Nerdcore hip hop

Nerdcore is a subgenre of hip hop music characterized by themes and subject matter considered to be of general interest to nerds, though it can appeal to others as well. Self-described nerdcore musician MC Frontalot coined the term in 2000 in the song " Nerdcore Hiphop". Frontalot, like most nerdcore artists, self-publishes his work and has released much of it for free online. As a niche genre, nerdcore generally holds to the DIY ethic, has a history of self-publishing and self-production.

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.


Nerdcore has no unifying musical sound, and the sound of nerdcore varies wildly from artist to artist. One common theme, especially in the early days of the genre, is uncleared sampling. MC Frontalot addressed this directly in his 1999 song "Good Old Clyde", a thank you of sorts to Clyde Stubblefield for the "funky drummer" break - which was sampled to provide the song's beat. Sources for samples in nerdcore range from Vanilla Ice to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ("Rondo Alla Turca", in MC Plus+'s "Computer Science for Life"). YTCracker's Nerdrap Entertainment System is an entire album made up primarily of samples from 8-bit Nintendo games. Though some artists have moved away from this—Frontalot, for example, completely remixed several songs to remove uncleared samples before releasing them commercially on his 2005 album Nerdcore Rising—it is still quite common, as most nerdcore tracks are released non-commercially and thus attract little to no attention from the RIAA.

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.


The term "nerdcore hip hop" was coined in 2000 by MC Frontalot. However, prior to that time artists as varied as Kool Keith, Deltron 3030, MC 900 Ft. Jesus, and MF Doom began exploring topics far outside of the traditional hip hop culture, including stereotypically "nerdy" topics like space and science fiction. Though these underground artists were generally outside of geek culture and are not considered nerdcore, they can be said to have set the stage for artists like Frontalot, who has listed several of them as influences. Nerdcore had clear influences from geek culture as well, including geek rockers like They Might Be Giants, parodists like "Weird Al" Yankovic (who released a rap called "It's All About The Pentiums" in 1999 and "White & Nerdy" in 2006), and others. Despite these influences, Nerdcore has separated itself from other types of nerdy music thanks to an unofficial list of criteria that has evolved among fans and artists. Aside from making hip-hop hop about geeky things, Nerdcore is considered to be an “Opt-in” genre. Only artists who consider themselves to be “Nerdcore” should have the label attached to their music.

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, 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

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.

Notable nerd artists

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:


Two feature length documentaries about the world of Nerdcore Hip-Hop were completed in early 2008, Nerdcore Rising and Nerdcore For Life. Nerdcore Rising, directed by New York filmmakers Negin Farsad and Kimmy Gatewood, follows Nerdcore pioneer MC Frontalot as he embarked on his first US tour in 2006. Nerdcore For Life by Chicago director Dan Lamoureux examines the genre as a whole and contains appearances by over three dozen of the best known performers in the scene.

Nerdcore Rising premiered at the 2008 SXSW Film Conference and Festival on March 9, Nerdcore For Life at the tenth annual Wisconsin Film Festival on April 5th.


External links

  • Nerdcore Hip-Hop Community. Free music, BBS, and news updated daily.
  • the Underground The best Nerdcore artist and music forum.
  • Nerdcore news, reviews, and more.
  • Crossplatform Music Nerdcore forum.
  • solipsistic NATION A podcast documentary about Nerdcore featuring interviews and music from MC Frontalot, Ultraklystron, High-C, YTCracker, funky49, Ham-STAR and Beefy.
  • Rocket Propelled Radio An internet radio station run by the nerdcore friendly label EMPulse Records. It broadcasts nerdcore hip-hop songs, chiptunes, wizard rock, and podcasts focusing on the nerdcore community.
  • Hipster Please News and views from the Nerdcore scene

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