Cryme Tyme: Monday Night's Alright For Fightin'
Im amped up way more off TV than on it. They actually have to pull me back a little bit because if I was the way I am in my normal life on TV, the FCC would be all over wrestling, he points out. He and his tag-team partner Jayson JTG Paul are known collectively as Cryme Tyme, wrestling as part of the WWEs Monday Night Raw roster. Both members have wanted to be in the WWE since they were young and while they started by focusing on opposite ends of the necessary skill set (Shad studied fighting, JTG was more into acting), they both rounded out their abilities over time and had a fairly quick road to television.
I dont wanna sound like Im bragging but I knew I was gonna make it, says JTG. That was a good motivator; I didnt have a back-up plan, I didnt have anything else to fall back on. I had to make it my first time. The mere fact that they made it to the national stage puts them miles ahead of the majority or professional wrestlers who are never able to quit their day jobs, though there have been some rocky spots over their WWE career. From the beginning, their characters were met with controversy over whether or not their portrayal as thieves and street thugs reinforced the worst stereotypes about African Americans.
The duo have managed to take that all in stride though, believing that ultimately, theyre just having fun in a business thats inherently over the top. Their characters are of teir own design and they have no intention of making any changes. It may be extra trouble wrestling in Timbs, but JTG doesnt seem to mindafterall, you cant be in the streets rocking wrestling boots.
HipHopDX.com: When do you decide to pursue a career in pro-wrestling?
JTG: I always wanted to be a wrestler but I didnt know how to go about it. Growing up in Brooklyn, everyone was like, I wanna be a basketball player or I wanna be a football player, so I just used to tell people I wanted to be an actor. I do love acting, but I knew what I really wanted to do.
Shad: My father started training me for boxing around five, I started martial arts when I was eight and amateur wrestling when I was about 10. As time went on, it seemed like a natural thing for me to do. I was working as a bodyguard, [MTV/WWE reality show] Tough Enough came along. I made the show but was eliminated after the qualifying round because there was a mix-up with my blood work and they thought I had Hepatitis C when it was actually a different contestant on the show. Later on, I was contacted by [WWE official] Dr. Tom Pritchard and recruited.
DX: There are a lot of people in the WWE right now that participated in Tough Enough at some level but looking back, it seems like the so-called losers have had longer careers than the winners
Shad: Funny, I actually just had dinner with [first season winner] Maven last night. Remember, this is an industry that puts a lot of pressure on you and when you do a reality show like Tough Enough, youre basically told sink or swim. I still talk to all of them, theyre still my friends. Maven did well for a long time and pretty much kept his head above water. With Linda once you get in this business, you really have to love it or you kinda fizzle out. We travel all the time and we entertain constantly so its easy to get burned out.
DX: Did you play other sports in school?
Shad: In my family, were all fighters and were all intellects. We come from the West Indies, my father was a boxer and everyone on my moms side of the family boxed and kick-boxed as well. When we used to do it, it was called Nobles Bar Fights and Mixed Martial Arts.When it came to America, it was no holds barred and people thought it was like a human cockfight. There were no weight classes, no gloves.
DX: What was it like having to transition from shoot fighting to pro-wrestling?
Shad: The training regimen for MMA and pro-wrestling is similar so that wasnt too hard, but in pro, you get a little more hurt. With wrestling, you have to work to protect the guy youre in the ring with but not in MMA. In that small instance where youre tying to protect the guy, you can easily hurt yourself. In MMA, you just go all out and try to hurt the guy so if youre doing it right, you dont really get hurt as much.
DX: Youre both from Brooklyn and trained in the same camps in Kentucky and Floridadid you know each other before hand of was that just a coincidence?
JTG: It was a coincidence. When I started off doing the character I use now, I was put in a tag team with this other guy but he had some problems and ended up quitting wrestling. I went as a singles wrestler for a little while until [training coach] Al Snow got the idea to stick us together and it just kinda took off.
DX: How did you develop the characters that you play on TV?
JTG: The characters came from my Shad; I didnt want to do it at first. He wanted to mix a bunch of mainstream Hip Hop artists. I was like I dont know if I want to do it, its very stereotypical but he sold me on it and the characters got over with the creative team.
Shad: When we went into [WWE Chairman] Vince McMahons office to tell him about it, he immediately liked the idea but he already knew there were gonna be people out there that are too sensitive to this. There are some people who think that if something doesnt hold African Americans up to the best light its automatically bad but its not true; people need to learn to relax and laugh at themselves sometimes.
JTG: We brought the characters to the table so I ddint feel any sorta way. It wasnt them coming to us and saying, We want you to be gangsters and thugs, they just liked what we did.
DX: A lot of people have in fact complained that your act enforces negative stereotypes in an industry that already has a dicey history with race. How do you react to that idea?
JTG: What we do on TV are characters. We dont go out and steal; thats our characters on TV. Its humor... we take what people see as negative and we make fun of it. Thats what Americas all about. We explore it to show people they dont need to be sensitive about it.
Shad: Im not even really African-American, myself; Im Haitian. Either way, people ask me about that all the time and I always ask them like, Do you know anyone like me from your family or from your neighborhoods? Theyre like, Well, yeah but but thats all there is to it. If you know five guys just like me, then its not about portraying stereotypes. Im just portraying who I am.
DX: What are you listening to on your iPods with all the down time you have when traveling and waiting around backstage?
JTG: My iPod keeps me really busy, but other than that, I love reading autobiographies of other wrestlers. My favorite album is Jay-Zs Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life, but probably my favorite rapper is Fabolous [click to read]. Im a big fan of Fab because of his metaphors.
Shad: Honestly, I listen to everything. People think Im lying about this, but I actually do listen to country music. If you listen to some of Johnny Cashs songs, hes got some bad lyrics. Im an old-school Hip Hop guy. I love LL Cool J, Dr. Dre, Biggie, 2Pac as for the guys coming up now, I like T.I., Ludacris... I like hard-hitting Hip Hop. A lot of the bubblegum shit thats out now, I cant listen to it. Whats that one JTG likes? Get Silly" [by V.I.C.] You ever heard that song? For real, thats just the most herb
DX: The WWE has a couple of wrestlers who rap on the show right nowtrue of false; John Cena is a dope emcee?
Shad: You know what? People think Im lying but John Cena can rap his ass off. Hes good with words, he thinks off the top of his head, hes got a quick wit... Ive seen him drop rhymes on people to shut them up.
JTG: Yeah, hes pretty damned good. Ive heard him freestyle.
DX: John Cena is on Monday Night Raw, meanwhile theres R-Truth on Friday Night Smackdowntrue or false; R-Truth is a dope emcee?
JTG: Uh I never heard him spit. His theme song is pretty good though
Shad: Theyre both my friends, but to keep it real, I think John is better. [Laughs] There hasnt a battle yet but were trying to get the endorsements so we can have the pay-per-view backstage battle because were gonna sell tickets out for that one.
DX: JTG, you used to rap a little bit in high-school and thats obviously been a successful avenue for other people in the WWE. Is there any desire to incorporate that into your own gimmick?
JTG: Maybe, but right now thats out of my mind. I could pull it off if I got my mind focused and wanted to do it but its not a priority right now.
DX: Almost every wrestler in the WWE has been in and out of the promotion multiple times over the years. You two are both on your second time around after being released from your contracts once already. What do you plan on doing differently this time?
JTG: The first time, it was like stepping on eggshells. I was quiet, silent. Im trying to have a little more fun, because when I have more fun, the crowd has more fun.