Nerdcore: East Asian Influences Breed New Stomping Ground for Underground Rappers
Untouched territory… A new wave of music is manifesting. Inspired by anime and Asian culture, fresh new artists are involving themselves in the music industry, nerdiness on full display. ‘Nerdcore’ is the name and its time is now.
Nerdcore as a term references all disparate areas of ‘nerd-dom’. From hackers to gaming geeks and everywhere in between, the subgenre is a catch-all for hip-hop musicians who wear their nerd status on their sleeves. However, a powerful push towards the Asian niche and inclusion of predominantly Asian influences could be reforging the style in a new image.
What Nerdcore is All About
Consider mainstream acts like Migos making moves in the nerdy direction. Songs such as “Stir Fry” overtly demonstrate an interest in cult classic Kung Fu films and media. Taking the video into account makes this entirely self-evident.
Unlike Migos, however, true nerdcore musicians embody an entirely different persona altogether. Gone are the trappings of thug backgrounds and mean mug moroseness, to be usurped by smiling, agreeable, enthusiastically nerdy performers. As an emotional statement, it’s powerful and overwhelmingly positive. As a musical statement within its parent genre of hip-hop, it’s outright revolutionary.
Anime, Games, and Good Vibes
Music from nerdcore rapper None Like Joshua ploughs a bold new path of overtly game and anime-obsessed musical mayhem. Mixing dubstep, drum & bass, and more, he spits fire over 8-bit chiptunes and soundtracks. Seriously satirical, his indulgent rap tracks take hip-hop in an extremely entertaining new direction. Palpable is a deep devotion to and admiration for East Asian influences. Anime such as Boku No Hero Academia and One Punch Man make the rounds in his music as topics and even track titles. But, of course, this emerging subgenre is more nuanced than its sources of inspiration.
Indeed, nerdcore is more than its many influences, but a confluence of all things nerdy in the form of free-spirited rap music. It’s a full 180 for hip-hop in terms of general aesthetic and outlook, but more importantly, in terms of freedom as well.
The music from Mega Ran pivots on this ideal of free expression. Tracks like “Church” not only afford him such freedom, but incorporate the likes of Super Mario’s boss themes to boot. Family values, role models and gamified beats bump hard in Mega’s music, his creations being particularly positive examples of nerdcore’s breadth as a subgenre. Much of Meg Ran’s positive vibe hinges on the heartfelt honesty eloquently expressed in each of his songs. He’s not the only nerdcore artist to open up though; far from it, actually.
In the case of LEX the Lexicon Artist, her music’s open honesty plays a pivotal role as well. She plays with the inner struggles of artists in her songs, subtly and not-so-subtly revealing key aspects of herself. There’s no holding back. Social awkwardness takes center stage as well, alongside a slew of relatable nerd afflictions. Playful takes on standard hip-hop culture abound in her music, but it’s evident that nerd life stands in for thug life.
Not all nerdcore creators can attest to leaving the dark side of thug personas in the past, however. Rapper $wank King creates his own brand of music within the subgenre, geared at amalgamating the old with the new. Trap style undergoes a chemical reaction on contact with Naruto references and more.
Changing the Game
What began as freedom from the powers that be and an oppositional force to enforced injustices may have outgrown its original calling. Hip-hop grinds on largely with the old gears of institutionalized anger underneath it. Nerdcore artists divert from this trend, dropping restraint as it pertains to their many geeky obsessions and, in so doing, revealing their true selves to their fans in lieu of the typified rapper’s persona.
Asian influences run deep in their music for good reason – in adulthood, just as in childhood, escapes from the ordinary and the status quo hold special appeal. Exotic imagery from foreign lands, brimming with barely restrained creativity, is but a breeding ground for developing artists.
Could the emphasis nerdcore artists are placing on East Asian influences beget a bigger following in the near future? With the rise of anime and general Asian culture in widespread, global appeal, the scales may be tipping in the subgenre’s favor.
Anime, in particular, has begun to gain steam in recent years among even the uninitiated, with big budget films like Ghost in the Shell giving the box office a run for its money among Western audiences. It stands to reason that nerdcore as a relatively new phenomenon is budding in the right place and at the right time to take advantage of such media momentum. Everybody wants an escape, and the collective dreamscape of East Asian media brings Western audiences fresh perspectives they never knew they needed.
Most people live their lives half asleep, doing what they’re told, functioning like sheep.