Who Shall Inherit the Earth? The Geek Shall!


This Alex Williams write-up of the white-boy-dominated, science-loving, computer-hacking Nerdcore hip-hop movement is the best statement on the genre that I've seen. There's a freakshow aspect to clubs of lily-colored kids bouncing to REO Speedwagon samples, and Williams captures that. But he also gets why the genre fits so smoothly into the firmament of hip-hop.

"By definition, nerdcore has to be marginal," said [Damian] Hess [a.k.a. MC Frontalot], who now lives in Brooklyn. But the margins these days can be wider than ever. "Because of the Internet," he said, "any cultural niche can find all 2 million people who are fascinated by it."

Which is not to say that nerdcore has crossed over to hip-hop's core black audience. Mr. Hess said he knew of only one African-American nerdcore artist, a self-described "half-black" Web designer named Ken Leavitt-Lawrence, who performs satirical gangsta rap in the voice of the physicist Stephen Hawking, under the name MC Hawking. (In "All My Shootin's Be Drive-Bys," he directs a bullet at a foe with the rap, "Time to give a Newtonian demonstration/of a bullet, its mass/and its acceleration.")

The point, said Mr. Leavitt-Lawrence, 37, who lives in Gloucester, Mass., is not to trivialize the greater rap traditions, but to deflate the tiresome pistol-waving machismo of the likes of 50 Cent. "This attitude that you've got to be tough all the time," he said, "I just found that annoying."

Here's a video clip of Nerdcore breakout artist MC Chris and "Robot Dog," a tragic ballad of a pet that becomes more popular than its owner and includes the lines "He gets more attention than he would an elephant/He's in the club I'm in my car out of my element/In a Honda Element/Feeling irrelevent."

Headline reference here.