Everyone knows who “Macho Man” Randy Savage is, right? Even if you aren’t a fan of pro wrestling, those damn Slim Jim commercials still resonate within our souls today. “Snap into a Slim Jim, YEEEEAAAAH!” made that crappy processed meat treat sound somewhat desirable thanks to the oddity known as Randy Savage. He was as captivating as he was peculiar. An aberration to the norm, everything about him demanded your attention.
As for fans who grew up watching pro wrestling, Savage was the bad guy you loved to hate and the good guy you adored. The funny thing about Savage is that whether he was a face or a heel, he was always the same exact character. Whether he was in or out of the ring, he was the same guy. You never caught Savage breaking character because Savage probably never believed he was a character.
It is not known if, at some point in his life, Randy Mario Poffo became Randy Savage or if the “Savage” was simply a personality trait that was suppressed through his younger years and found comfort in the eccentricities of professional wrestling.
Before the days of social media and the ever seeing eye of the internet, there was a lingering feeling that who Savage was when he was wrestling was the exact same person he was when he wasn’t. He always appeared to take everything seriously. Which is why when he decided to release a rap album, it felt like we weren’t supposed to laugh out loud in fear that he would hear us and drop that signature elbow drop on our chest cavity.
It’s not like wrestlers haven’t found themselves in the studio before. But they treated making music much like they did their in-ring persona. You didn’t take Vince McMahon’s “Stand Back” seriously, nor did you ever think that Koko B Ware was really considering a music career when he sang lead on “Piledriver.” When wrestlers did make music, it was to serve the sole purpose of becoming their entrance theme and/or to exist in a fictional wrestling universe where everyone is hip to the game (Hulk Hogan made an album too, but that deserves it’s own column).
It’s all part of the character. That is, unless you’re John Cena, because, you know, Cena can actually rap. And, not for nothing, I’m of the ilk that believes that Cena could have actually sold a few records if he wanted to be a rapper instead of a wrestler. I mean, have you heard Cena and Murs on “Hustle?” But I digress…
Savage’s personality never let on that there was an alternate universe that his music could exist in. It wasn’t made for the ring like R-Truth’s “What’s Up.” No, this was for real. Randy Mario Poffo wasn’t bullshitting with us. There were hints that Savage would do something like this back when his gruff voice punched in randomness on “Speaking From The Heart” off of 1993’s Wrestlemania: the Album (which, in a bizarre twist, Simon Cowell served as executive producer. Yes, THAT Simon Cowell).
A decade later, during Savage’s brief hiatus from wrestling, the eccentric wrestling star toiled in a few Hollywood films. He played himself in the wrestling movie “Ready to Rumble,” and kind of played himself again in “Spider-Man” as Bonesaw McGraw. But let’s face it, could Savage be anything but himself? Again, this wasn’t so much “acting” as it was someone hiring Savage’s personality and projecting it to the universe. He was simply too good to be true.
Meanwhile, the long brewing real life feud between Savage and Hogan began to pick up steam as something that actually existed outside of the squared circle. Apparently, the feud was regarding Savage’s ex-wife and ring escort Miss Elizabeth and how Hogan played a role in their separation. Once again, the lines between Randy Savage’s real life and wrestling life were blurred. In 2001 Savage challenged Hogan to a fight on pay per view, with all of the proceeds going to a children’s hospital. But Hogan declined because, well, he knew the difference between sports entertainment and real life. I mean, who really acts like their on screen personality 24 hours a day and 7 days a week? Oh yeah, Randy Savage does.
So, take all that you’ve read, ball it up and maybe you can understand why this happened…
Your eyes do not deceive you. That is 50 Cent cosigning Randy Savage’s rap album Be A Man. Don’t worry about why or for what reason Savage decided that he should get in the studio and complete a rap album. It’s really not that important and to comprehend this is to find logic in Savage’s brain. Good luck. At any rate, it wasn’t a joke because Savage doesn’t joke. He was dead ass serious and on October 7th, 2003, his album was unleashed to the universe.
Before I get into the album, you have to understand the severity of the situation. It wasn’t like Savage did this as some kind of throwaway project. He wasn’t necessarily bored one day and said to himself, “Fuck it, I want to rap for fun!” He actually wanted to be a rapper and make a career out of this. Hell, he did everything else as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, so why couldn’t he pull this off too? This commercial proves that Savage had every intention to see this album move units.
There are a few things to notice in the commercial. For whatever reason, Big3 Records decided to distribute the album. Keep in mind that 2003 was the year 50 Cent released Get Rich or Die Tryin, Outkast dropped Speakerboxx/The Love Below and Jay Z put out his supposed swan song The Black Album. What on earth possessed Big3 to believe that a Randy Savage album could capitalize off of this momentum hip hop was having is beyond me. But they found Savage to be a novelty act that could sell records or Savage did some “convincing” on his own to force them to get behind this album.
The other thing in the commercial that likely caught your attention took place at the 14-second mark. You can hear the hook from the title track bark, “Be a man, Hulk!” and for a split second you may think to yourself that he couldn’t possibly have a song dissing Hulk Hogan because that feud was, you know, scripted. But then a Hulk Hogan lookalike pops up on the screen and Savage slugs him right before you hear “Because Hulk Hogan is a real big punk!”
Yes, that happened. That really happened.
This is well before the “leak era” of music and, for the most part, if you wanted to hear an album, you had to buy it. And for the few that really shelled out coin to buy Savage’s album before you purchased any other hip hop album, I suspect that you had a lot of disposable income. Otherwise, I must question your sanity. The again, when something like this is available for consumption, sometimes you just have to throw your money in the air and say “why the fuck not?”
Scanning the track listing, there isn’t a song title that reads like anything other than a bunch of clichés rap references. “Tear It Up,” “R U Ready,” “I’m Back” and “Remember Me” are stuffed with tropes better suited for a Sugar Hill Gang album from the Golden Era rather than a new millennium rap album where rhyme schemes were a bit more complex. Again, this is Savage we are talking about though. Those song titles look like a bunch of things Savage has warbled on about during his wrestling career. Like a bunch of promo outtakes just became titles to a song. You didn’t expect Savage to really put that much thought into song titles, did you?
But wait, is that DJ Kool listed as the guest on “Hit The Floor?” The “Let Me Clear My Throat” DJ Kool? Yup, it is. Of DJ Kool’s four times he has appeared on somebody else’s project, Randy Savage happened to be one of them, along with Will Smith, Redman and Mya. So, yeah, whatever. I figure that DJ Kool met Savage and thought that when else would he get a chance to collaborate with someone of that unique stature. Trying to comprehend all of this would be against your better judgment. Don’t fight the wave, just ride it out.
For shits and giggles, let’s start out with the title track. Yes, “Be A Man” is a Hulk Hogan diss that could be considered scathing if it weren’t so bizarre to begin with. Check the technique…
They call you Hollywood? Don’t make me laugh
Cuz your movies and your actin’ skills are both trash
Your movies straight to video the box office can’t stand
While I got myself a feature role in Spider Man
Ya hidin’ man but when I find you it’s on
And when I slam ya to the dirt you’ll wish you’s never born
I smell a coward mmmm is that you Hogan
Macho’s gonna kick ya butt is the slogan
You try to ignore me thinkin’ I’ll go away
But I’m a keep on messin’ wit ya dude day after day
And once you step to Macho you’re through
The joke’s on you so Hulk what you gonna do
Probably nothing cuz you’re a real big punk
You called my dad up on the phone man you’s a chump
Cuz if you really got static take it up with me
And I’ll punk ya butt out for the world to see
Yeah, so… I guess Savage wrote that. It’s too juvenile of a verse to think that someone actually penned that for him. He strangely kept it PG with all the “butt” talk. Part of you wonders whether Savage really sat back and thought that he delivered the ultimate diss record. But, then again, this is Savage we’re talking about so why wouldn’t he think it was anything but excellence. After all, this is the guy who made colorful cowboy hats and jackets with tassels cool because he said so. If you went and tried that shit you’d likely get kicked in the groin.
Elsewhere on the abomination of an album, Savage flexes his machismo as the ladies man. Considering that he kept Ms. Elizabeth on his arm for most of his wrestling career and is long rumored to be the one to deflower Stephanie McMahon, Savage knows his way around the ladies. However, “Macho Thang” is one of those corny PG tracks where Savage skitters about talking about a chick shaking her “thang” like it’s the end of the world. Sometimes real life is better than fake life.
For the most part, Be A Man is Savage finding his way around a beat and then proceeding to elbow drop it into submission. Oftentimes, it is more difficult to tell whether the production or the lyrics take top billing for being craptastic. To suggest that Savage took a chair shot to the dome and then waltzed into the studio to record the bulk of the album is not really all that farfetched.
What’s sad is that there weren’t any “no” men in the room on either side. I can understand if you didn’t want to tell Savage that he needed to step up the lyricism. Suggesting that talking about kicking butt is so not hip hop would likely get you a double ax handle across your forehead. However, somebody should have told the producers “Hell No.” All the synths in the world couldn’t save this from being a audible disaster.
But, for all the hilariously bad moments that Be A Man delivers, nothing is more difficult to digest than “My Perfect Friend.” The flow is atrocious but the heartfelt message to the late Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig makes it difficult to trash. Strangely enough, the production and hook are the best on the album. Maybe Savage heard some boy band next door to the studio working on the song and “borrowed” it from them. Who knows? Interestingly enough, there was nothing on the album about Miss Elizabeth, who died in the home of Lex Luger five months before the album released. Surely, there would be mention of her on the next album, if there ever was one.
Savage’s attempt to be the first successful rapping wrestler undoubtedly came up well short of his expectations. The album bricked and didn’t move 10k copies even though he toured with Bryan Adams (WWE’s Crush) as his bodyguard and Ron Adams of Disciples of Apocalypse fame as his tour manager. If that wasn’t a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.
At any rate, a second album was being recorded but never released. Savage returned to the ring in 2004 with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. But his health was no longer on his side and he soon departed from the business for good after a year. Ironically, the injury that pushed him out of the business was from being monkey flipped numerous time on the set of “Spider-Man” during a scene where he was acting like a wrestler. Unlike most wrestlers, when Savage was gone, he was gone. Seldom seen or heard, Savage remained in isolation for several years. After his father passed in 2010, Savage made it a point to let go of all the anger he had holstered in his soul. He married Barbara Lynn Payne in May of 2010 and buried the hatchet with Hogan during a chance meeting at a hospital where Savage was taking his mother for her electrocardiogram.
On May 20, 2011, Savage lost control of his Jeep Wrangler while traveling down Florida State Road 694 and crashed into a tree. His wife was in the passenger seat and had offered to drive, noticing that Savage was feeling ill, but Savage got behind the wheel anyway.
According to the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s office, Savage died of an enlarged heart with severe atherosclerosis of his coronary arteries. The car crashing into the tree was just a byproduct of the heart disease that caused his heart to stop beating.
The always eccentric and never yielding Savage was gone. One of the most recognizable figures in all of professional wrestling left the planet at the age of 58. He left us with ever lasting memories of his in-ring brilliance, a personality that could sell a disgusting processed meat and a rap album.
Savage didn’t need to “Be The Man” because he certainly was the man.