Friday, June 13, 2008

Bullet Points: The 9 Nerdiest Moments In Rap

Written by Lukas Kaiser

Rappers traffic in street cred and braggadocious boasts. But peel back the facade and you'll find a bunch of frickin' nerds. Anyone successful is a nerd, after all. Most of the time, these rappers won't let on that they're geeks at heart. But keeping up appearances is hard work and thus I present you with the 9 Nerdiest Moments in the history of Rap music

Note: I didn't include anything from the "nerdcore" genre because that's just too easy. Those folks wear their geekiness on their sleeves... or, since they're geeks, in their pocket protectors. Zinga ding dong. Let's do it.
•"Proto Culture" by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien

If you've seen even a millisecond of an episode of MTV's "Cribs" featuring a rapper, you'd know these mofos like video games. When you're a single guy in your 20s with tons of disposable income, of COURSE you're gonna have a sick video game set up. But even though Rick Ross has every Madden since 98, you ain't gonna hear him discussing Franchise Mode on wax.

Which makes Del Tha Funkee Homosapien's year 2000-era joint "Proto Culture" all the more fascinating. The song doesn't just touch on the subject of video games, dude. It goes fucking deep. Check out some lyrics:

"If you don't know the culture, here's the whole structure... We get the kind of games you can't rent at Blockbuster... Rival schools, Batsu / Purchase you ought to / It came with one free CD, it's like I bought two / I hope they make part II for Dreamcast." The song is a treatise on circa 2000 diehard video gamers, coming from a dusted Bay Area rapper who just happens to be Ice Cube's cousin.

Oh, and I hope you didn't get the impression that Del's not up on his classic gaming, either. Cuz he is. "Playing Donkey Kong Jr., Venture, Rock and Rope / Games I thought was dope / While my moms was watching soaps... I remember Ninja Gaiden / Finished finally / With Ramone wouldn't answer the phone / This was before getting blown / I own the first Nintendo Power / With the maps of Zelda Help me conquer in an hour."

And like I said, I didn't include any nerdcore rappers here. This is a singularly geeky ass track from a somewhat gully fixture of the early 90s rap scene. I mean, dude is bragging about having the first Nintendo Power. That's my shit right there.

•"Cartoon Capers" by Kool Keith

My sister saw Kool Keith in concert about five years ago. It was the worst concert she ever saw; not because Kool Keith sucked in his performance or anything. It was just that he didn't perform. He had a DJ spin his record while he sat at the edge of the stage and smoked crack. Yeah.

Kool Keith, known to some as Dr. Octagon (even though those "some" would be wrong... since that's the name of his group... you tards), is a weird, gully motherfucker. I ran into him on the street last year right outside a ghetto K Mart. After giving him props (and, yeh, since I have wigger tendencies, we exchanged "Daps") I asked dude what he was up to. "Just shopping at K-Mart," he responded.

"Nah man, I mean, like career wise."

There was a pause.

"Like I said, just shopping at K-Mart, my man."

Needless to say, dude is legitimately repping the streets (also dude might be sleeping on the streets). But apparently, when not in "for tha' streets," mode, dude is watching cartoons. And, in a few rare occasions, rapping about them. Like in his song, "Cartoon Capers."

This song is preposterous because Keith is given a murderously vicious beat. Rather than take the opportunity to go at the sucka mc's or whatever else rappers "go at," dude just informs us about his favorite cartoons. Check some lyrics:

"I kick some styles that's fly and show Scooby Doo/ get the package and show it to Mr. Magoo / then call up Woody Wood, he hits on the pecker/ then I cut off his legs with my new Johnny Black and Decker."

I'm pretty sure close to 100 cartoons are mentioned in the span of this almost 5 minute long track. Shit is hilarious and kind of dope, but I can see why dude is mainly just chilling at K-Mart these days. No dis'res'pec

•"Unfriendly Game" by Masta Ace

Sports aren't inherently nerdy. Duh. When PLAYED, football is the game of the strong. The jock. The Anti-geek. But die hard sports fans? The kind who get off on statistics and trivia? Those bitches are floor to ceiling nerds. Sorry.

Which makes Brooklyn-based rapper Masta Ace's "mad lyrical, yo" joint "Unfriendly Game" blip on my geek radar. Rather than retread the typical Michael Jordan/Mike Tyson-name dropping terrain that LL Cool J and Jay Z seem to love traveling, dude goes deep inside football. And what's even nerdier is that the whole thing is then a metaphor for life "on da streetz." Check it:

"I'm about to take this beat, and teach you 'bout the agony of defeat / in this football game in the street / And no it ain't two hand touch, it's rough tackle / When niggas ball on your block, and they buss at you... It's hard to get first down, when your new in this rough town / You sell a pound its a TOUCHDOWN! / And niggas see the pigskin? They blast cops / Some federal agents dressed as mascots." Dude is mentioning mascots. Hilarious.

I'm sure the metaphor seemed deep at the time, but the way the song came out, it's a chuckle-filled geek off from start to finish.

•"Super Brooklyn" by the Cocoa Brovaz

The Cocoa Brovaz (formerly known as Smif-N-Wessun until the gun maker sued their ass) were a fixture of the New York rap scene much like the previews are a fixture at the movies. Shit's there, no one is too upset about it but no one's happy about it either. Dudes are basically the stereotypical generic mid 90s rap group. Their songs were lyrically dull and only got play because the underground production superteam Da Beatminerz gave them beats (why they gave them beats is still an unanswered question for the ages, up there with "Who actually buys Spam?" and "What's the capitol of Montana?").

Regardless, mofos were able to leap out of obscurity thanks to the one geeky impulse of their career -- rapping over the "Super Mario Bros." theme song. Well, kind of. They sampled the theme song, added drums and then rapped some gully, your-grandma-will-be-scared-of-these-boys shit on top and the subsequent product is the "hit" single "Super Brooklyn." Oh, almost forgot... shit has Mario jumping sounds throughout as well. Doooope.

The song actually had no traction on the radio. But if an iPod jockey at a college party drops the "needle" on this shit, be sure the nostalgia d-riders will be hootin' and hollering. I would've included some lyrics here, but seriously, dudes just rap about selling crack and shit.

•"Bad Guys Always Die" by Dr. Dre & Eminem

Of COURSE Eminem is a fucking nerd. He's a classic example of over-compensation. Dude acts hard and beats up members of the Insane Clown Posse in parking lots not because he's from "da streetz" but because he's a white-ass nerd at heart. Like the rest of us.

You will be hard pressed to find remnants of dude's nerdiness, however. That song off his last album where he raps in the voice of "Triumph The Insult Comic Dog" almost approaches nerdiness, but the song is called "Ass Like That" and, as the title suggests, is about hot asses (chick asses, I think, though I've been wrong before).

His most obviously geeky ass moment came in a place he thought no one would find it: on the "Wild Wild West" soundtrack. And he's probably right, most people haven't heard lick one of the Will Smith-starring motion picture soundtrack. But thanks to the net, I have. And thanks to me, you'll now hear it too.

The song is an entry in the very slim (pun intended!!) hip hop sub-genre "cowboy rap." And while a good Clint Eastwood flick isn't at all geeky, Dre and Em rhyming about their "satchels" certainly is. This song is particularly geeky because of its inclusion of key plot points from "Wild Wild West." Peep these lyrics:

"This is the spot, they call him Doc Loveless / He's goin around sayin he took the game from us / (Let's shoot him in his kneecaps, he'll never see it comin) / But he ain't got no legs, they cut 'em off at the stomach / He's got mechanical legs, he spins webs / Plus he's well respected by the hip-hop heads / Our mission - is to get him to stop layin eggs."

Their mission... to "get him to stop layin eggs"!!!?! What the fuck? Em, just get it over with and bust out your World of Warcraft-themed rhyme book. Jeeesus. NERRRRD!

•"Phone Home" by Lil' Wayne

This is the newest song of all the entries on the list, seeing as it's from an album that came out two days ago. I fucking hate Lil' Wayne. You might love him. Whatever, we're not discussing his (lack of) merits here. We're discussing his geek credentials.

Which he easily earned in his "E.T." inspired jam "Phone Home." "We are not the same, I am a Martian" Wayne raps, over a piano loop that resembles music from the "E.T." soundtrack. The chorus is equally geeky and weird with its repeated (and, yet again, "E.T." inspired) chant: "Phone Home!"

Which is enough to get the song on this list (especially when its this nerdy yet holds a spot on a mainstream rap album). And that's gonna have to be enough because Lil Wayne is physically incapable of staying on topic for the duration of a song (at one point, dude busts out the line "I'm rare, like Mr. Clean with hair." Which seems kinda funny, but makes no sense... how the fuck is Wayne rare? Duuude... get your shit straight.) You're well done... wink wink, brutha.

Either way, this is one weird ass song.

•"22 Twos" by Jay Z

Despite my lofty claims in the intro, not all rappers are nerds (though all nerds are rappers... Stephen Hawking's new shit drops next month, ya herrrrd). One such example of a rapper who simply shows no signs of geekiness is Jay Z. Yeh, dude is ugly and is fucking a super hot chick. But he's not Bill Gates-ing her. He's Gene Simmonsing her, ya know?

Dude seemed to have significant swag all the way back to his first album, the arguably classic "Reasonable Doubt." That being the case, dude make one foray into geek territory with his hot joint "22 Twos."

For those not in the know, the infamous song features Jigga rapping the word "two" (in all its forms) exactly 22 times. Sample lyrics: "Too much West coast dick-lickin, and too many niggaz on a mission / Doin your best Jay-Z rendition / Too many rough motherfuckers, I got my suspicions / that you're just a fish in a pool of sharks nigga, listen." Now, even when dude is doing math rap, he's coming hard and slick. But if you had only heard this song, you'd be expecting homie to bust out palindromes and anagrams in his next couple of songs. Obviously, that never happened. You fucking NERD.

•"Grandmasters" by Gza

Of COURSE I had to get some Wu Tang on this list. Those dudes are constantly talking about karate and kung fu movies and comic books (Ghostface Killah's nickname is Ironman... wowsa) and shit. But it's hard to nail down any unified front of geekery in any of their songs. And also they normally come ultra vicious with that crack and murder rap. That's why we love the Wu so much. They're the most creative dudes who have ever rapped (besides Karl Rove).

That's why I had to run to the most cohesive (and let's face it, most talented) lyricist in the Wu, the Gza AKA the Genius. Dude is basically the anti-Wayne in that he sticks to topics for entire songs and sometimes, like in the case of "Grandmasters," entire albums.

The whole record is an extended dedication to chess. From the intro ("Opening") to songs like "Advance Pawns," "Queen's Gambit" and the closer, "Smothered Mate," dude covers all his bases when it comes to chess. The songs themselves don't contain chess-related lyrics but each one serves as a fully realized metaphor for a moment in a chess game. That's some heady, geeky ass shit right there. And the whole thing comes full circle when you find out the Wu Tang Clan is actually opening a Wu Tang chess website. These dudes mean business, apparently.

•Canibus' Entire Career

If there's one non-nerdcore rapper out there who embraces the tenets of geekiness more than anyone I've ever heard, it's Canibus. Dude is a traditional battle MC who just gets lost in his own head. His albums are littered with intricately woven songs filled with geeky tidbits of knowledge. Dude is basically like that one roommate you had in college who wasn't so good with girls who'd always drop factoids about Mystery Science Theater 3000 when you were secretly fingering some slut under the blanket on your couch.

Except dude goes a bit deeper (and geekier) than MST3K. This is on some MIT shit more than anything, folks. Let's look at some lyrics from dude's song "Master Thesis":

"Color is vibration, vibration is sound / sound resonates through the mouth check it out / What I say vibrates no less than 9 ways / South, South East, West, south west, east / North, North east, North west / And the black and white images fade / to great sound waves."

Dude is coming hard on some "color is vibration" shit!? Like, whaaat the... Canibus even trumps Jay Z's "22 Twos" joint with his "Niggonometry" song, where he breaks down the #s involved in being a black dude in the Americas.

To put it all in perspective, Canibus most recently recorded a 22 minute long rap song that was 1 steady string of dense lyrics called "Poet Laureate Infinity." It is the longest uninterrupted stream of rap ever recorded. And more than anything else, award winning geekery is the most geeky of all geekiness. Geek.

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