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.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

As the more astute among you may have already noticed, it is rapidly approaching the end of September and I have yet to make any attempt at a monthly feature. This is no oversight, mind you, but by design. I am simply conserving my energy for the veritable orgy of nerdiness yet to come.

October, you see, is a big month for me, the crux of which is securely anchored to the holiday known as Halloween. I see Halloween as neither a mere night nor a scant weekend, but an entire month of grease paint and monster movie debauchery! A carnival of horrors commencing on the last day of September (when I climb the stairs into the attic to retrieve a Clark Griswold-esque treasure trove of beaded skull curtains, garishly hued lights, and various decorative severed limbs) and not concluding until early November when I finally make my way through all of the discounted seasonal merchandise at my local retailers.

Unlike most other holidays that involve me driving for hours to exchange overpriced gifts, enduring cookouts in the sweltering southern heat, or trying to find a card that says “I love you and thanks for not freaking out that time I caught the yard on fire,” Halloween is low-impact, low-stress. It mostly involves me drinking beer, dispensing junk food to neighborhood urchins, and watching “Rosemary’s Baby” for the fifty-sixth time. Sure it’s a little more complicated now that I have a child of trick-or-treating age of my own, but having the Halloween Spirit means never having to say “I think we’ve already gone to that house and they just gave us Smarties.”

Most importantly, I have always thought of Halloween as a nerd’s holiday. Some would argue that it’s actually a goth’s holiday, but I attest goths are just nerds with black nail polish. But I digress. Whatever your flavor of geekery, it’s a holiday for freaks and outcasts, for the dramatic and the slightly disturbed. Halloween is about fantasy, secrets, and lies, and who does that shit better than nerds?

Therefore, this year Hipster, please! is going balls-out for the month of October. I am currently working on three (Okay, maybe two and ½) written features, as well as a couple of seasonally themed podcasts. I’ll also be keeping you abreast of all the coolly ghoulish nonsense that I encounter. Hell, you’ll probably even get one of my patented keep Halloween evil rants.

Maybe this is exactly your kind of thing. Maybe it ain’t. Either way, I hope you find the same nominal level of entertainment value you’ve come to expect from Hipster, please! Halloween affords a unique glimpse into the American psyche. It’s a time of idle fun for children and emotionally stunted adults alike, a time that exposes our seldom-seen hopes, dreams, fears, and fetishes. But it seems like every year it becomes a little more sallow, a little less subsistent, more and more a footnote to the capitalist glut of the modern Christmas.

What can we do? How do we counter this trend?


Have fun. Eat candy.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The greatest show(s) on earth

I the recent past both Emergency Pizza Party and Shael Riley have put on exemplary shows of a nerdcore nature. Don’t believe me? I have evidence. Damnable evidence, says I!

The entire EPP gig can be downloaded (in the new-fangled MP3 format) from the online residence of the funkiest number of them all. The site also boasts links to video footage and a lengthy collection of "thank yous." Truly there ain't no Pizza Party like an Emergency Pizza Party.

While Shael’s performance isn’t quite so well documented, you can be assured of his consummate verse-slangin’ due to the ultimate outcome: he will be opening for the Nerdcore Juggernaut that I have chosen to call Optimus-Front in both NYC and Boston next month. Being a simple farm boy I am unfamiliar with such locals, but I am assured by grandfather that both a bustling centers of commerce resplendent with decadent worldly delights.

Speaking of depravity, my ol’ buddy Beefy (who, while not my favorite Whitesican, easily cracks the top ten) will likewise be opening for Optimus Rhyme when they play December 2nd in Seattle. Seattle, of course, is where all good nerds go when they die. Transcend with him, people!