or-less blank.
But, then, you don’t get to be Dwayne Johnson without treating essentially every single thought that crosses your mind with the same degree of horrifying, mesmerizing, apparently indefatigable passion that he already brings to lifting weights or pretending to jump off buildings or terrifying us with hints about an eventual presidential run. And so we are forced to come to terms tonight with “Face Off,” a new song by rapper Tech N9ne, that features, among contributions from other artists, a rap verse written and performed by Dwayne Douglas Johnson himself.
It is extremely funny.
Now, some of this unintentional comedy is not, strictly, Johnson’s fault. Tech N9ne—who Johnson is an established fan of, having met him years ago on the set of Ballas—does his buddy the probably unintentional disservice of placing him last in the line-up of verses, following Tech himself, plus Joey Cool and King Iso.
The effect, then, is of steady acceleration in the flow of the song, with King Iso, especially, delivering lines so fast that they pick up the staccato beat of a snare drum. The sudden switch to The Rock—rapping reasonably credibly, but not especially swiftly, and in a voice that can only be The Rock’s—is a juxtaposition that cannot be properly handled by the human brain without a sudden snort of laughter.
Still, Johnson isn’t exactly blameless, either, especially since he—multi-faceted entrepreneur that he is—can’t resist getting in a plug for his personal tequila brand during the song itself. (It also pops up repeatedly in the Variety story on the song’s release, which has heavy “We have negotiated the terms of this conversation to the tiniest decimal point” energy.)
It’s also very funny to see and hear the world’s largest movie star (figuratively and otherwise; dude looks massive with his recent Black Adam bulk) demand “What’s my mother fucking name?!” while standing in front of a bunch of pictures of charging bulls, running endlessly in a fashion we can only describe as “Dwayne Johnson-esque.”. There is no subtext. Subtext is dead. It has been drowned in the Rock’s endlessly mentioned, endlessly flowing tequila.
Hilariously, Tech reveals in that same interview that he did not ask Johnson to rap; he approached him to just do some inspirational spoken word stuff at the end of the song, which is meant to feel like a big, dramatic fight anthem. But then, “We got on the phone and structured it. He’s so talented, man. To be able to get on a song with master MCs and be a master MC himself? Dwayne did his thing.” (And, seriously: What would you do in his shoes? Try to say no?)
Johnson also noted, in passing, that his favorite genres of music are “hip hop and blues and outlaw country music,” so, yeah, we gotta ask: Album when?