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Nerdcore mixes geek culture with hip-hop

Cassandra Khaw | May 6, 2013
Henry Bowers, a rapper born in Sweden, cuts an intimidating figure. Dreadlocks stream from beneath his black beanie, merging into the gargantuan beard he wears. He looks like a modern-day viking, teeth bared as he snarls an answering rhyme to his opponent.

Nathaniel Chambers, a musician who most recently worked on the soundtrack for Wadjet Eye Games' postapocalyptic robot adventure title Primordia, believes that most hostility toward nerdcore originates from an inaccurate perception that it may be a cultural cash-in.

"I think some people view it as an attempt at jumping onto the ever-growing and ever-broadening 'nerd' genre, but I think it's very, very valid," Chambers says, "I think [nerdcore] is a response to people who have grown up with video games, computers, and other aspects of nerd culture."

Roger Hicks, a self-described Renaissance Man who makes everything from Web-based music sequences to indie video games, echoes Bowers and Chambers. He says that there are no hard-and-fast rules about what makes a song nerdcore or hip-hop.

"The beat can be anything," Hicks explains. "And in hip-hop, you can use any beat--rock, chiptune, electronica, gangsta, whatever. It's a mashup of every other genre. If nerdcore is a subgenre of hip-hop, the same holds true for nerdcore: It's all about rhyming to a beat."

Though Hicks acknowledges that many nerdcore artists are Caucasian, he also sees ethnicity as a nonissue. "I'm also a programmer and I've met very few other black programmers/hackers. I mean, I'm sure there's a lot but the majority seems to be white--that doesn't make programming racist, does it?"

If Mega Ran--a nerdcore artist who has been involved in the scene for little more than half a decade--is right, nerdcore may soon cease to be a frowned-upon novelty item and instead become a fixture within the hip-hop community.

"It's become a lot 'cooler,' for lack of a better word," Mega Ran told TechHive. "I love the fact that it's easier to explain today than it was in the mid-2000s, and I feel that it's a lot more polished and respectable on the whole, as more and more talented artists have been less afraid of the label."

"The novelty stigma is there, and I battle with it all the time," Mega Ran continues. "As long as people know that what I do isn't a parody act, that's what's important to me. I let the skills do the talking, and most people shut up."

Hicks agrees: "Look at Kendrik Lamar. He's one of the most popular new artists these days, and he has songs about watching cartoons and eating cereal. Nowadays, it's beginning to feel like being 'nerdy' is cool. Nerdcore doesn't feel very much different from conventional hip-hop anymore."

 

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