Dwayne Johnson Says Tech N9ne Originally Wanted a 'Rock Promo' For 'Face Off'

During a recent junket for Netflix's 'Red Notice,' box office star Dwayne Johnson explained the origin of his now-viral verse on Tech N9ne's single "Face Off."

Dwayne Johnson in Netflix's 'Red Notice'

Image via Netflix

Dwayne Johnson in Netflix's 'Red Notice'

In the middle of October, Dwayne Johnson’s official rap debut turned Strange Music co-founder Tech N9ne’s “Face Off,” taken from his latest release, ASIN9NE, into a viral smash. By the end of the month, the song became the No. 1 rap song in the country, became the No. 1 video on YouTube [Ed. Note: At the time of this writing, the music video has 14.4 million views on the Strange Music page], and became the No. 1 song on TikTok, all over a verse that originally wasn’t even supposed to be a verse.

At the end of a recent junket interview with Complex for Netflix’s Red Notice—which is in theaters now and hits the streaming service on Nov. 12—Dwayne Johnson broke down how his viral verse on Tech N9ne’s “Face Off” came to be. “Just so you know, and everybody at Complex [knows],” Johnson began, explaining that Tech N9ne originally reached out asking if Johnson wanted to be part of a “badass anthem” that already had verses from Joey Cool and King Iso. “He said, ‘I’d love for you to come in on the end and just do spoken word.’ I said, ‘In what way?’ He goes, ‘I don’t know. Maybe like a Rock promo, like if you were in WWE.’ And I said, ‘OK, cool. Let me hear it.’”

After checking out what Tech N9ne, Joey Cool, and King Iso did to the track, Johnson got inspired. “I called [Tech] and I said, ‘Look, brother, I have an idea,’” Johnson said. “‘This might be a great idea or fucking trash.’ He laughed. He goes, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘I want to try and rap this. Let me really try and attack some bars for you.’ He goes, ‘You want to do that?’ I said, ‘I would love to do that because if I just do a Rock promo at the end, I honestly feel like I’m not doing you and the boys the proper service. I really want to come in and help elevate in any way I can.’”

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That verse is a now-viral journey inspired by what Johnson has learned in his life; the same life that NBC’s Young Rock draws inspiration from. Seeing him find new ways to channel the hunger that led him to become an inspiration to the millions of kids who grew up seeing The People’s Champion dominate the competition is inspiring, especially when all roads lead to Tech N9ne.

“Tech N9ne is my boy, I’ve known him for many, many years” Johnson shared. “What I’ve admired about Tech and Strange and that whole roster is that they continue to truly make it about the hunger and the drive and the journey.” This isn't a new sentiment; Johnson has previously spoken on meeting Tech N9ne on the set of the HBO series Ballers and connecting through their approach to life. Rock said that, while there is a place in hip-hop and the culture in general for flexing what you own, he’s drawn to artists like Tech N9ne because Tech’s music is, “all about ‘it’s me against whoever’s in front of me, and I am going through you—watch this.’”

Writing the Verse

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At some point, though, Johnson’s verse had to be written. “‘I’m no writer,’” Johnson said he admitted to Tech N9ne, but he planned to pen the verse anyway. “I wrote down these words, I put them together and I said, ‘Look, go easy on me.’ He said, ‘No, these are really good,’ then he helped me with word structure and flow.”

Johnson said that while they initially “just wanted to make something that was a hype song,” that idea turned into something much more impactful. “That [idea] got us and people amped up and it was about something that was rooted in something important, right? Like, our own culture, and ‘Black and Samoan in my veins / My culture bangin’ with Strange’, man.”

Johnson, who is one of the world’s biggest box office draws, hasn’t lost sight of the importance of this particular statement resonating with so many people. “The fact that it went to number one on iTunes, number one on TikTok and YouTube, that’s such a blessing and it was so cool. I love all the heat that it’s getting, especially that verse, ‘It’s about drive, it’s about power / we stay hungry, we devour’—it’s good, man.”

Red Notice

Tech N9ne’s Dwayne Johnson-featured single “Face Off” is available wherever you stream music; Netflix’s Red Notice—which also stars Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)—premieres on Netflix Friday, Nov. 12. Expect more on that film, featuring the main cast, later this week.

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