Monday, 20 October 2008

"Keepin it real...there's no real to keep" Nerdcore Rising Movie Movie Review

You might never see another hiphop documentary as good as this...I'm therial. Largely for the same reasons 'Nerdcore' even exists. It's honest, unabashed, well made and genuinely funny rather than an hour and change of inflated egos slurring cliches at a handycam, usually thankfully inaudible due to crappy production values and crappier sound mixing/royalty free beats.

The story goes that Song Fight provided the catalyst; they give you a title, you go away and make a song based on it, submit it and users vote for their favourite (what happened to this creativity in regular hiphop? How did battling degenerate into picking holes in each other's wardrobe choices? But I digest...). MC Frontalot aka Damien (32 year old web designer with a bad back) has never been defeated which is impressive in itself...but the website and his success delivered unto him fans of what he was calling 'Nerdcore', essentially a word he coined to just describe what he was doing, making the music he loved without compromising who he was one killabyte.

The movie follows Frontalot on his first nationwide tour, which is serving as the acid test for whether or not he can make a career out of music. And things kick off with...a drip. We follow Front and Co through performances at several hick towns (that's ballsy) along the southern Eastern seaboard, playing to very sparse crowds of kids (maybe they have space issues) in coke-bottle-bottom glasses who have spent $2Gs on Magic The Gathering cards, with speech impediments and underbites, sporting t shirts with algorithms and comedy Warcraft references on them....but what they lack in numbers they make up for in spirit, many driving hours to catch the shows.

Musically, Front is under no illusions. "I'm not good at rapping, I'm OK at rapping" and yeah he kind of has one flow, a singsongy delivery with a little double time flourish in it. I admit as a hiphop fan and being mixed race (I'm a cool-nerd and so rejected by both cultures) it's hard to adjust to; we're programmed to seek the 'cool' in music which as one fan puts it "Being a rockstar is kinda the opposite of what Nerdcore is about". It's honest awkwardness is it's refreshing charm but his delivery does have a air of Whose Line Is It Anyway..."do the credits in the styyyyle ooofffff...a rapper!"

But there's no denying the wit at work and play here. Songs like Hassle The Dorkening, Crime Spree and ode to net-porn Click to Close (with a line I know GP's Arfur Breakspear can relate to "Got a boat load of midgets and they're in command/Of a full grown woman on her knees and hands") overcome the twee delivery in a way that will touch the soul of many an inner-nerd.

It doesn't work for everybody. "He sucks, he sounds like Robin Williams, looks like Kelsey Grammar...but his band jams" but anyone with a little nerd in 'em can't help but identify with and root for the kids who love him. In the fan vox pops a real sense of pain and displacement comes across but also of nerd-pride and "Being cool despite what we do, being cool because of what we do". These kids have had it rough, but in nerdcore found somewhere where they belong, where cool is being not-cool.

With contributions from and intelligent questions to a diverse cast of contributors such as Prince Paul ("regular hiphop is 90% front and 10% honest, a lot of sincerity is lost"), Al Yankovich, J Live and Jello Biafra the film bravely tackles subjects like whether N-core could go mainstream and the misappropriation of culture. One Nerdcore MC points out that "a lot of it is novelty" and a number of other MCs on the scene are tapped for their perspectives. Judging by what I've seen on Youtube some of them fall into this category and honestly shouldn't be calling themselves MCs (stand up Dr Popular, Beefy etc)...they're all kinds of awful. You probably couldn't make this movie without contributions from these guys but if there's a flaw I would say their inclusion was it.

In the end, what you have is a road movie with a happy ending, about a music genre you thought couldn't possibly exist, with a bunch of guys who couldn't possibly make it (could they?), filled with insight, humanity, humour and HeadsShouldersKnees&Toes and/or Wookie-based pre-show rituals.

So take 80 minutes off dedicating your life to achieving the goal of supreme masculinity and watch. There is no future in your fronting, but maybe there is in Damien's....

"How's the tour going so far?"
"Is it?"

MC Frontalot Official Site

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