Don’t catch me white and nrrrdy

MC Frontalot strings rhythms and algorithms in his nerdcore hip-hop movement

Megan Kadrmas

Finally, someone’s making beats dedicated to all the skinny, pimply, white nerds out there. White (as in skin color) boys have long had a place up on hip-hop stages, but hip-hop has never really rolled out the red carpet for white (as in geeky) boys.

Until now, that is. MC Frontalot, a Boston-based rapper, is bringing un-sexy back in a major way. With the release of his sophomore album, “Secrets From the Future,” Frontalot has the so un-hip side of hip-hop rising up and singing along to songs about Aspergers, blogging, robots and evolution.

Frontalot, along with a few others like mc chris and MC Hawking, coined the term “nerdcore” to describe the small and obscure hip-hop niche they’ve been carving out since 1999. They dubbed the genre as a shout out to the core of their audience: the mathletes, video gamers, bloggers and all-around wholesome nerds with some inner gangster waiting to be unleashed.

MC Frontalot, with Optimus Rhyme and MC Lars
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: The Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $10 adv/ $12 dr, all ages, http://triplerock.indietickets.com

From the obscure depths of the Internet, nerdcore rose up, and MC Frontalot led the pack. His first retail album, “Nerdcore Rising,” which is in its fourth printing, and the follow-up both sum up the phenomenon that is rap for social rejects: sarcastic, self-depreciating, smart and somehow successful. Front is also the official rapper of Penny Arcade, the world’s most popular web-based comic with 3.5 million readers daily, the ultimate crowning jewel of a rap career based on all things not hip-hop.

Although MC Frontalot and his nerdcore followers will probably never make it into the mainstream, the light-hearted humor and wit of “Secrets from the Future” are refreshing in a time when even hip-hop seems to be polarizing into super-serious socio-political commentary and pre-fabricated, materialistic pop-rap.

On his newest project, Frontalot mixes an articulated, “white” rap style with digital beats. Front flaunts his intellectual prowess on “Secrets from the Future,” apparently assuming that an average nerdcore fan is anything but an average hip-hop fan.

Since nerdcore is a relatively new and buried offshoot of hip-hop, it’s hard to tell whether nerdcore fans are hip-hop fans or simply elitists.

As Jason Tanz explores in his great new book, “Other People’s Property: A Shadow History of Hip-Hop in White America,” nerdcore is just part of a larger growing trend – white people rapping to almost entirely white audiences about things they know, whether it be the mean streets or growing up in the ‘burbs. Although mainstream rap music is still dominated by black artists, the underground is growing increasingly pale.

So, maybe MC Frontalot is just doing the necessary in a credibility-obsessed genre, keeping it real to what he knows. Likewise, maybe nerdcore fans can’t relate to selling drugs or the Projects, but can relate to playing WoW all day or watching Internet porn like MC Frontalot.

Maybe nerds appreciate Front’s sarcastic and smart lyrics. In fact, since Front isn’t pushing the envelope with his beats, the words are what make him worth listening to. For instance on “Bizarro Genius Baby,” when Frontalot explains a dream he had about his prodigy child, he raps, “She was already wearing the glasses / mic in the palm / she was planning to become a nerdcore rapper / just like me / so I shipped her to Singapore / sold her baby ass to Nike.”

MC Frontalot
TITLE: “Secrets from the Future”
LABEL: Level Up Records and Tapes

Frontalot has fun with track titles, sparking curiosity about what cuts like “Livin’ at the Corner of Dude and Catastrophe” or “Very Poorly Concealed Secret Track” hold.

Maybe MC Frontalot’s humorous take on hip-hop is what makes him entertaining, or maybe it makes him condescending. Is making hip-hop white and nerdy equivalent to saying they are smartening up a generally nonintellectual genre?

The exact same things that make Frontalot funny – his witty lyrics and creative themes – could also make him an elitist. Is it wrong to take a sometimes too-serious genre and make it funny and light-hearted? Is it OK to rap as long as the rapper keeps it real, even if real means civil engineering and anime porn?

Knowingly or not, underneath the smirks and chuckles MC Frontalot and his comrades raise some hard questions that all hip-hop fans should confront about the changing face of rap.