Last week, Kansas City hip-hop veteran Tech N9ne dropped ASIN9NE, an album featuring big-name rappers like Lil Wayne and Snow Tha Product. But the guest rhymer gaining the most attention is film star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who makes his rapping debut on the song “Face Off.”
Johnson and Tech N9ne are old friends who met a few years ago on the set of HBO’s Ballers. While recording “Face Off,” a high-energy track meant to pump up listeners, Tech knew he wanted to get a fighter to drop some bars. “And what better person? Not Conor McGregor,” Tech told Variety. “I don’t know him. I know The Rock.”
Despite being a rookie, The Rock bats cleanup on “Face Off.” First to the mic is Tech himself, who questions the relative toughness of anyone foolish enough to mess with him.
I got the hell comin' yo way (Chea)
You softer than a thing of Yoplait
Next up is Joey Cool, who’s signed to Tech’s Strange Music label. Joey name-checks a series of iconic Black leaders and thinkers in another aggressive verse linked to the song’s theme.
I am at their neck like I’m Malcolm X
Like I’m Dr. King, like I’m Cornel West
Like I’m Huey P., like I’m Booker T
Like I’m Rosa Parks, I'ma need my rest
Fellow Strange Music signee King Iso goes third and zips through a motormouth verse filled with pop-culture references. In his final bars, he cleverly nods to Kendrick “Kung Fu Kenny” Lamar’s “HUMBLE.,” off the 2017 album DAMN.
Leave a nigga humble like, “Damn” when Kenny dropped
‘Cause really we can rumble like Jackie in the Bronx
Finally, it’s Johnson’s turn. While he offered up some of his famous wrestling catchphrases on Wyclef Jean’s 2000 song “It Doesn’t Matter,” this marks his first time spitting real rhymes. Johnson picks up where his collaborators leave off and makes it clear that he’ll put the smack down on any and all foes.
It’s about drive, it’s about power, we stay hungry, we devour
Put in the work, put in the hours and take what’s ours
Tech originally wanted Johnson to simply deliver some spoken-word motivational stuff. But when the two got on the phone, they worked out a larger role for Johnson. “He’s so talented, man,” Tech told Variety. “To be able to get on a song with master MCs and be a master MC himself? Dwayne did his thing. He said he wanted to go fast like us.” The Rock apparently recorded his verse in a single take after swilling some of his own Teremana brand tequila.
“Face Off” may be The Rock’s hip-hop debut, but he’s dabbled in music before. He crooned Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” in the 2007 film The Game Plan and sang “You’re Welcome” in the 2016 animated feature Moana. “I love music,” Johnson told Variety. “Anytime in my movies when I can implement some musical elements, I always love doing that.”
You can read all the lyrics to “Face Off” on Genius now.