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New Day Rising
Hip-hop subgenre known as ‘nerd core’ incorporates its own comedic
stylings, as seen in new documentary film.
Documentary director Negin Farsad avoids the standard traps of the genre
with her film, “Nerdcore Rising,” which looks at the musical sub-genre
of “nerdcore” hip-hop through the perspective of MC Frontalot, a founder
and top performer of the nascent form.
Farsad does use the two stand-bys of documentaries, talking-head
interviews and filming behind the scenes of a road trip or tour, but
delivers a journalistic narrative that is interesting and strong enough
to hold your interest through the standard filmmaking.
As to where comedy fits into the film’s subject, most nerdcore rap as a
genre is shot through with its own brand of humor -- whether it comes
from the esoteric references in the lyrics or the self-deprecation of
its leading performers. (take for instances the rhyme of “braggadocio”
and “Ralph Macchio” in one of Frontalot’s song). MC Frontalot and his
band are one of the few touring nerdcore acts so far, and his bandmates,
seen and interviewed at length in the film are equally proudly nerdy.
And nerdcore as a genre or the fans of it often overlap with the comedy
world -- two of the expert commentators on nerdcore in the Farsad’s
documentary are song parodist Weird Al Yankovic and comedian Brian
Posehn. Yankovic ends up addressing a good question about nerdcore --
whether it can go mainstream. He doesn’t really think so but adds that
widespread success doesn’t seem to be what its performers are looking
for anyway. The more modest MC Frontalot tour documented by Farsad --
several southeastern US cities, and one appearance at a special event in
Seattle, was succeeded by a much more extensive tour, whose itinerary is
shown on a map toward the end of the movie -- just being able to sustain
enough of an audience for such a big tour seems to be success enough,
and Frontalot himself thinks the only way the genre would go wider is
through a fluke novelty hit.
Even that following really only became possible because of the Internet
explosion of the last 10 years. Nerdcore’s rise online is somewhat
analogous to the rise of comedy shorts on the Web. Aside from these
broader musical and media implications, “Nerdcore Rising,” (seen
February 13 in a special screening at 92Y Tribeca) in and of itself
entertains even if you only have a passing interest in rap or hip-hop
because the personality and humor of its main subject, MC Frontalot,
which is hard to do justice to in a review. You ought to see and hear
him for yourself.
Nerdcore Rising is currently touring the film festival and screening
circuit. MC Frontalot’s latest album, “Final Boss,” was released in 2008
on the Level Up label.