Last weekend I was in Florida for a nerdy music festival called "Nerdapalooza. It began as all my trips do, at the Albany airport being pulled aside by security. I have considered naming my goatee "Random" to explain the "random search" process.
As I was being ushered aside yet again, I wondered to myself why the TSA hates beards -- and why they also do not allow you to take razors or large amounts of shaving gel on the plane.
I was picked up at the airport by a nerdcore rapper named Funky49. Funky49 recently released an album called "Rapbassador," in which he serves as the rapping ambassador of MOSI (Tampa's Museum Of Science and Industry) to promote the museum with songs such as "Mad Science," "MOSI Got the Party" and "That's Not IMAX."
We went to the museum, where we saw an exhibit about cartoon animation.
Funky49 obviously takes his Rapbassador title seriously, not only constantly bringing friends to the museum, but also attempting to help children learn from the exhibits while present and even helping a lost child find her parents. In short, a much better role model than most rappers you hear about in the mainstream news.
The pre-party took place outside a comic shop (named "A Comic Shop"), an appropriate venue for rappers like Sir-Up, whose songs are often about comics.
A fellow with the supervillianous name of Schaffer The Darklord sang a song about being a very bad man and causing most of the world's catastrophes, and I performed a
By Saturday, the festival proper had begun, and the main stage was scheduled with nerdy music from noon to midnight. Stage performers included The Megas (whose music is all based on the Megaman video game series) and I Fight Dragons, who have re-wired a number of old 8-bit Nintendo controllers to turn them into musical instruments, and play them on stage.
I took numerous breaks from the music to chat with other nerdy performers and once to freestyle in the lobby with a rapper named Epic-1, defending board games against his vicious verbal assault. I returned in time to see YT Cracker rap about his reliance on a certain brand of soda, MC Lars rap about Edgar Allen Poe and MC Frontalot rap about how people need to purchase his CD so he can afford food.
One of the neat things about the festival is that many of the performers were obviously fans of each other's music, often staying in the crowd, nodding heads to the rhythm or even singing along with lyrics.
This may be due to the fact that the nerdcore hip-hop scene does not have the big egos of the gangster hip-hop scene. While hip-hop culture is often about boasting, nerd culture is more often self-effacing, so the resultant balance means that even the most popular artists are down to earth and very friendly.
Indeed, I was up late into the night talking randomly to other artists, on topics ranging from the reality of frogs to prosthetic foot sales.
The next day was again replete with music, chatting and more freestyles. I saw Zealous1 rap about World of Warcraft, MAJA rap about Japanese cartoons and food, and MC Chris rap about how much white kids enjoy hip hop. I tried to see at least one song from every performer, although whenever I could convince people to form a freestyle rapping circle, I fled the concerts of pre-written songs to stand around with people and rap about our surroundings and whatever else came to mind -- such as racism in children's TV shows and the eternal feud between ninjas and pirates.
Perhaps the high point of the trip, however, was the afterparty on the final night. We were in the large backyard of one of the performers, and in true rapper style, many people were smoking, drinking and otherwise relaxing. Two of the more famous rappers had wanted to make a music video and decided to do so with this large party of nerdy rappers as a background. They set up lights and cameras, quickly taught us the chorus, and so I somehow ended up in the middle of a rap video.
This was completely unexpected but, along with the rest of the weekend, led me to the conclusion that this Nerdcore movement could rise up; it could get elevated.
Seth Brown is the author of "Rhode Island Curiosities," the creator of GodToVerse.com and occasionally a nerdy rapper known as Ham-STAR. His column appears weekly in the Transcript and weakly on his Web site, www.RisingPun.com.