When you hear the word ‘rap’, what comes to mind? If you’re like me, it probably falls into the category of “Shit White People Shouldn’t Attempt Without Supervision”. With the obvious exception of Eminem and a handful of others, rap is another in a long line of musical genres that gave African-Americans a voice in difficult times. It was poetic, thought-provoking, in-your-face, and one hell of a market for exploitation. It has since become a mainstream oddity, somehow becoming extremely popular in spite of its often negative and explicit nature, as modern rap seems to have a chauvinistic, wealth-obsessed bent to it. There is light in the darkness, though, as another group has seemingly risen from the ashes of what hip-hop has become, intent on guiding the socially awkward toward a deeper understanding of what it is to be a nerd, and why liking what you like regardless of social status is totally badass. I’m talking about Nerdcore, the weird cousin of the Backpack Rap genre that revels in its oddity with unflinching, unapologetic, and insanely catchy anthems of staying home on prom night or dressing up for Comic-Con. To help you, I’ve compiled a list below of five Nerdcore Rap artists that most neatly encapsulate the genre and get you started on what is sure to be an epic quest. Go forth, young Padawan.
MC FRONTALOT – Probably the most well-known Nerdcore rapper on the list, MC Frontalot is known for his disjointed, weird delivery and very old-school hip hop instrumentals. In addition to being the most well-known, he is undeniably the father of Nerdcore Hip Hop, as he coined the phrase back in 1999 with what is known as the very first Nerdcore song, appropriately titled “Nerdcore Hip Hop”. While he doesn’t get play on MTV or VH1 (Do they still have music? They have, like, shows for it now, right?) he enjoys his time on the Comic-Con circuit, playing sold out shows to houses packed with Cosplayers and Furries. Here’s Stoop Sale.
MC CHRIS – If success is measured in gigs, MC Chris is king. Another well-known artist, his songs caught the attention of Kevin Smith, who used his biggest hit, Fette’s Vette, in Zack and Miri Make a Porno. He then had MC Chris write the theme song for his podcast/concert series Jay and Silent Bob get old. Even if you aren’t aware of MC Chris, you’re probably aware of his voice and his art, which were responsible for a large amount of success garnered by Sealab 2021 from 2000-2005. In addition to being an animator for the show, he lent his voice to the character Hesh Hipplewhite. His work for Adult Swim didn’t end there, as he also voiced and performed music for the character MC PeePants on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, who quickly became a fan favorite. He had a falling out with the nerd community after booting a fan from his show, but has since gotten back on the horse, released a new album, and has begun touring again. Fette’s Vette can be heard here.
SCHAFFER THE DARKLORD – On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Schaffer the Darklord. Almost totally unknown to a mainstream audience, STD (as he is colloquially known by his fanbase) tends to write about a broader range of subject matter. Rather than focusing on specific aspects of nerd culture, he is often self-referential and self-deprecating, highlighting his problems with drugs and sexual dalliances, and how hard it has become to separate his villainous stage persona with his true self. His most recent album, Sick Passenger, highlighted how terrible his work ethic has become and features an intervention from his fellow Nerdcore MCs, his attempt to make amends with friends and family he has previously wronged, and his dissatisfaction with the dead-end career path he has chosen. This, in contrast to some previous albums, is a sharp tonal shift, as earlier songs focused on topics like the founding of Craigslist.org and Jesus becoming a zombie that preys on those who have committed atrocities in his name, while letting those who are truly good into heaven unimpeded. He is definitely a strange MC, even in such a specific subgenre, but he is no doubt one of the best around, and my personal favorite. His song The Opener is here.
OPTIMUS RHYME – Contrary to most on this list, Optimus Rhyme is a hip hop rock group, rather than a singular rapper. Very funky, very well-spoken, and crazy nerdy, they’re an older group that formed in Seattle in 2001. They were brought together before the term Nerdcore was popularized, leading many at the turn of the century to wonder, “What the fuck is this?” With the obvious affinity for Transformers, both their name and the titles of their albums reflect their geeky backgrounds. After splitting in 2008, Optimus Rhyme’s frontman, Wheelie Cyberman, a former web supervisor for Nintendo, joined Subcommuter, another rap group of similar ilk. Though their rise to fame was less-than meteoric (some would say non-existent) and the breakup was sudden, their legend lives on forever, echoing in the walls of the damned. I mean, they’re on YouTube. Go to YouTube.
FATTY – Not as active in the community as the others on this list, Fatty has the distinction of being either the best female Nerdcore artist or the only good female Nerdcore artist. Her website is fattyftw.com. I wish there was more to say, but at this juncture there isn’t much known about her. She has an incredible amount of talent, though, and a hearty, aggressive sound. Her charisma is more than warranted, though, as she is one of the most amazing lyricists, not just in Nerdcore, but overall. She’s definitely a good artist to get you pumped up for whatever the day brings. Fatty is a fantastic artist with a wealth of good music, and a welcome addition to this list. Her song ‘via Local’ can be found here.
Hopefully this’ll tide you NerdBastards over for a while, but your journey doesn’t end here. This is new territory to explore. Half of the fun in Nerdcore is finding who you like, who you dislike, and whining about it in forums. There are new rappers in this field every day, and it’s up to the nerd collective to seek them out and make them as popular as we can. Let’s rock.