From Afrika Bambaataa citing Gary Numan and Kraftwerk as influences, to Method Man likening the Wu-Tang Clan to Voltron, there seems to have always been a nerdy, geeky side to hip-hop.
With this in mind, perhaps it wasn’t all that odd to see people in Green Lantern, Doctor Who and Star Wars T-shirts dancing and waving their hands in the air at Neurolux on Saturday, Aug. 2.
In any case, Brooklyn-based MC Chris and the other performers on his Revenge of the Nerd 2 tour did their best to move the crowd. Each of the concert’s four acts boasted clever lyrics, catchy beats and flow as impressive as any mainstream rapper’s. Soon after the Neurolux show wrapped, local rapper Eleven returned to the stage at the Red Room and delivered the same—albeit with some rough edges.
MC Chris and his three openers—Tribe One from Atlanta, Ga.; Jesse Dangerously from Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Dr. Awkward from San Diego, Calif.—fall within a subgenre of hip-hop known as nerdcore, which, as the name suggests, is frequently characterized by references to video games, comic books and other putatively nerdy subjects.
From Tribe One’s rap about Marvel superheroes to MC Chris’s lascivious video game and movie jokes (“Did Luke bust out a couple of midi-chlorians before he found out Leia was his sister?”), the Neurolux concert was hardcore nerdcore.
Even such standard hip-hop tropes as the dead homie eulogy got a little twist. One song in Tribe One’s set mourned the loss of The Crocodile Hunter’s Steve Irwin.
But the show wasn’t all joking around. Themes of alienation, persecution and empowerment connected the four sets. These themes came to a head during MC Chris’s headlining set. Between songs, the squeaky-voiced rapper (recognize his voice from more than a few Adult Swin cartoons, including Sealab 2021) talked at length about touring hardships, online harassment and media distortions that he’d endured.
However, MC Chris tempered his plaints by alluding to mistakes he’d made in the past and thanking his fans profusely.
“If you hit a wall,” he told the audience, “juggernaut that bitch and plow through it.”
Eleven had to juggernaut through some walls of his own at the Red Room. After he stumbled off the beat on one song, he shifted to a duet with local rapper Exit Prose. The duo flubbed the lyrics near the end of that number but laughed it off. When Eleven stumbled off the beat again during his finale, he rapped a cappella. His perseverance and down-to-earth lyrics suggested that he and MC Chris were kindred spirits.
“Anything you get is reflective,” Eleven rapped. Indeed.