Album Review: Nerdcore Now Vol. 1
Nerdcore hip-hop, like most music genres, has had a complex history filled with peaks and valleys and going through many face lifts. Traditionally, the online commons for nerdcore has been Rhyme Torrents, but as with every chapter, it had to come to an end when the community transformed into the recently opened Nerdcore Now. A focal element of the community was the compilation albums. Rhyme Torrents featured 9 self-titled albums and a number of other albums. They have always been a figurative finger on the pulse of the scene, which is as much a compliment as it is a condemnation. As with the passing of the torch, it’s now Nerdcore Now’s turn to continue the work that Rhyme Torrents started.
Nerdcore Now Volume 1 kicks off with none other than the crowned prince of nerdcore, Mr. Keith A Moore himself. Beefy really sets the bar for what the listener can expect. He gives a full annotated history of nerdcore from his experienced point-of-view. This track is very powerful as it’s been a while since Beefy had a track on a Rhyme Torrents album, pointing out the lack of quality control the albums have had. The track itself is classic Beefy, giving a solid delivery over a phenomenal beat.
The next track is Robot Party by Supercommuter, featuring Wheelie Cyberman of one of the greatest nerdcore groups and oldest contributors to RT, Optimus Rhyme. As an amateur historian of the scene, I commented to myself how much it has changed while still holding true to its roots, and this track seems to represent this. OR was always a prominent reason to love nerdcore, and while they are sadly no longer together, it’s good to see Wheelie is still making good music, still contributing to the compilations, and still delivering genre defining quality.
With the Thoughtcriminals comes a new face to nerdcore for this compilation. In the past, RT albums seemed to be stuck in a quagmire of insularity, only featuring tracks from forum members. To me, that seemed to be the antithesis of what Rhyme Torrents was all about when the community was first founded. Fortunately, this seems to not be the case with this compilation. A great track from when I first heard it on Still Standing,Warp Zone (1-2) is a solid representation of the Thoughtcriminals and a good track to make you bob your head.
The next track is the first band I had yet to be exposed to yet, The Future, with Teleport, a chippy and fun track that feels like it’d fit in well in a club setting. I couldn’t really find their website, but am curious to hear what else they’ve produced.
Soup Or Villainz’s track Live in the Arcade is another new track for me and has a very unique feel for me: kind of like a stadium level track… about love of an arcade. THIS is nerdcore hip-hop. The track itself left me wanting more from this artist. Definitely bookmarking SOV for later perusal.
Next on the queue is Milk-Plus, one of my favorite nerdcore cats of recent. I Can Be Your Supervillain features Lady DXK, and while Milk-Plus shines like always, I CANNOT wait to hear more from Lady DXK. The track is VERY dancey and classic rock infused, a trait of Milk-Plus music with which I quickly fell in love .
Next track is Nightcrawlin’ by my VERY favorite nerdy rapper of 2010, Adam WarRock. He uses the comic mythology and the symbolism of Nightcrawler to build a story of discovering pride for one’s uniqueness. You all already know how much I love this man, so I’ll just quickly point out how much I appreciate the reach out for new artists on this compilation for those that were unaware of Mr. WarRock.
Death*Star step in with their shadowy Social Apothecary and the listener realizes why these guys are tearing it up in Seattle. This duo come at you laden with video game references without overdoing it in a comfortable style.
I’ve been rocking Black Materia for the last week, so I was expecting to hear some Random on the compilation, but a collab with Dale Chase, one of the best new guys on the block? Pretty excited for this one! Sweeter is more of a chill and lighter track than its compilation predecessors, and it’s a nice reprieve. Both Ran and Dale deliver pretty solidly together on this track. I hope this is a sign of more collabs to come from these two.
Rap Cliche by PovertyMan is a fun track filled with some nice metahumor and punchlines that are very reminiscent of the stylings of my pal Wordburgie, except with a touch of a Rat Pack crooner in his voice, giving him a very interesting feel. This is another exciting find for me, and I’ll definitely be adding PovertyMan’s RSS feed to my reader.
Jake bit‘s Redundant Me, while alone is pretty good, doesn’t really stand out amongst the tracks that came before it, which I would imagine is hard to do at this point. I look forward to returning to listening to this track by itself later when it’s out of context, though, so please don’t think I’m talking it down.
Another track I’ve been favoring over the past week has been Pudding is Delicious by Illbotz, and one of my favorite tracks was Give A Little Love. I started smiling with the starting bars because I remembered what I was getting myself into again. The cleverness hidden throughout this track makes it something I’m really glad to hear on this compilation and kept me chuckling from beginning to end.
Wow, jumping into A Seed Grows in Brooklyn after Illbotz may have been a bit much for me to handle. I don’t know if this track is a representation of XoC or not, but it may be a bit too ambient and experimental for me to really dig it for listening. I definitely appreciate what he’s attempting with this track, but it’s just not my bag.
I’ve heard a lot of Emergency Pizza Party over the years, so I may be a bit biased when I say that their music is getting pretty formulaic to me. Never Going Back is a perfect example of this for me. I kind of yawned my way through this track.
Bizarro X-Men’s Character Select was another track that I didn’t really feel. I couldn’t really get behind the premise and was wondering where it was going the whole time. It kind of felt like someone following in the steps of Scrub Club’s front man, Mad Hatter, a bit too much.
Another longtime contributor to nerdcore contributions, Ultraklystron is an inspiration to many in the scene. However, I haven’t seen much development in his music over the years. The hook in Bromance Dance was pretty grating to me and I felt the track seemed overall pretty bland.
I was starting to lose interest in the album, but fortunately the next track was a super collaboration from Torrentz with Nerdcore International reminding the listener that nerdcore is NOT an exclusively American phenomenon. A dynamic track with a fluid beat, this track definitely revitalized my faith in the compilation.
Don’t Panic: these two words immediately invoke a wave of nerdiness based out of the mind of Douglas Adams. I hadn’t mentioned it yet, but Klopfenpop has been involved with a large portion of this compilation on the production side and has really been subject of a silent showcase. This is another track that really makes him stand out and reminds the listener that Klopfenpop is a strong member of the new generation of nerdcore. I fully enjoyed this track and appreciated the larger than life feel it had.
One of the things I missed most from previous compilations was the presence of members of the FuMP, but it’s definitely nice to hear a parody by MC 117. A clever Pokemon-infused parody of some Flobots is something I can ALWAYS get behind. Bulbasaur is one of my personal favorite tracks from this album.
I really dig the instrumental of Untested Methods’ Little Crow, but don’t know how I feel about the vocals on it. It feels a bit off for me.
The album wraps up with a VERY chippy remix of Fly by Random, mixed by Klopfenpop. I kind of feel that combo speaks volumes for itself.
This album was a lot of things, but more than anything else – it was a snapshot of nerdy rap today, here and now, and that is both a compliment and condemnation. This album has successfully grabbed the torch from Rhyme Torrents, but more than that, it has attempted to revitalize the scene by introducing some new talent to the scene, fighting the stagnation that had previously been a theme to compilations and the community. For this, the album is a success. Musically, I enjoyed listening to tracks to which I had already been introduced, was introduced to new tracks and artists which I look forward to hearing more from, and made my head bob and smile on more than one occasion. Not every track was a winner, but that’s a pretty insurmountable goal with 21 tracks. This album is released on February 8th over at Nerdcore Now for free, and it’s something I fully encourage you to give a listen and make your own opinion of the current face of nerdcore hip-hop.