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Review: Nerdcore Hip-Hop Compilation CD Project 194

'Nerdcore' is a tricky thing to nail down. Some of it is simply novelty niche tracks with cheesy lyrics, and gimmicky derivative music. Some of it is inspired by trip-hop, others from 80s hip hop or 90s gangsta. A lot of it is really bad. And some of it is actually really good. Witty, sharp lyrics. Entertaining beats and excellent production value. You can hear all of these things on Rhyme Torrents Nerdcore Compilation. Read on for my review.

The best part is that this is all available freely as bittorrents. It'll take you many hours to wade through it all, but the gems in there make it worth the trip.

What I hear on these albums really runs a wide spectrum of music, both in terms of genre and production value. Some sound like a kid with his iMac and a mic. And there's others that sound just as produced as any mainstream studio release. Of course music is about more than how expensive of a mic you used: you'll hear "Good" songs in both groups.

Besides the fact that almost all of these tracks are 'Rap', if there is a unifying feature here it's that the songs are about nerdish things. You'll hear tracks reciting Pi, talking smack about operating systems, and games from Super Mario Bros to Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons. Much of the Post Dre rap you've heard celebrates the 'Gangsta' lifestyle. Personally I find much of this very hard to take seriously. Likewise, much of the lyrics just get campy. It's like a Weird Al mad libs lyric, where the rapper tries to rhyme whatever techish things pop into mind. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

MC Hawking is a great example. His track essentially an MC Battle style rap that relies on the synthesizer voice gimmick. But damnit it actually works. The lyrics are tight and amusing. I wish the hook was stronger, but thats a track I'll enjoy listening to.

Monzy's 'So Much Drama in the PhD' works as well. 'I run gmake and gcc / and i ain't never called malloc without calling free'. The parts come together really well. He might not be the best rapper you've ever heard, but I really enjoy the track. But the lyrics are ultimately that of a novelty song. Very entertaining with a good beat, but very niche.

Ytcracker's "In My Time" is just a fantastic track. You'll be hard pressed not to tap your foot. His lyrics are less obvious then most anything else on the rest of the album. He might be referencing the Atari 2600 or downloading porn to a USB pen, but you could play this track outside a compilation like this and it works. He's probably my favorite on the set. I had to snag more of his stuff from his web site, and it was interesting to see that his work is actually progressing. Having mined the most extreme end of the tech/geek world, his last few songs are stronger for it.

Another common theme here is liberal use of samples. Almost everything has samples from somewhere. You'll here the sound of Mario catching a mushroom integrated into the beats of tracks, and countless game theme songs and sound effects split apart and remixed. Sometimes it's just a gimmick. Other times it works musically. In addition to liberal use of sampling, copyright issues are a common theme in many tracks as well. Sometimes it's subtle, flippant references to downloading movies. But in the case of "Fuck the MPAA"... well, not so much in the way of subtle ;) Don't get me wrong- I got little warm fuzzies hearing sounds that i haven't heard in years, back from my childhood. But after 70 odd tracks, the novelty fades.

On a somewhat related notes, Googling a few of these artists and you'll find another common theme- the remix. Many of these artists feature remixes on their own sites done by others. Doing this definitely shows that a compilation like this is only the tip of the nerdcore iceberg.

It's also worth noting that there are a number of tracks that kinda don't fit. Foreign language stuff. Stuff that falls more into the pop category than hip hop. Some of these tracks are allright, but they feel out of place in this compilation. Like the Rappy McRapper track 'Lick Your Own Butthole Dance'. It's purely goofy silly stuff. Not bad mind you, but it simply doesn't fit. That said, I must have listened to that butthole song 10 times. It's so stupid I love it.

I sort all my music using iTunes '5 Star' thingee. Anything I rate 1-2 stars, I never want to hear again. 17 tracks here fell into that category. Anything 4-5 stars is stuff that goes into my uber playlist. I currently have 1174 songs in this playlist. Of the 4 CDs of music here, 15 songs made it to that playlist. Thats better then most music I listen to.

My suggestion- just download it. Listen to a couple tracks at a time. Don't listen to 15 in a row or it'll break you. Listening to someone rap about Warcraft and followed by one about rolling D20s gets old when strung together. But the best tracks on here stand tall, taking "Nerdcore" away from being simply silly novelty tracks ready for morning zoo radio and campus CS labs, and instead showing that the so called "Nerdcore" lifestyle can be celebrated in at least as interesting way as "Gangsta". The best tracks here do just that. Finding them is fun. A number of artists here are doing just that.

But at the end of the day, sometimes you just need to find a bit of music that you can relate to. And when you hear 'join me in the basement cuz it's warcraft patch day / time for D&D a frontalittle mainstay' day, so it's time to play D&D.... well, thats my Tuesday too. There's something odd about hearing it rapped about.

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Review: Nerdcore Hip-Hop Compilation CD Project

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  • Hmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Poromenos1 ( 830658 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:32AM (#15705723) Homepage
    I don't know, I wouldn't admit openly to listening to that. Like, I'd be OK with myself with it, but if someone told me they listened to nerdcore, I'd think "what a geek" :P
  • rating system (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:42AM (#15705794) Homepage
    Anything I rate 1-2 stars, I never want to hear again.

    My keyboard has a special key for songs (and other things) with such ratings. I call it the 'delete' key.

    Seriously, why bother rating something you never want to hear again? Why not just delete it? It this an iTunes thing?

  • Devo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:46AM (#15705830) Homepage Journal
    was nerdcore in the 70's/80's.

    I'm just sayin'
  • Re:Geez (Score:3, Insightful)

    by instantkamera ( 919463 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:50AM (#15705849)
    This is a joke right?

    Music is an art. You dont have to be the best with a brush to make great are. Likewise, Skilled hands dont always make the most heartfelt pieces.

    An artist needs to be proficient enough to express what they want, in the manner they truely envisioned because, thankfully, art is not defined by the strict confines of scientific/mathematical perfection.


    Dream Theater is the pizza topping equivalent of DUB CHEE.
  • Re:Geez (Score:5, Insightful)

    by telbij ( 465356 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @12:27PM (#15706135)
    You would think that nerds, who are supposedly intelligent, would choose music with real musical value, stuff like Rush or Dream Theater, or other non-manufactured musical types, even jazz or classical.

    On the other hand, it's no surprise that a nerd who values intelligence above all else would fail to realize musical taste has nothing to do with intelligence.
  • Re:Geez (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThadG ( 947830 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @01:54PM (#15706749)
    "I dunno, with (c)rap, it seems if you had enough equipment (sampling, drum machine, mixing) and write some rhymes...anyone can do it. Hell, I could probably do it....and if that's the case, it can't possibly be talent. Anybody can shout out phrases to a drum beat...what happened to people that can actually sing, play instruments, work in melodies and harmonies...?" Whenever I hear someone say something like this, the first thought that runs through my head is that they haven't heard any rap other than what they play on the radio. In fact, I used to think the same way. The way I like to explain it is this: if you want to hear good non-rap music, would you listen to the top 40 stations? Would you watch MTV? I know I wouldn't. So why apply the same standard to rap music? Sure the mainstream sucks, it's the mainstream, that's what's expected. But if people were to actually take the time to search I think they would see that there are many rappers and MC's out there that really are creating art, I consider a lot of rappers to be some of the best songwriters and producers that I've ever heard.
  • by ferretbot ( 988475 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @01:59PM (#15706798)
    without mentioning the aquabats? they are your average ordinary super-human, punishers of evil rock and roll band. and they were invateing nerdcore way before any of theese guys were around.
  • Re:MC Frontalot (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:01PM (#15706811)
    Indeed, my first thought was how can this be a nerdcore review without any mention of either MC Frontalot or MC Chris?

    My second thought was, "MC Hawking finally made some new shit?"
  • Re:Geez (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ameoba ( 173803 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:11PM (#15706899)
    Right... because drum machines & samplers aren't instruments and speaking in complex rythmical patterns is not a vocal skill.

    There's a lot of lousy, uninspired rap out there but that doesn't mean the whole genre is devoid of artistic talent.
  • by BitterAndDrunk ( 799378 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:14PM (#15706937) Homepage Journal
    because even the stuff that you're qualifying as music (4 piece rock bands and the like) are now manufactured based on modern tech.

    And while we're at it, perhaps you'd like to sail on back to the late 50s/early 60s and read what reviewers thought of rock and roll. It would be a surprising parallel to your viewpoints.

    As you get older, tastes become more rigidly defined and the ability to adapt to "new" weakens. You're demonstrating that admirably.

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:51PM (#15707268) Homepage Journal
    Not really...I knew my parents music better than they did while growing up. I've enjoyed almost all forms of music out there. While my favorite style is anything basically blues based, I do try to listen for new things that I like. There is some country music I like these days. I like most of the rock out there, except for the rap/rock..don't see much in that.

    I can enjoy anything out there pretty much, that is "musical". Something with harmony, melody, vocals singing...

    Music through most of the years stole/borrowed from the past and built upon it and moved it can hear this in music progression from the early 30's till about the early to mid 90's. Then, something happened...and the music seemed to stop building upon the roots of the past. It lost a lot of things, including what was valued as talent, and soul.

    I recall hearing early 'rap', and I hate to call it that since it is so different to the gansta shit that is out there now that is 'rap'. Early stuff like Rappers Delight, and fun songs like Bust a songs, good beat...vocal weren't just shouted out, and there was a good musicality to it. Somehow that is lost today where rap is now mostly a myriad of foul language derogatory of women and just about any form or authority, that glorifies a criminal way of life.

    No...I do like many forms of music...just that it has to be music. I want something that has physical instruments played by people, multiple instruments in most cases...vocal talent...etc.

    I just can't see music as someone with no vocal talent shouting obscenities to a synthetic drum beat produced in a studio where no one knows how to play a real instrument.

  • Re:Geez (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:01PM (#15707356)
    I dunno, with (c)rap, it seems if you had enough equipment (sampling, drum machine, mixing) and write some rhymes...anyone can do it. Hell, I could probably do it....and if that's the case, it can't possibly be talent. Anybody can shout out phrases to a drum beat...what happened to people that can actually sing, play instruments, work in melodies and harmonies...?

    As someone who is close to the music business, no its not that easy, although it seems that way. Like people that play "real instruments" there are as much or more "rappers" out there that don't make a dime off of it.

    To me, the best thing that has ever hit the music world in the past 100 or so years has been the Grateful Dead. No band has been able to sell out almost every show every year for 30 years. Sure, people will say it was all of the good drugs, and yup, they helped, but even that is not a single variable to sell out almost every show you play on the order of about 100 shows a year.

    My slashdot name is a hack of the Grateful Dead song, Jack Straw.

    To me, the Grateful Dead perfected the concert experience. They were known for having the best sound systems in the business. They pioneered the now common time delayed towers for larger outdoor venues, and used quadraphonic sound systems in smaller indoor venues. They pioneered the "Open source" kind of mentality of allowing fans to freely record and distribute those recordings for non-commercial gain. They brought the improv of jazz and fusion into rock. They even rapped in the late 60s and maybe early 70s. Early incarnations of "US Blues" before the song was even named that, and other Pigpen songs before he died were rap-like.

    I could go on for a long time on this, but my point is that nothing that gets any kind of widespread popularity is easy. No matter how simple, cheesy, or horrible that it may be.

  • Re:Why rap?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:40PM (#15707695)
    There are great non-rap geek songs in the world

    I'm not so sure about that, but there are certainly great non-geek rap songs in the world, so why not rap?

System checkpoint complete.