My adolescence was shaped profoundly by rap. I listened to Public Enemy, Geto Boys, NWA, Young MC, EPMD, Sir Mixalot, KRS-ONE, the Beastie Boys, and probably a dozen other rappers from about the age of 12 until I was 17. My adoption of Objectivism, my pursuit of intellectual endeavors, and my love of music were all influenced by the gangster and hardcore rap I pumped into my brain. Granted, much of the good stuff in my life was a reaction to the disgusting nature of the lyrics and the love of music leans heavily towards rhythm and speed. Influences are what they are.
Happily, I’ve lately come across a few intellectual rappers that have impressed me considerably. One of them, MC Frontalot, even calls his style “nerdcore hip-hop,” an appellation with which I completely agree and in which I delight. So this entry is about these nerdcore rappers and some of the choice discoveries I’ve found.<ol><li>MC Frontalot: He’s definitely the best of the bunch. While there’s a couple of his songs that I don’t like, the vast majority are clever, witty, and geeky. Oh, and unabashedly so!<ul><li>Message No. 419: This is probably my favorite of his many works. It’s a rap about those annoying Nigerian scam spams that everyone gets dozens of every week. Favorite line (easily): She’s the LADY MARYAM ABACHA, deposed./These days can’t even get her caps-lock key unfroze</li><li>Floating Bridge: This rap is a riff off of a PBS special about bridges and features probably the only use of the word “cantilever” in a rap song ever. Favorite line: now I’m stacking little floaters and I’m banding them together,/I could travel in this manner over water to wherever</li><li>Yellow Lasers: It’s took me something like fifteen listenings before I realized the plot of this song fully. I’ll share it with you so you can appreciate its oddity and cleverness. Girl goes to a Star Wars convention and announces that she wants to make love to someone. Everyone’s agape and Frontalot steps up to the plate. They ascend to her hotel room. Frontalot is shackled, lady gets nude. She positions herself over his face and lets loose a golden shower, the figurative yellow laser beam. Frontalot’s not “overjoyed” as you can imagine. Okay, gross, but that’s a story that you wouldn’t think could be made into a kick-ass song—and you’d be wrong. Favorite lines: she was looking for love?/had to call her bluff, lady you don’t mean how that sounded/(the thousand-pound dude in the ‘no fat chicks’ shirt’s astounded)</li><li>Which MC Was That: Here Frontalot pays lip service to the traditional hip-hop dissing of other MCs except that he disses non-existent MCs. I envy his wordcraft and geekiness. Favorite lines (for their geekery): and whoever guessed closest wins a nine-sided die/and a gift certificate to fry’s/yo the moniker is MC Frontalot/I got a +1 bag of nerdcore hiphop/and my mail list busted a hundred so I’m famous</li><li>Indier Than Thou: Frontalot, self-declared as the “world’s 579th-greatest rapper,” skewers hipsters and the indie cult. My favorite slice is when he opens a fan letter and is worried that he might be popular, but is relieved when it turns out to be hate mail. Interesting line: hipsterism is a religion to which you gotta be devout/must be seen as in between unpopular and hated/or else get excommunicated</li></ul></li><li>Tom Chi and Kevin Cheng: These cartoonists made a rap about usability called “We Got It” that is seriously geeky. It could only be geekier if it involved code.</li><li>MC Hawking: Imagine the wheelchair-bound astrophysicist Stephen Hawking re-conceived as a gangster rapper and you’ve got MC Hawking. He’s at his funkiest with “What We Need More Of Is Science” but there are some other funny ones like “All My Shootings Be Drive-Bys” and the fact that his CDs are entitled A Brief History of Rhyme and E=MC Hawking. Priceless.</li><li>MC:NP: He’s so far released only one single, “Algorithm of Love,” but it’s a good portent.</li><li>Honorable mention goes to “Weird Al” Yankovic and his parody of Puff Daddy’s “It’s All About the Benjamins” entitled “It’s All About the Pentiums”, an incredible piece of wordcraft that I would love to think started the whole nerdcore rap scene.</li></ol>