Ask a rapper about wrestling with Smoke DZA
The latest edition of Ask A Rapper About Wrestling finds us in New York City, where Smoke DZA has made his name among the Big K.R.I.T.’s and A$AP Rocky’s of the world as a kingpin of pillowy, chilled-out hip-hop. DZA’s flow is lighter than air; his ear for beats consistently verges towards light-headed brass and warm keys. He’s nostalgic, but never thirsty, and it’s hard to compete with his work ethic. Seriously, how many other laid-back emcees issued a three-part record like last year’s Dream.ZONE.Achieve?
Smoke DZA is also undisputably the biggest wrestling fan in rap. Not only does he religiously keep up with the product, but also he has issued two (TWO!) wrestling-themed EPs. The latest, Ringside 2 EP, features a take on The Shield’s theme song with fellow New Yorkers Flatbush Zombies that is seriously one of the hardest things you’ll ever hear. We caught up with DZA to talk about his early love of wrestling, as well as his thoughts on CM Punk going to MMA, and how he thinks Big E and Cesaro are being misused.
Extra Mustard: How did you first start watching wrestling as a kid?
Smoke DZA: Both my parents were big fans. My mom was into Rowdy Roddy Piper and my dad loved Junkyard Dog, so it was always on at my house growing up. I’ve been watching wrestling for as long as I can remember.
EM: Were you a WCW kid or a WWF kid?
SDZA: WWF. I was a WWF maniac. I was clicking back and forth, because Hogan was my guy. He had the heel turn and was with the NWO. There was a different member every week; that was interesting, but I was always a Monday Night Raw guy.
EM: It’s an important moment in any wrestling fan’s life where they realize that pro wrestling isn’t entirely real and something called “kayfabe” exists. When did that moment come for you?
SDZA: I was always a logical child. I never believed in Santa Claus, I always knew my parents were Santa Claus. Learning that wrestling was fake wasn’t far-fetched for me, but I didn’t stop believing. Like, obviously we know what’s going on backstage now and that the winners and losers aren’t legit, but whatever, that stuff still really hurts. I’ll call it entertainment in the way a stage-show is entertainment, but there’s nothing fake about it.
EM: Let’s talk about the modern product for a bit. What do you think of CM Punk going to UFC? Do you think it’ll work out for him?
SDZA: I think it’s healthy. I think for Punk, from listening to the podcast, I think it’s something he wants to prove to himself. I don’t think it’ll be a long-term thing; I think he’ll be over there about as long as Brock was, if not less. But Punk wants to be the guy -- he calls himself The Best in the World -- he wants to go to UFC to try to be a UFC champ, and then eventually come back to Vince McMahon. It’ll be great for UFC. I’ve never purchased a UFC pay-per-view in my life, but I’ll sure as hell buy the one where Punk debuts. I want to see if he comes out to “Cult of Personality,” I want to see if Paul Heyman is there. It’s so intriguing. It’s like a shoot, like it’s going to set something up at WrestleMania 33 or whatever.
EM: How do you feel about the way the show has been booked over the last couple of months? Obviously, Brock hasn’t been around and there’s been a lot of complaints about the lack of stuff going on. Where do you stand on all that?
SDZA: I don’t like it. I’m not a Triple H fan. I enjoy his work as a wrestler, I think he’s decent, but I’m not a fan of what he’s doing with the product. I think he’s corny, I think he’s burying talent like Cesaro. I think they’re screwing around with Dolph Ziggler. I think Big E is misused. I think there’s a lot of stuff wrong with the product. But they’ll get it together. But I hear that they might be having Triple H wrestle Sting at WrestleMania and I definitely don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see Triple H at WrestleMania period.
EM: You mentioned Big E, who appeared on one of your mixtapes a while back. I think Big E has great talent, but he’s been saddled with this weird New Day gimmick that really seems to be treading water. Is that disappointing to you?
SDZA: The New Day is goofy, man. That thing is goofy. I was expecting a heel turn, I didn’t want the goofy good guys. We need a new Nation of Domination. It could makes those guys relevant. Even guys like Titus O’Neal could be involved, who’s underused right now.
EM: How’d you feel about that Stone Cold/Vince McMahon podcast?
SDZA: I was out of my seat with the interview, because it was a human McMahon, not a Mr. McMahon character, so it was no-nonsense. You weren’t gonna see a random Stunner, it was Stone Cold asking the questions people want to know. It was the best podcast I ever heard. I feel like McMahon doesn’t believe in the talent other than the John Cenas and the Randy Ortons of the world, all that homegrown talent. Which is cool, but I wanna see Bobby Roode in WWE, but because they’re into their homegrown guys that probably won’t ever happen. It’s still good; they have a bunch of ROH guys and New Japan guys, but McMahon isn’t sold on them.
It’s kinda spooky to be honest. Like “damn, if Vince isn’t sold on these guys, we’re gonna see John Cena with the belt for the next 20 years.” I don’t wanna see that. As much of a John Cena fan as I am, my kids love him like how I love Hogan, but at the end of the day, we don’t want everyone vs. Cena. It takes it back to Stone Cold against the Corporate Ministry. At a certain point, that got boring. They need to do something interesting. I don’t know, give Rusev the belt. Something interesting that really makes people want to buy the product.
EM: Are you one of the people who thinks Cena will eventually turn heel?
SDZA: Yes, he has to. They’ve farmed him out until they have another top babyface. If Daniel Bryan didn’t get hurt, I think John Cena would’ve turned heel. They only protect him because they don’t have anyone else who can do Make-A-Wish. Rey Mysterio isn’t Rey Mysterio anymore. Punk is not a Make-a-Wish guy. I can’t even think of another babyface in sight.
EM: WWE seems to want Roman Reigns to be that guy.
SDZA: I’m not sold. Roman Reigns can be a star. He’s The Rock’s cousin, he’s a sixth generation superstar or whatever. They want him to win for the legacy, but I’m not sold. I’m not into this whole Superman thing they’ve got going, it takes it back to the goofy nonsense they used to do before the Attitude Era. That Superman Punch is so corny. I’m into Ambrose and Rollins, they’re the future for sure. They’ll be fighting for the belt soon enough.
EM: Who’s your pick to win the Royal Rumble?
SDZA: I don’t know. I think Brock will lose the belt, and Cena is not in the Rumble so it won’t be Cena. I think it’ll be someone very unlikely. Or Roman Reigns, he could easily get it. They’re building him as the guy with the most Rumble eliminations and as the next big babyface. Daniel Bryan is coming back, so he might win it because he never got his run with the championship.
EM: What surprise entry would you like to see at the Rumble?
SDZA: Bubba Ray Dudley. I think the Bubba will pop up at some point. He’s an ex-WWE superstar and he’s established himself as an individual. He could come straight into the mix for the world belt and go toe-to-toe with Lesnar or Big Show or whoever. It’d be tight to see both of the Dudleyz too.
EM: Do you keep up with any indie stuff outside of WWE?
SDZA: I like Pro Wrestling Syndicate. I like Ring of Honor. But I haven’t been able to keep up with it. But I love the indie guys, I’ve got a lot of friends down there, like Chris Hero. Chris Hero is one of the best wrestlers in the world. The indie stuff keeps you grounded, it reminds you what rasslin’ is. That kid Kevin Owens in NXT, he came from ROH, I think he’s gonna be the next big thing. I like him a lot.
EM: As a wrestling fan, you end up in conversations where you have to convince people that wrestling is awesome and not The Jerry Springer Show or whatever. How do you navigate those conversations?
SDZA: For me, my passion for wrestling runs deep. I will argue with a guy over a top-5 list, or whether or not Hogan was great. You can’t expect to just watch it and get into it. I couldn’t watch Sons of Anarchy out of nowhere in the fourth season, because I’m missing out on the backstory. You have to get used to the program. I’ll start with the classics, like watching Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X-8. That will make you a wrestling fan. Next thing you know, they’re watching Raw next week and having conversations about Bray Wyatt and you’re like “oh yeah Bray Wyatt is I.R.S.’s son” and they get their mind blown. If you follow it, you’ll fall in love with it.
EM: One last thing: how do you defend Hogan to people who hate on him?
SDZA: I say Hogan is the Michael Jordan, the Wayne Gretzky, the Bill Russell, the Jerry West logo of wrestling. If it weren’t for Hulk Hogan, we wouldn’t have pro wrestling. He’s was the first wrestler on the cover of Sports Illustrated! Nobody can ever climb the mountain like Hogan has.