A thought occurred to me today, and as much as I try to avoid such activities, I was forced to think about it for a while as I perused the aisles of my local grocer. The debate about the branding of “nerdcore” is hardly new, but for the longest time I was a blind supporter of what I considered to be a movement. Mind you, I was only 18 years old when I made my first track and just 19 or 20 when two groups of people said, “we want to put you in a documentary about the kind of music you make!” So it’s possible that I’ve been naive, but it’s just as possible that I’m a forward thinking man of the future! A future where I kick it with my homie J. Biebs in our palatial Hollywood estate as we watch Doc Pop win a Grammy for “iPad Album of the Year.” Yes. In my future, not only does Justin Bieber change his name to J. Biebs, but we also share a home in California. Also by this point he would have gone through a rough puberty phase, but he’s able to bounce back as a producer, Rico Suave style. Also there are a bunch of albums being made entirely on mobile devices and Doc has been deemed their most cherished.
Anywho, back to my main point. The question I posed to myself was this: Is nerdcore more like Heavy Metal or Christian Rock? Metalheads and atheists, please relax. I’m not speaking in regards to style or content, but more in terms as how they relate to the overall field of rock music. Metal is a legit genre of music. I know this because iTunes has a whole metal section. Christian & Gospel show up on iTunes as well, but that banner collects all forms of Christian music including rap, rock, gospel, r&b, pop, ect. So is nerdcore like Metal? A form of music influenced but its predecessor, then taken in a different direction? Unified by not only content, but by themes, motifs, tone, mood, and other words that roughly mean, “what it sounds like”? Or is nerdcore like Christian rock? Questionably influenced by music, but more so by the need to connect with like minded listeners who appreciate references? Supported by a loyal fanbase prone to value lyrical content above song quality and originality? Forever to be considered a niche “genre”?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are a lot of Christian rock bands that put quality above all else. I’m sure there are bands that would fill my iPod if I wasn’t put off by the content of their lyrics. But then I remember P.O.D used to be a Christian band, but once they stopped rocking out about the Lord, they reached mainstream success. I’m also positive that there are Metal bands that suck ass. But my issue isn’t with the merits of two forms of rock, but rather with one weird version of hip-hop.
Nerdcore’s relevance has been on my mind a lot recently. Donald Glover aka Community’s Troy Barnes, aka the gay inner-city high school graduate from 30 Rock, aka the dude with a bag full of black dildos bathed in Axe body spray from this Derrick video, aka rapper Childish Gambino recently came out with a free EP elegantly titled The EP, wherein he makes the following rhyme:
“I’m rapping about everything I go through
Everything I’m sayin, I’m super sayin (Saiyan) like Goku”
Pretty nerdy rhyme right? It’s not like Jay-Z spouting out rhymes about Spider-Man or the Batcave. You’d be hard pressed to find a rapper outside of my genre that would ever think to reference Dragon Ball Z, let alone so creatively. Mr. Gambino then immediately follows up this line with two words that make me hurt a little inside.
He then goes onto say..
Fuck rap cool
I make cool rap.”
What I hate most is how well he delivers these lines. They stand out in such a way that if you have no frame of reference as to what nerdcore or backpack are, you still pay attention and appreciate the breakdown. You feel what he feels. Nerdcore, backpack, and “rap cool” are all things that we the listeners should disapprove of.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m a fan of Donald Glover. As a fan, I’ve watched his career climb from the vids he (and the Derrick group) put up on YouTube before the days of partnerships and ads, to becoming a writer on the best comedy show made in the past ten years, to co-starring in one of my favorite TV shows ever. I understand why he doesn’t like the label associated with people like me, most likely because it is associated with people of like me. Personally, it’s getting harder and harder to defend nerdcore against people I’ve looked up to and admired for years. mc chris. MC Lars. Jesse Dangerously. And now Childish Gambino. CG even did a track with mc chris, which gave me hope for just a small while until I realized the only thing it means is that two talented people who might have bumped into each other at the UCB Theatre decided one night that they needed to hook up for a track. Maybe they talked about their thoughts on music. Maybe they discussed nerdcore’s merits against its faults. Or maybe they simply agreed that, “nerdcore is so dumb.” Then they probably laughed and high fived and moved on with their lives.
I’ve been having a musical identity crisis to say the least. I don’t know who’s wrong. I don’t know who’s right. There’s a reason you look up to certain people. When those people publicly disapprove of, and in some cases attack an idea or concept or even something tangible that you value, how do you not question your own beliefs? For as long as I’m writing songs about my feelings towards girls as they relate to pinball machines, I will rep the banner of nerdcore. But it’s hard right now to say I will represent proudly, when the artists you strive to emulate call what you do and the people you work with a joke. An embarrassment. A gimmick. Exploitive. Nothing more than a niche offering for people who know nothing about “true hip-hop”. If Frontalot rhymed less like an English professor and more like Nelly would we be closer to the mainstream? If I could rap circles around Talib Kweli, would nerdcore gain cred? If ytcracker rapped exactly the same but ditched all computer references would we as fans of nerdcore even embrace him? If Biggie had rapped a few more bars about his Nintendo and Sega Genesis, would we have more than just the Beastie Boys to point to as our geeky forefathers?
Or should we just say fuck it and just like what we like without worrying about labels?
I’ve been told that is impossible.
However, there are more important things happening in the world right now. The Middle East is somehow worse than when Bush was in office, Japan is in ruins, our country is run by the same corporations that run Nascar, Airport security needs to feel you up before you are allowed to fly, my country is actually making it more difficult for me and mine to get a higher education, and there are still tons and tons of oil just sitting in our water. So I guess we’ll just live with this whole nerdcore issue for now, but as soon as we fix all of those other problems, we’re going to get to the bottom of this whole nerdcore thing. That’s my campaign promise.
Your Nerdcore Superhero