Though nerdcore rappers rhyme about anything from politics (Frontalot, "Special Delivery"; MC Lars "UK Visa Versa"; Futuristic Sex Robotz, “Fuck the MPAA”), and even science fiction (Futuristic Sex Robotz, “Positronic Pimp”), there are some perennial favorites in nerdcore subject matter, including Star Wars (Frontalot, "Yellow Lasers"; mc chris', "Fett's Vette"; MC Lars, "Space Game"), science (MC Hawking, "Entropy"; 2 Skinnee J's, "Pluto"), and computers (Optimus Rhyme, "Reboot"; Monzy, "Drama in the PhD"; "Kill dash nine").
Music with similar themes, but different musical styles can be found in the geek rock and filk genres. There are hip hop artists who have recorded compositions which focus on similar topics, but who are not generally considered nerdcore. (An example would be Blackalicious, a group which is generally agreed to not be nerdcore artists despite science-oriented songs like "Chemical Calisthenics".) Conversely, one does not need to concentrate on those topics to be nerdcore: most of the songs by both of the undisputed leaders of the genre, Frontalot and mc chris, do not focus narrowly on stereotypically nerdy topics. The difference is largely one of self-identification; the group Blackalicious does not identify as "nerds", while Frontalot and Chris both do.
The word "nerdcore" is also occasionally used as an adjective to describe a "hardcore nerd" (that is, someone who publicly takes pride in being nerdy) or anything which is nerdy to an extreme level.
Several DJs have provided beats and done remixes for multiple nerdcore artists, most notably Baddd Spellah, who currently mixes the majority of Frontalot's tracks. Spellah also won mc chris's remix competition in 2004.
In the summer of 2004 the fledgling genre took a large step forward when the popular web comic Penny Arcade held its first convention, The Penny Arcade Expo, in Bellevue, WA. Though the expo was primarily devoted to video and table top gaming, geek-friendly musicians also performed including Penny Arcade’s “official rapper” MC Frontalot and Optimus Rhyme.
The next year, two full concerts took place at the 2005 Penny Arcade Expo and included nerdy hip-hop acts MC Frontalot, Optimus Rhyme and mc chris. After the 2005 expo, all three acts would have the “Nerdcore” label permanently affixed to them. Thanks to the popularity of these acts, and especially mc chris who was well known for his voice-work on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, the Nerdcore fan base began to form and in some cases those fans would go on to become Nerdcore artists themselves.
Also in 2005, the new subgenre of 'geeksta rap', (named for gangsta rap) emerged, largely independently of more traditional nerdcore. The difference was in both lyrics and attitude; the geeksta artists (mostly computer scientists) focused on proclaiming their prowess with computers and other technical abilities. This braggadoccio led to the first nerdcore feud, between MC Plus+ and Monzy.
In 2006 Nerdcore rapper High-C created the first website dedicated solely to the genre of Nerdcore, NerdcoreHipHop.org. The site quickly became the foundation of the scene’s on-line community. Along with the website, High-C also created the world’s first all nerdcore hip-hop compilation CD. The “Rhymetorrents Compilation” consisted of numerous volumes and dozens and dozens of tracks by the best (and in many cases, least) known artists in the genre. The album was made available for free download on NerdcoreHipHop.org.
Thanks to the creation of the website and the compilation CDs, for the first time, Nerdcore as a genre began getting mainstream press attention.
In July 2008, Nerdcore rappers and other Nerd Music acts gathered in Orland, Florida for an event named Nerdapalooza. It was a nerd music festival based on bringing various genres of "nerd music" together into one large production.
There is no canonical definition of nerdcore. The most general definition of a nerdcore artist would be "a rapper who is also a nerd". However, not everyone accepts this. Some limit the genre to artists who openly proclaim themselves as "nerdcore", which automatically precludes any artists who stopped recording before Frontalot coined the term in 2000. Others consider bands to be nerdcore if they are called nerdcore by other nerdcore artists. Many automatically exclude artists who have been released on a major label or had some level of commercial success, while others consider this irrelevant. Further, "notability" is somewhat hard to define in a nerdcore context, due to two facts: almost all nerdcore is self-produced and self-distributed, and the genre has not broken into mainstream success (with the small exception of MC Lars who has received limited airplay on British video channels. This may not count as Nerdcore is a mostly American genre). Any list is therefore inherently incomplete and subjective. That said, any list of major players (past and present) in the nerdcore scene would include most if not all of the following: