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| Nerdcore Rising! Interview with MC Frontalot (2 comments )|
by: Funky J () | Posted in cluster FiringSquad Editors Challenge Round 1 Prelim 1
Posted 76 months ago in category DEFAULT
It seems that throughout the 20th Century all manner of disenfranchised youth have 'fought the power' with music, and through this they changed not only the musical landscape, but social and cultural ones too. In the 30s and 40s we had the Afro-Americans with Jazz and Blues, the 50s it was time for white kids with their Rock and Roll. In the 60s it was Protest music and the hippies, whilst the 70s had Hiphop for the Americans and Heavy Metal for the English. The 80s Punk and 90s Grunge alongside the Rave/Dance scene seems to include everyone across the globe. They weren’t ever socially exclusive, with each group influenced by the other.
But there’s a group missing from this cacophony of social rebels. There’s one group that has been excluded time and time again in music magazines and academic anaylsis of music and culture. And yet, and I say this without hyberbole, they’ve had the greatest impact on music the world has ever seen.
They are, of course, the Nerds.
Yes, Nerds. Geeks. Those grown men and women dwelling in their parents' basement, cheetos eating type freaks. They've been excluded and ridiculed, bashed and wedgied. You may dismiss my claim, but without nerds there would be no amplifiers, no samplers and no computers. There would be no internet. These tools are now essential to making modern music, and it’s all because of geeky kids with glasses, pocket protectors and slide rules.
And now the nerds do have a form of musical expression. It’s called Nerdcore, and it’s on the rise.
The term 'Nerdcore' was coined by MC Frontalot at the turn of the 21st Century. “At first it felt silly,” Frontalot says of inventing term “but now I feel lucky to have coined it. It turned out to be the type of phrase that a group of people could latch on to and take part in somehow.” Its popularity and growth can be seen through the simultaneous growth of the internet, the domain of the nerd. Participating in Song Fight! (www.songfight.org), a website that posts a random title online, and artists compete for fame (no prizes are offered) by writing a song with that title, Frontalot set off on the road to fame, and launched the Nerdcore phenomenon.
Nerdcore can be called an offshoot of hiphop, one that combines rapping about the actuality of being a Nerd with decidedly simple beats and sounds, comparable to the 8-bit 'old school' game soundtracks they bust rhymes about. Lyrics discuss all things nerdy, from computer code, video games and Starwars conventions to goth girls and porn. As hiphop in the 70s sought to describe the experience of being Afro-American in the slums of New York, Nerdcore seeks to impart to the listener the essence of being a nerd.
Although Frontalot has only posted 7 songs to Song Fight!, his cleverness and popularity blitzed all other contenders. His song, ‘Yellow Lasers’, about finding love at a Star Wars convention, garnered him more fame than he could imagine. “The first night I heard about song fight was the night 'Yellow Lasers' was due the next morning, so I stayed up late and I made that song. Somebody emailed it to Penny Arcade (one of the webs’ most popular webcomic with over a million hits per day) and they started talking about it in their news post, then they decided I was their official rapper.” Frontalot then emailed Penny Arcaded and it was agreed that he would write their official theme song.
Not only did MC Frontalot write the Penny Arcade theme song, he was invited to play at the Penny Arcade Expo, a massive gathering of nerds now attracting over 70,000 heads per year. That’s as big as Australia's most popular rock festival, the Big Day Out! He’s toured all over the USA and has now had a film made about the experience called ‘Nerdcore Rising’. “The film makers (Negin Farsad and Kimmy Gatewood) are these two lovely women from New York,” Frontalot says. “They’re both stand up comedians and they heard about nerdcore hiphop and thought that it would make a good topic. To me it sounded very silly, but they were very serious about it and have been getting a lot of attention for the whole nerdcore scene.” The film features the likes of Weird Al Yankovic, MC Lars, Jello Biafra, the Daily Show crew and more talking about the nerdcore phenomenon.
As to the longevity of nerdcore, Frontalot believes “the logical thing for nerdcore would be for it to peak and suddenly disappear and just be a cute little fad that had a couple of articles written about it, but who knows? I keep thinking that every year and keep getting surprised by it continuing to have legs. Certainly there’s endless staying power for being a nerd; it is part of the human condition,” he laughs, “but in terms of prominence and being on view in public, it doesn’t seem logical. People would certainly think it was funny to make nerds seem cool for a little while, and then go back shunning us as they have always done.”
“But maybe the world did change a tiny little bit after the dotcom boom,” he continues, “and maybe now technology doesn’t seem quite as that 'thing for kids with glasses'. Notice that two of the most loved zombie film directors of every nerd I ever knew have gone from these obscure filmmakers loved by weirdos to Hollywood A-List directors – Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson. They’re two of the highest paid directors in Hollywood and maybe that is emblematic of something that is happening in the world. But if I have to put bets on it I have to keep betting that it’s all going to crash down around us – it’s the only logical conclusion,” he chuckles again.
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