Very few cats outside of wrestling wear their love of it on every inch of their sleeves the way the Griselda crew does. They show up at events, take flicks with your favorite wrestlers, and Westside Gunn flirts with the idea of becoming the next Vince McMahon. Gunn, Conway the Machine, and Benny the Butcher laced their music with odes to a lot of wrestling for the past few years. So much so that in 2019, Gunn released Fourth Rope, a mixtape of their wrestling-related joints. While it’s only the tip of what is now a massive iceberg in their catalog, Fourth Rope is a love letter to wrestling fans. It’s also one of the best cross-promotion tools for the business of the last decade.
For anyone unfamiliar with how Gunn, Conway, or Benny get down, skepticism regarding the quality of said mixtape is understandable. When hip hop and wrestling let their powers combine, the results are often mixed at best and piss poor at worst. Sure, WWF Aggression is a thing that happened, but outside of maybe three songs, it reeks of inauthenticity. Most of it feels like someone drew names out of a brown paper bag and matched wrestlers with artists with little to no business being together.
When juxtaposed with anything on Fourth Rope, it’s not so much night and day as much as it’s night and a day 10 years into the future. As a crew, Griselda has the uncanny ability to make anything feel honest; they genuinely love professional wrestling. That said, they never go out of their way with references. No lines about putting people in figure fours or piledriving the competition; no lines so cliche Stevie Wonder could see them coming from five miles away. Instead, Gunn and Conway refer to themselves as rap’s Hall and Nash who “flip coke like Rey Mysterio,” and Gunn wants to “cross-face the game like Bob Backlund.”
The music honors their favorite wrestlers or matches by creating a theme song or an aura. “Elizabeth” just feels like entrance music for the late First Lady of wrestling. The rhymes aren’t about Miss Elizabeth, just like “Rvd” isn’t about the guy you think it’s about, nor his favorite pastime. Hip Hop is a genre where song titles and song content don’t have to be in the same ballpark. They don’t even have to be in the same league, much less the same sport. It’s truly what the artist felt or what was on their mind for more than a couple of seconds. “R.I.P. Bobby” doesn’t detail the man’s career, yet it still honors a guy for whom Gunn and Conway obviously have great affection.
Rappers aren’t without their quirks. Every now and then, there’s a dichotomy that may do a number on your psyche. “Vader” samples Road Dogg’s vocals, and the previously mentioned “Rvd” throws in a Goldberg promo for…I don’t know, basketball reasons? It works because wrestling, too, isn’t without its eccentricities. The Fiend and Alexa Bliss do their horror thing on the same show R-Truth, and an assortment of wrestlers reenact Bugs Bunny cartoons. Plus, Dynamite featured a 61-year-old man taking a powerbomb and living to tell the tale. If you can go with that, then you can go with anything.
Hip Hop’s Midas touch is making things dope by association. Whether it’s fashion, slang, or apparently even ghostwriting, a rapper’s seal of approval can make trends so fly they should come with their own oxygen masks. Griselda’s approach makes wrestling cool to the uninitiated merely because they’re talking about it. They’re putting a new generation on to people like Gorilla Monsoon and Mr. Perfect. They’re showing love to Finn Balor, so people who write about Hip Hop for a living now have to google his name to research what the fuss is about.
Griselda is attempting to put those who tuned out when Austin’s beer dried up, and The Rock took his eyebrow to Hollywood on a first-name basis with the current product. There’s no corporate synergy involved, no cynical cash grabs, and there’s no whatever this was supposed to be. They talk about it cause they love it, and that love is contagious. So much so, even Drake rocked a Razor Ramon t-shirt. It’s not exactly on the level of making fetch happen, but it still deserves a round of applause or two.
If you’re a fan or hearing the music for the first time, what say you, Cagesiders?