For this column I thought I’d make a list of five nerdcore musicians for those interested in the genre but not sure where to start. Nerdcore, to my mind, is a genre characterized by hip-hop music with lyrics related to nerdy topics of all kinds. It’s something that most nerds can appreciate even if they don’t like other types of hip-hop (like myself). I used as the basis for this list my own experience learning about the genre, so it is necessarily a personal list. And with only five on the list, it’s clearly not remotely exhaustive. In future columns, I’ll explore more artists both in reviews and other lists like this one.
Way back a long time ago, in the early 2000s, one of my high school students first introduced me to MC Hawking (aka Ken Lawrence). Although I didn’t know it at the time, it would serve as the first of many nerdcore (that term, however, would not be known to me until much later) rappers that I would discover, sometimes accidentally. MC Hawking purports to be the alter ego of the physicist Stephen Hawking, although clearly that’s not the case when you hear the lyrics. Although he does sing about topics related to science, his language is not something I’ve ever heard from the real Professor Hawking.
According to Wikipedia, he only released one album, but he has also put out a fake discography, some of which contains songs he never actually made. MC Hawking is a bit more novelty than some of the other artists on this list, but he has some good songs such as “Entropy,” “F–k the Creationists” (one of the songs my student shared with me), and “E=MC Hawking.”
Recommended Album: A Brief History of Rhyme: MC Hawking’s Greatest Hits
MC Lars has already been covered on Fandomania so I won’t go into details about him, but since he was one of the first nerdcore musicians I ever heard of (though I still didn’t know the term), I felt the need to include him on my list. Actually, the first song I heard by him wasn’t even a hip-hop song, it was “Hot Topic is not Punk Rock.” We have a radio station here in Gainesville, FL, that used to play really cool music like that. They also played “White Kids Aren’t Hyphy,” a semi-parody of Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” (which I actually didn’t realize until I heard someone cover the latter song at Nerdapalooza; I believe it was the Scrub Club records bunch. And I still haven’t heard the original).
Recommended Album: The Graduate
I discovered mc chris mainly because he appears on one of MC Lars’s tracks, “The Roommate from Hell.” He doesn’t always seem to accept the term nerdcore to describe his music, but at least what I have heard certainly seems to fit the idea of hip-hop music with geeky / nerdy subject matter. Regardless, he has an interesting style different from many other rappers, using a high-pitched, almost falsetto voice for his rapping that makes him sound like a 10-year-old (according to one of his songs).
As for his music, I’d have to recommend “Fett’s Vette,” of course, which is about exactly what it sounds like — Boba Fett’s Corvette. There are follow-ups with other bounty hunters on later albums, but this is certainly the most well known. Most nerdcore rappers have a nerd anthem, and mc chris is no exception; “Geek” on Knowing is Half the Hassle is one that I think most of us can identify with. One thing I’m not fond of with mc chris is the songs about drugs. It’s not my scene, but to each his own.
Recommended Album: Life’s a Bitch, and I’m Her Pimp
I’ve already mentioned the last two artists on my list when I reviewed my experiences at Nerdapalooza, but they deserve to be mentioned again here. MC Frontalot was certainly not the first rapper to reference nerdy topics, but his song “Nerdcore Hiphop” is generally credited with coining the term nerdcore. It was watching the documentary Nerdcore Rising recently that really sparked my interest in nerdcore as a genre (and my first real introduction to the term itself). The album of the same name is definitely my favorite, although there are certainly plenty of great tracks on the others. The title track of that album started as a joke, but in some ways it’s come true — there are tons of nerdcore rappers out there now. I really love that when he performs the song live and is joined by other rappers they each have their own verse for the song.
I’ve already reviewed his latest album, Zero Day, and I plan on writing reviews of his other albums in the future, so I’ll just mention one more song here. When I first heard the song “80085,” I had no idea what was going on except that there was definitely an equation that would lead to the number 80085. Yeah, I know now what it is, but not seeing it on an old calculator, I just didn’t catch the reference immediately. And the equation to calculate the number is totally insane — check out the frontalot.com forum to see it in action.
Recommended Album: Nerdcore Rising
Schäffer the Darklord
Schäffer the Darklord is the newest nerdcore artist on this list. As I’ve mentioned previously, I first became aware of him while listening to several artists from Nerdapalooza before I went so I’d be familiar with their work. Apparently when he first appeared at Nerdapalooza in 2008, he blew everyone away with his performance. And I can see why. He’s an excellent performer, and he has some really great songs. One of my favorites has to be “Cat People” since I have been a cat person my entire life (my parents owned nine cats when I was born, and I haven’t lived for more than a couple of years without cats. So, yeah, cat person…). And then he even references the song later on the album in another song, “Nerd Lust,” a paean to nerd girls and another of my favorites. According to Jello Biafra, “He’s good.” I’d have to agree.
Recommended Album: Mark of the Beast
So there you go. Even if you aren’t a fan of hip-hop, if you are a nerd, a geek, a spaz, a dork, or some combination thereof, you are quite likely to find something to enjoy in the music of any of these artists.