Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Whiter than sour cream

At the humble requests of my boys Brüx and Darth Apu, I will now drop my own unique brand of knowledge™ concerning Weird Al’s new track “White and Nerdy.”

Let me preface this by saying that my involvement in the nerdcore scene is tertiary (at best) as I am neither a nerdcore artist nor producer. I’m not even a legitimate musical journalist. I’m just some putz with a love for nerdy music and a little too much free time. That being said, on with the show:

If Wikipedia is to be believed, and we all know that she is quite the unreliable little trollop, “White and Nerdy” is the second track off of Al’s new album Straight Outta Lynwood. It is not, however, Al’s first attempt at rap. In recent years Al has parodied everyone from Coolio to Puffy (or P. Diddy or Poon-Tangy or whatever the fuck he’s calling himself this week) to fellow honky Eminem. While I consider such tracks to be sub-par parodies of lackluster source material (read: shitty), a lot of people liked them, a lot of people laughed, and some even purchased said works all legal-like.

The chief question on everyone’s mind seems to be: Is Weird Al doing nerdcore now?

In a word? No.

Al is doing what Al has always done. He is bringing his own skill and creativity to that of an existing track. He is taking something and twisting it to his own devices. I walk a thin line with the work of Mr. Yankovic. Some of it I enjoy immensely. Some of it not so much. Still I applaud the man for staying true to his craft. He is a fine songwriter, a unique vocalist, and an excellent musician, and he still has the fire in his belly after well over two decades in the wavering and fickle pop culture spotlight.

But let us delve further.

Is Al trying to reinvigorate his career by expanding into nerdcore? Is he co-opting the scene just like, as Brüx so eloquently put it, Madonna has done to gay culture for years?


A) He’s done this shit before. And B) Al’s career has been peaks and valleys for longer than anyone can remember and I think he’s fine with that. Every new Weird Al album reinvigorates his career because it makes people say “Hey, I remember that guy. He’s pretty funny.”

Then is he the original nerdcore rapper? The OOG?

I guess my answer would be another question: Does Al even know that nerdcore hip-hop exists? While Al predates nerdcore as we know it I'm certain he wasn’t the first nerd to drop a rhyme and he’s never done so exclusively.

Al is a nerd, indeed, and a musician, but what he does is only nerdcore in the loosest sense of the word. His works are admittedly parody and only occasional stray into the realm of hip-hop. Whether you consider direct parody as legitimate avenue of nerdcore or not depends entirely on your thoughts on the genre, but I would be inclined to say that nerdcore as a whole is a little bit broader. It can be funny and it should be nerdy and it may very well be filled with (uncleared) samples of previous works, but the art form itself relies heavily on original material.

So the final question remains: How will this effect the burgeoning nerdcore community?

Who knows? Again this relates more or less back to Al’s understanding/knowledge of the scene. If Al wanted to shine the light on some other nerdly boys and girls who like to slang the hip-hop I’m sure the exposure would prove invaluable. But can he? Will he? I kinda doubt it. Nerdcore is still the most underground of movements, and, though related acts like mc chris seem poised to crossover, there are few in mainstream music who truly know about the scene.

So I guess my thoughts can be boiled down to the following: “White and Nerdy” ain’t nerdcore just as Al himself isn’t particularly nerdcore. He is however, a huge geek, and for that I salute him.

I do find the song itself entertaining, and (for the three of you who haven’t seen it yet) I’ve included the video below.

And to echo the sentiment of Canadian nerd rapper extraordinaire Jesse Dangerously I’d like to add the following: Al, please, please bring back the accordion. Modern pop-rock needs more accordion.


darth_apu said...

-i was sleepy when i typed this so forgive me if it goes nowhere-

thanx 4 the shout bro. true Al has never hidden his innernerd, he has always let his geek flag fly. whether Al knows of nerdcore or not doesn't really matter,because he is a nerdish one, but i'm sure al has been to a recent comic/ sci-fi/ other convention recently & asked, "what is this nerdcore of which you speak?". those who have been exposed can use Al to help open other closet nerds to people like Front & Nursehella. i think al does belong in the founders hall beside the beasties. i guess what it's taken a ramble to say is, it's a good song and the more "nerd" is out there the better.
the original poon-tangy,

Z. said...

You make a valid point, D-A. I too believe that Al was an early nerd musician. Perhaps I’ll even work in a song or two into a future podcast. After I get past my Halloween-ie ones first, of course.

Antisocial said...

It may be of note that ytcracker has done some parody material recently.

Z. said...

There seem to be a lot of nerdcore artists working in some parody material of late, and I’m all for it. When you consider that most people in the scene were raised on Weird Al, Dr. Demento, and Saturday Night Live, it makes it seem a fairly logical endeavor.

I enjoy parody songs as long as they’re well thought out and executed. It’s very similar to the way I feel about cover songs – while they may not be the heart of nerdcore (in my own opinion), they are a valid part.