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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. 


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