Mega Ran: Mat Mania

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Photo courtesy of Ballin PR

Photo courtesy of Ballin PR

Hip-Hop artists have long been fans of pro wrestling. In recent years Killer Mike and Pusha T have paid homage to “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in their songs. Thirty years ago LL Cool J named dropped Haystacks Calhoun and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in his verses. Pastor Troy frequently walked around with the World Heavyweight championship belt, the Insane Clown Posse actually wrestled for various promotions, and Snoop Dogg is in the WWE Hall of Fame.

One emcee has taken wrestling fandom in rap music to another level. Mega Ran released a nine song EP dedicated to pro wrestling titled Mat Mania: The Album. Ran incorporates elements of WWE superstar’s theme music with intricate rhymes dedicated to the characters. The project is produced entirely by Lynx Kinetic and features Doug Funnie and MURS.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Mega Ran about Mat Mania, his podcast of the same name, the Nerdy People of Color Collective, and plans for his Random Beats Music label.

TRHH: What did you think of WrestleMania?

Mega Ran: [Laughs] Man, it was a lot of fun. I wasn’t real crazy about a lot of the results. From a fans perspective they gave us what we wanted, seeing all of the older folks back was great. As far as the actual action I don’t feel like they delivered in a way that made me happy. I don’t think a lot of the storylines were settled. Overall I had a blast. Just being there was great. I lost my voice screaming. It’s always a fun time.

TRHH: What was your favorite match?

Mega Ran: My favorite match I think was Chris Jericho and AJ Styles. Those guys had a really good match. They got the crowd involved. It was a lot of ups and downs. Best of all, the result wasn’t what I expected — seeing Jericho win when AJ has kind of been on the rise. It was cool.

TRHH: A lot of people, including myself, were disappointed with that.

Mega Ran: Yeah, but you know what, they fixed it all the next day. Now AJ is the number one contender. It’s kind of crazy. It’s almost like the show didn’t mean anything because Shane [McMahon] is in power. All of the things that are supposed to be up for grabs they’re just turning them all around, which is kind of weird. It’s like they knew they messed up so let’s fix it now.

TRHH: I found something interesting that you said a minute ago about the storylines. How old are you?

Mega Ran: I’m 37.

TRHH: Okay, you’re around my age. I just turned 40. I’ve been watching wrestling since like 1984 – since I was 8 years old. I was into NWA and WCW. My buddy is about your age and he’s a WWF guy. I noticed a difference in how we view wrestling – it’s very different. He’s a storyline driven person, while I like the athletic part of it. I don’t care about the stories. I couldn’t care less about who is mad at who, I just wanna see a good match. I really liked the girls match. I thought that was pretty good. Where do you fall in that since you’re younger than me?

Mega Ran: I’m kind of in the middle. I was telling a buddy of mine that maybe I’m a little too invested overall because I do a podcast now and I kind of analyze it. It’s kind of taken the fan side of me and making it take a back seat, which is not always great. I like a good match. I don’t care what the cause is or why they’re fighting. I would love to see a really good match. That’s all I wanna see. I don’t care how they got there. I just wanna see a really fun, good match. So I’m more with you, I like good action.

TRHH: I relate. I write about basketball as well as Hip-Hop. Writing about basketball and being around players has kind of ruined the game for me. I can’t enjoy it anymore. One, it’s work, two, a lot of these guys aren’t the most pleasant people. I can’t watch a game objectively. I’m not a fan of LeBron James at all because of shit that I’ve seen him do. I know he’s the greatest player in the world, but he’s an asshole. I kind of stopped covering games. I just wanna enjoy it. Talk about the Mat Mania Podcast and how it has affected you as a fan.

Mega Ran: It’s the exact same thing when you meet guys. Most of the guys I’ve met in the early goings of this have been really cool and that’s really what made me want to do it. Not just that they were nice to me, but I saw so many similarities in the wrestling business side of it as I saw in the music game. Guys work their tail off in the indie circuit and hopefully get the chance to do some cool things. I saw so many similarities just from talking to guys and that’s what made me wanna explore it and talk about. But yeah, a lot of guys are not nice. At WrestleCon I was trying to get a word from a few people and some people just didn’t care. You mention LeBron James and it’s hard because he is the greatest in the world and everybody he meets want something from him. If you or I were in that position where everybody you met wanted something from you, you’d probably be a little bit of a jerk too. You just can’t keep up with who is genuine and who is not and it’s just not easy to do that.

TRHH: I don’t want to get off on LeBron James…

Mega Ran: Please let’s not, I’m still a fan of his [laughs].

TRHH: [Laughs] Well no, the shit that I’ve encountered with him has nothing to do with people wanting stuff from him. But I know what you’re saying, I’m sure that is a big part of his daily life and it can get frustrating, especially with the media. He’s not the only one that’s rude to the media, but whatever about him. You and Xavier Woods are cool, right?

Mega Ran: Yes. We just kind of bonded over a love of the same things – video games and nerd culture in general. I met him way before anything every really popped off with his wrestling stuff. He was doing a lot of indie stuff with Florida Championship Wrestling and he kind of sought me out looking for music. He wanted some music that reflected his nerdy side. Back then they would let him choose his own music. He searched the internet for Mega Man and found my stuff. He asked me to use one of my songs and we’ve been cool ever since then. He said, “If I ever get called up I’m going to definitely get at you about trying to do some work with us.” Fast forward 3-4 years and they’re the hottest thing on TV. It just shows that a little bit of hard work and probably a lot of luck and you never really know how things will work out. We maintain a really good friendship. Every time he’s in town we hit an arcade or go grab something to eat. I never like to talk shop with guys like that but he actually enjoys it. He likes talking about it probably to people who aren’t in it. It’s probably a bit more of a release to do that and enjoy yourself.

TRHH: That’s dope. How was doing this project different from doing your last album, RNDM?

Mega Ran: It’s like night and day. This was me taking a back seat from being so serious and just having fun exploring stuff that I love. Kind of like the old way I used to do things where I took Mega Man stuff and made a Mega Man themed album. I took wrestling stuff and basically wanted to cut promos over beats. That’s really what it was. I just wanted to cut loose, have fun, throw some catch phrases around, and have a good time. I feel like wrestling and rap is so related. I was talking to a voice actor friend of mine who does some work with Dragon Ball Z. He was like, “Why do you think there is such a connection between Hip-Hop and Dragon Ball Z?” He said, “Because it’s the same thing. It’s the same story. It’s just one is played out on animated screen.”

It’s the same story of these larger than life characters trying to get stronger and proving their toughness. That’s comic books, video games, and a lot of pro wrestling, too. I just saw that similarity there. Everybody wants to be the coolest or the toughest. Ric Flair is the best example. Every rapper wants to be Ric Flair. You want to be the coolest dude that gets all the girls and is the flyest. That swagger that Ric Flair exuded in the NWA days has been Hip-Hop for 20-30 years. That’s why I wanted to do it. I wanted to have some fun and explore some new stuff. I feel like the RNDM album that came out in the fall was very heavy. I touched on some very heavy topics – some that I never thought I’d put into records. It was very cathartic and therapeutic for me to do it, so this time I decided to have some fun and put out a record that would explore another side of me – one of my many fandoms.

TRHH: Have any of the wrestlers heard what you did with their ring entrance music?

Mega Ran: Yeah, I heard that The Undertaker wants to sue me.

TRHH: What???

Megan Ran: No, I’m just playing [laughs]. Something like that happened with the Meek Mill thing. Actually New Day heard the track and that’s really all I care about. The people that I knew, I wanted them to like it and that was mainly my concern. Xavier Woods told me he plays it for them in the car and they’re like, “Yo, this is dope!” and “How did he manage to fit every one of our catch phrases in one song? It’s cazy!” He told me he’s gonna pass it around to the other guys, get their opinions, and let me know. Hopefully they’ll dig it but that’s enough of a co-sign for me.

TRHH: That’s dope. You got MURS on the album who is also a big wrestling fan. Talk about working with him.

Mega Ran: MURS is the big homie and he’s honestly a guy that I consider a mentor in music. I’ve been listening to his records forever. I met him a couple times and he told me he appreciated my work ethic and the music that I was putting together. He found me while he was scouting artists for the Paid Dues Festival back when that was still a thing. He came across me and came out to one of my shows. Ever since then I didn’t wanna let that go. It was like, “Wow, this dude is like my hero.” His insight more than anything has been great. Now I can actually text him and ask him questions and he’ll give me detailed answers based on his experience. It’s a really great thing. Now most of the time we just talk about wrestling. When I told him I was doing the album he said, “Yo, are you doing anything about the Wyatt’s?” I was like, “Maybe.” He said, “If you are I need to be on that.” I was like, “Okay.” If the big homie said so, absolutely. So the song was actually done. I had two verses on it and we stretched it out to make space for him and he killed it. It’s always an honor to get down with people you look up to so that was dope.

TRHH: Who are your top 5 wrestlers of all-time?

Mega Ran: Man. Wow, top 5 all-time? Macho Man Randy Savage is first. Jake the Snake might be second, Nikita Koloff third, Ric Flair fourth, and a tie between Stone Cold and DDP for fifth.

TRHH: Really?

Mega Ran: I know that’s a little different probably from most, especially DDP. DDP is one of my favorites for so many reasons. Yo, I just found out that DDP just turned 60! That dude is old!

TRHH: He started at 35.

Mega Ran: He started so late and that’s what I wanted to talk about. That’s me with this music stuff. I didn’t put out my first record ‘till I was 31. Learning the game late and coming in, that was me. He’s been my inspiration for that. It’s never too late to start going hard. For that reason he’s always in my top 5. He’s one of my favorites of all-time.

TRHH: That surprised me and Nikita surprised me, but I think DDP is grossly underrated. He gets a lot of flak for being Bischoff’s friend, but he had to work the matches.

Mega Ran: He had to work. It doesn’t matter who your friend is if you can’t work.

TRHH: I thought he was great in the mid-90s era. He was really good.

Mega Ran: He was. I always loved the feud with him and Savage. It was some great stuff.

TRHH: You said you made your first record at 31, what’s your take on the sentiment that rap has an age limit on it? For years the way to diss somebody is to call them old and irrelevant. But all my favorite rappers are in their 40s.

Mega Ran: It’s nonsense. I was going to say that all my favorite rappers are “old” if you consider it old –30, 40, and they’re still dope. It’s ridiculous. People don’t even realize it. I guess it’s a certain generation that will say that but then when Jay-Z drops a new record they’re all about it. When Rick Ross drops a new record they’re all about it. The top guys are older and that’s what it is. I wish Hip-Hop didn’t have that age-ism going on. I feel like it’s kind of fading away. We’re at the point that if you make dope music you will find a group of people who will enjoy it.

TRHH: Jay-Z is a perfect example. He’s in his late 40s. Eminem is 40…

Mega Ran: He kills it every time. If Jay-Z drops a record right now I’ll be like, “Sherron, I gotta go. I gotta go get this Jay-Z record.” It’s still big news to me and it will continue to be a big deal because he doesn’t disappoint.

TRHH: You’re a comic book guy, right?

Mega Ran: I am.

TRHH: Comics, video games, wrestling it’s considered nerd stuff, but it’s all very much Hip-Hop. How do we break the stigma that these things that are so much fun are viewed as nerdy in rap culture?

Mega Ran: I feel like we’re getting there but it’s taking a while for sure. It is getting there. It’s becoming more and more okay for younger kids, especially of color, to get into things that they weren’t necessarily okay with them getting into in the past. I’m trying to do my part. I started an organization called the NPC, the Nerdy People of Color Collective, which is a group of dudes including myself, Xavier Woods is involved, former NFL players, basketball players, scholars, and rappers. People that are in desirable positions in life, but being proud of their nerdy side and talking about it. There is a website, where we collect essays from people. They get to talk about their past, explore it, and embrace it to hopefully show some little kid who looks a little different that it’s okay to do these things and be yourself. It’s okay to be yourself. Everybody else is taken so you gotta be yourself.

If everybody does their part and tries to lift up kids that you see, encourage them to read, encourage them to study, to get better at things, and to be creative we’ll slowly get there. It’s not going to be easy. This is a hard thing to break down, Hip-Hop especially. It’s rooted in that masculinity where you got to be tough. I was just telling a friend of mine that tough guy rap is dying. Tough guy rap and gangsta rap is dying. All the top guys are just regular guys – that helps a lot. To be able to look on the charts and the videos and see people that aren’t talking about killing, and this and that but being creative, being themselves, and even embracing their nerdy side. Somebody told me Drake was nerdcore and I was like, “What?” He said the video for Hotline Bling is mad nerdy. I said, “You know what, it kind of is.” He’s doing all this goofy dancing and stuff. This could never fly in the 90s. We’re from the same era so you know if this was the 90s every top group would have been dissing that.

TRHH: Yeah. I think Kanye had a lot to do with what’s accepted today. I think Puffy too, but a lot of these guys are clones of Kanye. They have their little twist to it, but Kanye changed what’s acceptable in Hip-Hop to a degree.

Mega Ran: I totally agree. He was the guy with the backpack and the Polo on who was okay with talking about materialism, God, and all the other things that he did. We thought guys like Lupe Fiasco was kind of doing the same thing. Here was a brother from the hood talking about skate boarding and giant robots. I think that he helped to pave the way, but Kanye took it to another level. A lot of guys definitely owe their career to Kanye.

TRHH: What’s next up for you musically? What are you working on?

Mega Ran: Ah man, there is no next right now, at least not for me. I’m working on getting this label off the ground. Random Beats Music is myself and K-Murdock. We’re putting out an instrumental project from my man AF THE NAYSAYER from New Orleans. Also just trying to help out other artists that I see potential in and help them get their music to a bigger stage. I got my eye on a few people. I won’t make any announcements yet. There will be a couple more releases this year but they won’t necessarily be Mega Ran releases. They’ll just be things that I’ll be working with on the background tip. There is a lot more to come – a whole lot. My man SkyBlew has got another record he’s working on. There’s a lot of cool stuff happening.

Download: Mega Ran – Mat Mania: The Album

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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