If you ever have the pleasure of hanging out with me for more than about an hour at a time, chances are I’ll play you some of my favorite “nerdcore” rappers (though that may be a misnomer for some of them). I usually start off easy with MC Lars, a guy who skates between nerdcore, parody, and sometimes just plain old fun songs, whom I’m happy to call my friend. After that I might drop some of the original nerdcore rapper on you with some MC Frontalot, then try to branch you out a bit into other realms of underground hiphop (that sometimes happens to have nerdy lyrics) like Schaffer the Darklord, K. Flay, Optimus Rhyme, and many others.
The aforementioned MC Lars put up a blog post tonight saying nerdcore as it was originally conceived is dead or dying, and it’s up to new musicians (and those currently making songs out of life) to come up with the next big thing.
As with any genre, if you want to last, you have write songs that affect people in an emotional way and have an interesting live show and be very savvy with your business. What came up were hundreds of Myspace sites with kids rapping over Nintendo samples about Star Wars and how they couldn’t get laid. Nerdcore has been declining in popularity and notoriety because, to be quiet honest, its appeal as a genre outside of a select few people is ultimately finite. The Ramones and the Sex Pistols had an aesthetic that changed music forever, Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash perfected the art of the breakbeat and changed the party vibe by creating a context for funky beats to be played for hours with no gaps. It wasn’t until punk evolved into the post-punk of bands like Joy Division and Public Image Limited that it became interesting again and it wasn’t until the of the breakbeat and production were reinvented by guys like Dre that hip-hop began to evolve musically. Not to oversimplify things, but music evolves when people realize that it’s time for something new, and that time for nerdcore hip-hop is now.
It’s a really cool essay on music and musicians and a lot of what he says can be applied to the evolution of creative works in general. He also lets you know who else you should be listening to that’s pushing music forward right now, and who you should go to for a little hip-hop education.
Since initially being introduced to the genre and its close siblings wow, 5 or 6 years ago now, I’ve seen it change quite a bit. Lars isn’t wrong, there are a lot of pretenders and copiers, but there are also people taking the Do-It-Yourself ethics and nerdy storytelling that nerdcore was built on and doing it in fresh new ways; some are even taking it back outside the realm of hiphop, from Jonathan Coulton to Kirby Krackle, there are people out there putting out great, new music in great, new ways, that happens to appeal largely to us of the nerdy persuasion.
So go give MC Lars’ post a read, then give a listen to some of these guys, then if you’re so inclined, go out and make some tunes yourself (and feel free to post them here).