I write these articles for another website but that generally only tends to reach Dutch audiences and I want to expand my horizon, so I decided to post on TAY as well! I've been writing about music culture in games for a short time and started with nerdcore. I've done some interviews with awesome people like Richie Branson and Mega Ran.
Nerdcore. Most people haven't heard of it and are probably thinking "Huh? What's that?" The answer is pretty easy; music (often rap) inspired by nerd culture.
Nerdcore is a term that was coined by MC Frontalot back in 2000 with his song "Nerdcore Hiphop". Most of the genre is self-published and it's generally seen as a pretty niche market. That said, soundwise it's still pretty varying. One common element is sampling: it's pretty much used throughout the genre. Uncleared sampling also plays a big part; this means that the samples used aren't authorized by the original creator. Luckily enough, thanks to the broadening audience, this is becoming less of an issue and there are a lot of artists who remix current tapes into something entirely new. The subjects of the tracks are quite varied. There are serious ones about politics, parodies in the style of Weird Al, and generic nonsense addressing the artist's favourite sci-fi, games, anime, computers, etc.
Even though the phenomenon of nerdcore started with MC Frontalot, he's certainly not the first rapper to find inspiration outside the regular topics. Artists like the Beastie Boys, Deltron 3030, and MF Doom already incorporated "nerdy" topics like sci-fi into their lyrics. These aren't really considered nerdcore, though, since the references weren't the primary emphasis of the music. They did greatly influence the current artists, much like MC Frontalot. Weird Al Yankovic, the wildly successful parody artist, is also a big inspiration to the scene, and it should be clear why. With hits like 'White And Nerdy' and 'It's All About the Pentiums' it should be obvious that that Weird Al is a pretty big nerd himself.
Around 2004 the genre got a much-needed boost of exposure. When it was announced that the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) was going to be a thing, MC Frontalot and Optimus Rhyme were selected to be the official rappers of PAX. It proved so popular that PAX organized two full concerts, including the same duo and more, for the next year's events. These concerts really threw the genre out there and helped build its popularity. It reached a new climax in 2008 when Nerdapalooza was organised. Meant as a place for various nerdcore artists to meet, mix, and mingle, it was a bold venture for all involved. Various artists from diverse musical scenes, including chiptunes, nerdcore, and more, joined for several years. Sadly, though, the festival went bankrupt in 2013. In 2009 nerdcore made a small appearance in Europe, as a festival called 'Glitched: The Dutch Nerdcore Event' was organized in Amsterdam. With lots of big names like Beefy, MC Lars, and YTCracker, it was considered a moderate success. Still, even this level of overall promotion didn't push the genre to break into the mainstream on mainland Europe.
As you can hopefully see, nerdcore is a very interesting genre and that's why I'll be spending the next few months making a weekly column dedicated to the topic. I'll be writing about the growth of the genre, the artists themselves, and the history of the scene. We'll look at the different topics and styles, ask the artists what their thoughts are on the subject, and keep you up to date with the latest tracks. Next week we will have an interview with Richie Branson. Richie is a nerdcore artist who used his skills to bring back Toonami back on American TV. I'll see you then!