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    Tuesday, June 15, 2021

    Theme Song Tuesday: And If You Didn’t Know, Now You Know!

    It's Tuesday. You know what that means.

    NXT TakeOver: In Your House 2021 has come and gone, but it's only right that we keep the spotlight on NXT. In fact, let's zoom in on a group that's on the rise for all the right reasons. Oh, what's that, B-Fab? You wanna sing yourselves into this column? Well, shit. Don't let me get in—


    If you're a regular NXT viewer, chances are you're unable to get B-Fab's sultry tones out of your head. I mean, the woman won't let you forget that she's reppin' HIIIIIIIIT ROOOOOOOOW. Hell, their entrance theme begins with her singing their name as a stinger. Even on yesterday's TakeOver broadcast, that's just about the only thing she said on-cam. HIIIIIIIT ROOOOOOOW. So what the hell? Let's feature one of the latest releases on the WWE Music YouTube channel, the brand new theme song of HIIIIIIIIIIT ROOOOOOOOOW.

    First of all, I love the idea of Hit Row being a record label and a wrestling faction. What I love about them is they doubled down on the idea that they're a record label, not a rap group. They're not like The Black Eyed Peas, or NWA, or the Wu-Tang Clan. They're more like these names, which you might already be familiar with—regardless of how big of a hip-hop fan you are. Def Jam, Shady, Aftermath, GOOD Music, OVO Sound, Roc-A-Fella Records—those are all popular hip-hop labels associated with big names. Shady is Eminem's label, Aftermath is Dr. Dre's, GOOD Music is Kanye West's, OVO is Drake's, and Roc-A-Fella was Jay-Z's. Meanwhile, Def Jam has an entire fucking roster that's also given birth to many offshoot labels.

    Going back to Hit Row Records, they're named after Death Row Records, which was founded by Dr. Dre, Suge Knight (yep, that Suge Knight), The D.O.C., and Dick Griffey. A young Snoop Dogg and the late great Tupac Shakur were among the major artists under the label during its peak in the early-to-mid '90s. That's a lot of history unearthed in the name alone, and I'm hoping that that's where the connections end because lord knows we don't need a Suge 2.0, especially in wrestling.

    Most well-known record labels are built on the name value of a co-founding artist and a big-name producer. In Death Row's case, Dr. Dre was both. If you're not too familiar with what producers do in the world of music, think of them as the director and each album/release as a movie. The producer's main job is to coordinate with the artist/s and guide them towards the sound that either the producer or the artist (or both) want to achieve. The producer can be in charge of adding musicality to a song or album, or they could be the ones directing the other musicians, so a song (or a part of a song) sounds a certain way. Tinkering with the sonic elements of the project is also part of their job. And that's just the simple version. That's what guys like DJ Khaled do. Now you know.

    That's the part that Ashante "Thee" Adonis is playing in Hit Row Records, at least based on their kayfabe. If they were in the recording studio, that makes Ashante the guy behind the console, directing the artists in the booth. Based on this vignette from a few weeks ago, it makes sense that he's the guy wearing the headphones. He could very well be multitasking, listening to individual audio elements while cutting a fucking promo. What a boss.

    Meanwhile, Isaiah "Swerve" Scott being the faction's central figure and leader, makes him the big-named artist of the label. Think of him as the Drake to their OVO. He's the face of the franchise, and he walks, talks, and acts like it.

    As for B-Fab and Top Dolla, they're the label's rising stars. Think of them as new signees that the label wants to push as their next big thing. For example, if you have a label like 88Rising, you probably know their established names like Joji, Rich Brian, and NIKI. So while 88Rising is making money off sales from their top names, they're funneling that revenue towards the push of newer signees like Chung Ha. It works similarly in wrestling factions with younger/newer talent, the same way Evolution was used to elevate a young Randy Orton and a less experienced Batista.

    What's interesting about Hit Row's members is that B-Fab is the most experienced in the music world. She's been releasing music for the better part of the last decade under the name Briana Brandy. She's got her own YouTube channel with her music, but if you want something relatively recent, here's a 2019 track she collaborated on alongside Lio Rush and Josiah Williams.

    B-Fab's actually solid on the mic, and based on their theme song alone, she can rap and sing, which is a more valuable skill combo than most realize. She comes in with the first verse on "Now You Know," and she sounds pretty basic as she goes through her four bars. Nothing complicated, but nothing mind-blowing either. It's as if she's just there to play her part, but not really to stand out other than being the group's lone female voice. But, hey, at least she got the first verse, which is the only thing that most people would hear on TV anyway.

    When the hook comes in, I'm not sure if it's Ashante "Thee" Adonis's vocals I'm hearing, or if it's Swerve's, or if it's a combination of both. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Ashante's vocals aren't on this track since he's the group's producer. And while you get hyped for the next DJ Khaled release, you aren't waiting for it to drop on Spotify's New Music Fridays to hear his voice. You're there to hear the vocals of his guest artists.

    Swerve's verse is pretty fun to hear because he comes in with a different flow than B-Fab's. He starts off with a quick cadence that really maximizes his first two bars. And then once he hits his third bar, he pumps the breaks and slows it down, as if he just realized he didn't need to give it 100%. Classic heel. Why give it your all when you can settle and get by?

    Fans of WWE's Most Wanted Treasures recognize Top Dolla best under his real name, AJ Francis. He's the de facto host of the show, accompanying the WWE legends and Hall of Famers in their Pawn Stars-like quest to reclaim their iconic memorabilia from collectors and storage units across America. As Top Dolla, the dude really leans into the fat rapper archetype that guys like Rick Ross and Bizarre of D12 have perfected in hip-hop: full voice, slow and smooth cadence.

    Overall, it's a fun little song that really showcases what the group is all about. B-Fab's "HIIIIIIT ROOOOOOW" hook is equally annoying and earworm-y enough to stay in my head all week. And each Hit Row Records member brings something to the track that really reinforces the fact that they're a record label that also happens to be a wrestling faction. So on that note, it checks the boxes. It's got a recognizable hook. It captures the group's vibe and reason for being. And it gets you hyped enough to want to see them in action. def rebel has another hit on their hands here.

    Before I end this column, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the homage to The Notorious B.I.G. in the group's catchphrase and hook. "If you didn't know... now you know" is obviously a reference to Biggie's 1994 song "Juicy." His iconic line, "And if you don't know, NOW YOU KNOW!" has become such a quotable quote that it's made its own mark in pop culture. 

    There you have it, a look at Hit Row, their entrance theme, and their connection to the larger hip-hop universe. I'm really excited to see this group's rise in NXT. As long as they're under the Black and Gold Brand, I have high hopes for what they could achieve. Here's to hoping they stay on NXT as long as possible, where they hopefully won't get shafted for a long, long time. HIIIIIIIIIIT ROOOOOOOOOOOW.

    Header image from WWE


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and the host of On Deck, as well as one of the hosts of The Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, AEW, and the occasional New Japan match.
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    Item Reviewed: Theme Song Tuesday: And If You Didn’t Know, Now You Know! Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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