Nerdcore hip-hop is here. It even has a website (www.nerdcorehiphop.org). It's mostly white dudes with big brains. A few of the top artists include MC Paul Barman (Brown University), MC Frontalot (who coined the term with his song "Nerdcore Hip-Hop"), MC Chris (of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim) and MC Lars (Stanford University).
Lars' songs are topical ("Hot Topic is Not Punk Rock," "Signing Emo," "iGeneration"), goofy (sample lyric: "The label prez calls and yells, "Sign more emo!'/ How about screamo?/ "If it sells, sign Nemo'") and constructed mostly on a laptop. He recently explained a few nerdcorish things, during which he name-dropped the Venn diagram, in an e-mail interview with CityBeat:
Explain your childhood in a paragraph.
I had a very rich imagination, and my parents were supportive of my creativity. My dad and I used to draw pictures together, and I made hours and hours of ridiculous home videos of myself hosting TV shows, doing choreographed dances to the Little Mermaid soundtrack, and stop-motion animation with my Ninja Turtle toys. Now, my life is a lot like it was when I was 8, except that if I don't feel like being funny in front of large groups of people, I don't get to eat that night. Not bad at all!
Name one specific way your degree in literature has seeped into your music.
I wrote about a lot of books as a literature major, and later found that writing a song is like writing a paper. In both instances, the goal is building a well-constructed argument to convince people something. The verses are a paper's arguments, and a chorus is a paper's thesis.
Do you think education is seen as uncool in popular music?
Mainstream American pop culture is all about instant gratification. There are elements of the consumption of unnecessary products and a distrust of intellectualism, but really it's about instant gratification. Reading a book does not provide this. But there are American subcultures, like with this "nerdcore hip-hop" thing happening, wherein education can be seen as cool. Going to college and getting an education is ultimately more punk rock than staying in your small hometown and working at Taco Bell... because the people who follow the path are in a 30-percent minority apart from the rest of the country.
What role has Weird Al played in your life?
Weird Al is the smart, awkward nerd who grew up with a passion for funny music and amazing musical talent and became a victorious pop-culture icon. Not a bad dude to have as a childhood hero. Like so many people of our generation, he got me interested in music, and as soon as I learned to play guitar, I wanted to be able to play his songs. Recently, he heard about my music and got in touch with me over e-mail. We've been talking about working on something together in the near future. For someone who's sold so many million records, he's a super-down-to-earth guy and deserves all of the props he gets.
You've lampooned a few very specific cultural things in your songs-Hot Topic, emo, etc. If you could pick one or two other cultural icons right now to take on, what would they be?
Anna Nicole Smith as the dead, bizarre, sexualized female icon created through and decimated by the media; Don Imus and Michael Richards and the exposure of strange latent racism in mainstream media (have we come so far since the 19th century?); kids who waste waaay too much time on MySpace and the fact that it is just another channel of Rupert Murdock's scary media empire; and the inevitability of global warming drastically changing everything we know about 21st century life. Better get started before these four things are "sooo 2007."
You've said your music isn't for everyone, that it's "strange." How so?
Imagine a Venn diagram: one circle is people who like funny music, one circle is people who like hip-hop, and one circle is people who like punk rock. The people who sit in the middle are the people who tend to be fans of my work. People who fit in at least two categories sometimes like what I'm doing; people who fall into only one of the circles might have a hard time appreciating it, in that they will either like it or think that it's terrible.
What's your favorite line you've written but haven't put in a song yet?
"The best make-out records have no indie credibility." I think it's less weird to hook up to a Fergie record than a Shins record, because Garden State was just a movie, right?
MC Lars plays with MC Frontalot and Optimus Rhyme at The Epicentre on Wednesday, April 25. Doors open at 7 p.m. $8-$10. 858-271-4000.