Throughout the early 90’s, it was the alternative rock bars of the Pacific-Northwest and the back alley mixing studios of South-East L.A. which gave birth to two new forms of music.
Progressive hip-hop and grunge both emerged as a direct response to the cultural climates of the time. The artists communicated the malaise they felt after witnessing the slow decline in contemporary music, and the frustration associated with the social marginalization they were subject to.
The fact is that hip-hop and grunge did something special – they relayed a genuine sense of emotion through a medium which was saturated by vapid and shallow-minded pop stars. Instead of making us dance, the artists made us think.
"I gotta get Xenogears-that’s the type of game that relieves my fears. Get it from overseas to here. I gotta get Psychic Force — authentic arcade that I can endorse, they got me liking imports"
Despite initial disinterest by major record labels and radio stations, both genres eventually reached mainstream success. Oakland-born rappers and Seattle-based bands were soon launched to unprecedented levels of fame and success. Unfortunately, in the ten years since, gangster rap and grunge rock have become diluted and cliché. The true angst and social-disappointment which the original artists sang about no longer existed. Pretty soon, hip-hop was more about "bitches", "smack" and "glocks" and less about the results of government mistreatment and neglect.
For quite some time it seemed as though the music industry was destined to be dominated by commercially-constructed pop-stars who knew nothing about musical expression. Would a new, imaginative and original form of music ever rear its head again? Would we, as listeners, ever enjoy candid and genuine lyrics again?
Like Luke Skywalker sneaking into Jabba’s pleasure palace, Nerdcore Hip-Hop has crawled unnoticed into the periphery of the music industry.
"Nerdcore used to be just a made-up word. What occured?"
Like its predecessors in Washington and Compton, Nerdcore is self-produced and self-distributed. The genre’s artists (for the most part) release their work for free on the internet. Nerdcore speaks to the interests and concerns of its audience and is widely experimental. Despite this, the genre and its most notable artists possess a loyal and stalwart fan-base.
While MC Frontalot coined the term "Nerdcore Hip-Hop" in 2000, the origins of the genre lie with New York and San Francisco-based scenes, and artists include Deltron 3030, Dr. Octagon and MF Doom.
Deltron 3030 serving up some solid rhymes to fans in Oakland
The genius of Nerdcore is that it appeals to gamers, comic book enthusiasts and anime otakus regardless of their musical preferences. I have spent the past six years of my life listening to progressive and melodic-death metal. For the longest time, it seemed I would never move out of my entrenched musical corner. But the absolute originality of Nerdcore astounded me.
Hearing a 12 minute song, chronicling the journey of a Tauren Warrior from level 1 to 60 is entertaining beyond description.
Listening to an entire album recorded using text-to-voice technology, by an artist named "MC Hawking", is spell-binding in its own right.
Attending the concert of a group called "Lord of the Rhymes", and standing in awe as they convert all 3 Tolkein books into an expertly-delivered hip-hop performance will blow your mind. Trust me.
In considering Nerdcore, it must not be confused with a parody genre. It’s not meant as a "witty twist" on mainstream rap. It would exist irrelevant of the progression of mainstream rap and hip-hop. To be perfectly frank, Nerdcore artists are doing their own thing, regardless of what commercial hip-hop sounds like.
What Nerdcore hip hop represents is this: the death of wide-stream and watered-down music. The mentality that a single style of music can catch the permanent interest of the globe may be the dream of a marketing executive, but is not what the future holds.
In an era where anyone can mix, blend and create their own unique form of music, more and more niches will erupt, giving rise to more personal and specialised forms of musical art. While the nerds and geeks of the world may have been the first to exploit the available technology, artists from every walk of life will be sure to follow.
Say goodbye to 50 Cent and Ja Rule. Say hello to MC++ and Optimus Rhyme.