Be it Anime Rap, Nerdcore, Nerdcore Hip-Hop, or whatever you choose to call it, the music created by Blerds is coming to the forefront. It’s no secret that Black music and the media that makes up geek culture have heavily influenced each other. And the instances when the two come together have always left lasting impressions. The ’80s B-Boy prose of Naruto’s Jinchuuriki Killer Bee, the scratching interweaved into the soundscape of Samurai Champloo, Blaster the rhyming Autobot that transformed into a boombox, video games like PaRappa the Rappa or the fighting game Def Jam Vendetta the examples are endless. And rappers have been tossing in references to Geek culture for years. Everyone from Action Bronson, Lil Wayne, Frank Ocean, and the Wu-Tang Clan have thrown in several geek culture shout outs. So it’s only logical that from this merging of cultures, there would evolve Black geeks whose music more reflects their geekier interests.
Music artists often write what they are familiar with. Creating libraries to bring listeners inside their world to share their experiences, emotions, and give context to their message. Biggie and JAY-Z gave us stories about the life of New York hustlers in the ’90s. Onyx showed us Black kids could mosh. The Dungeon Family welcomed the world to the dirty south. Migos took us into the trap houses. But there were also artists like Charles Hamilton and Lupe Fiasco who went beyond dropping a geek reference or the occasional song but were giving people a look inside what was going on in the mind of the kids who weren’t generally seen as the cool kids. Before Geek was chic and before Blerds were even a notion, there were just these individuals caught in the middle. They might not be up on the newest sneaker dropping but knew the release calendar for the new game dropping. While some guys collected phone numbers, they collected trading cards. While some girls perfected their makeup and walking in heels others were waxing guys in Mortal Kombat.
These were their poets writing the soundtrack to their lives. When rappers boasted about their game and prowess at sleeping with models Charles Hamilton penned an ode to Black adult film star Lucy Duvalle. Lupe Fiasco’s Kick Push was their version of the Mary J Blige and Method Man’s All I Need. But while this was going on in the mainstream, there was an underground movement that was tapping into the same energy. Although early iterations of Nerdcore or Geeksta rap revolved mainly around computer programmers with too much time on their hands, there quickly began to be standouts like Mega Ran who dropped an album of the same name as an ode to the Mega Man video game series
Now as geek has gone mainstream artists are more comfortable expressing their love of anime and games. Lil Uzi Vert’s track Sasuke is named after Naruto’s rival. Thundercat croons about his Dragonball Durag, Megan thee Stallion has spoken extensively about her love of anime, including an interview with anime streaming giant Crunchyroll which has evolved into a clothing collaboration. Artists like Migos and Lil Yachty are hanging with gaming teams like Faze Clan. Drake and other artists and athletes are online playing games with streamers like Ninja.
This popularity has inspired and been a groundswell for artists like Sunzi, KooHefner, Paper Dragun, Swoodeasu and others who have utilized platforms like Soundcloud, Youtube and Spotify to continue this legacy. Artists whose catalogs are not just a reference or a song title but speak to geeks old and new, curating their lives be it through rap, song, or production. Here are a few to check out.
Not exactly a new comer, Sammus has been making noise since 2012 and has even been dubbed the “rap Aisha Tyler” by MTV. She is one of the most prominent faces in the Black female geek circle as well as the growing nerdcore hip hop movement. Sammus’ ability to wield an impressive array of skills like intellectual subjects (she recently received her Ph.D.), geek references as well as handling her own production is reminiscent of her namesake of Metroid fame. While some choose to dumb down to reach the masses, Sammus challenges her audience to keep up as she entertains and educates like the sickest version of School House Rock ever. This has earned her a legion of fans and critical acclaim from the likes of Vibe, Vice, New York Times and more.
“To take the pressure off
I think that Mother Brain be crazier than Sephiroth
She like Mousers or Bowser
Turned up to one thousand
I heard she’s astounding
But I got that aim of Jesse James call a n*gga “Team Rocket”
Dock and send those lames straight to lay up in the coffin
Out of pocket like you Polly ya’ll gone get a molly whopping
Got ya wondering “Who shot ya” while I’m joggin’ out the cockpit” – Mae Jemison
If you’re keeping track that’s Metroid, Final Fantasy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario Bros., a western hero, Pokemon, Polly Pocket, Biggie or Tupac take your pick, and then back to Space travel. Yeah…
Mega Ran is one of the pioneers of the nerdcore scene. Starting in 2006 with his initial release under the stage name Random. It was 2007 when he released the Mega Man tribute Mega Ran that would get him on the radar of the masses including the game developers Capcom. While his legend grew in the geek community he continued to push the genre further, releasing projects that continued to combine his penchant for throwing punchlines like he was in Mike Tyson’s Punchout. His impressive discography includes Mega Ran 9, Forever Famicom the ode to games on the Nintendo and Super NES system “which was called Famicom in Japan”, and Black Materia which was inspired by Final Fantasy VII. The Chip-Hop rapper, a term he designated for his music has lent his talent to game developers as well for games like Marvel Vs Capcom 2, and Monaco.
It might be a little tongue in cheek that a geek artist borrows his alias from the British entrepreneur famous for building an empire called Virgin but that’s just the way Richie Branson’s mind works. Splitting time as a game developer, producer and recording artist Branson’s career started in the mainstream but quickly decided his heart wasn’t in it and made a hard pivot to creating music that spoke to the geek in him. According to past interviews, a revelation that came to him after a restroom break during a Star Wars: Old Republic gaming session led to his first nerdcore release The Cold Republic – Episode I: The Empire Likes Rap, based on his experiences with the game. The EP received critical acclaim which included a live version of “Looking For A Group” getting aired on San Antonio Texas TV station KABB. The follow up single “Letter to Squaresoft” Richie waxes poetically over the demise of the games being produced by Square Enix which caught even got a response from the company. Other notable follow up projects included the Mobile Suit Gundam based The Wing Zero EP which caught the attention of Gundam Manga publisher TOKYOPOP, “Bring Back Toonami” his ode to Adultswim’s late-night anime block which was eventually adopted by the Cartoon Network as part of its promotional campaign. Probably one of his most well known projects was the Biggie Star Wars Remix Mashup Life After Death Star. He has continued to drop projects including a track for the Rooster Teeth series Gen:Lock and his most recent project From the Underground to the Stars.
“My Marijuana green I call it King Kami (Yuh)
I just bought a manga I dont f*cking read kanji (Nuh)
John Cena knee dropping you dont see me stopping (Nuh)
pull up in that ghost kill em like a shinigami (yuh)
Young weaboo I run the table (yuh)
try to test my moves in Tekken that’s a f*ckin KO (bruh)
…now im cooking like that maccaroni in my kitchen (yuh)
f*ck these dirty dishes i’m watchin Rurouni Kenshin (Yuh)” – If Weaboo Sh*tposting Was a Song, It’d Sound Like This
While a newcomer to the music scene, Sunzi ( Say it like “Chun-li”) is not new to the geek scene having already amassed an impressive following and influence as a cosplayer and content creator. She was tapped as one of the initial signings of Columbia Record’s Lost Rings imprint and released her debut single Joystick in 2019. The track could be a metaphor for the current state of culture as she carefully blends trap with geek in a sonic emulsion that listening could only have been pulled off by skill. But she has perfectly blended the two and her follow up Senpai continues showcasing her prowess. If Sammus is Rap Aisha Tyler, Sunzi is Trap Sammus. As they both have an adept hand at making their subject matter both welcoming to everyone but also those hidden jewels for the ones that know.
“Just call me Tommy Vercetti I’m bout my Fetty
Sly Cooper, Sliding on nigg*s you’ll never get me
I got my koopers my troopers they never let me
Fall in the pits with the sticks
I’m always riding with the top down
Sliding through the cop town yeah
Got the cheat code n*ggas outta stars round here.” – Joystick
GTA, Sly Cooper, Pitfall, Cheat codes need we say more?
The best way to describe Swoodeasu’s sound is if Rae Sremmurd jumped on a Moeshop track. Hailing from Virgina, Swoodeasu grew up like most of us listening to music and wondering if we could do that. The difference is that he started studying the process and eventually decided to start creating his own. But instead of jumping into the mainstream he would create about things that stoked his passion– anime and pop culture. A fire sparked by another artist Hent*i Dude whose creations had an industry level sound but the content was pure anime. He was also drawn to the blooming underground Nerdcore hip hop movement that prides itself on authenticity and its grassroots sensibilities. Releasing music over the past 3-4 years he has drawn a following for his laid back anime trap style and singles like Kawaii Hot Ones, Pout, and his most recent release Comfort Zone have been drawing big numbers.
An outlier in the more established Vlerd nerdcore scene has been anything non Hip-Hop. There is the love of J, K Pop and the songs that are anime openings but not much other than that. So Blackkrystel is carving something that has less of a frame than the others. Another in the Lost Rings stable, Blackkrystel built a sizeable following for her cosplays including a version of the X Men movie storm that hit national press spots. She is also a journalist in the gaming space contributing coverage and insight on and off camera for a number of outlets and hosted ESPN’s College eSports tournament. Blackkrystel comes from a musical background having studied as well as performed with a college group and taps into various styles in her music. Her single Party Up was a poppy tribute to girl gamers looking for their player 2. And her future music looks to fuse various genres to build on a sound that she wants to be unique and diverse as the geek community.
One of the most well known black cosplayers, Kiera Please, has amassed an impressive following (over 650K on Instagram alone). Her takes on various characters spanning a number of genres as well her trademark curls and unique style has earned her the attention of outlets like Vice, Afropunk and Seventeen Magazine. Not to be one to jump on trends she initially hesitated jumping into music but her friend and producer Tofu Jack convinced her and the two worked on her debut EP Infinite inspired by a shared fondness for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The debut single Bloom was warmly received by her fans and led to her co-directing the video. Following singles and videos included the EPs title track Infinite and the interstellar Space Song. Recently, she teamed up again with Tofu Jack and released Obvious Secret inspired by Adventure Time’s Marceline and Princess Bubblegum.
I would like to think that Dollia is what would happen if Doja Cat grew up infatuated with Harajuku girls and babydoll dresses. Sometimes provocative, sometimes playful but always entertaining and leaving you wanting more. And maybe it’s that provocation that makes us sit up and listen. Her baby-soft tone could give you lolicon vibes and are in stark contrast to the often pounding trap beats that she raps over on tracks like Plushie Gun, but then it is enchanting and shows her versatility and command of it in tracks like Catherine. But her subject matter is fully geek infused as she melds geek tropes from the perspective of a Loli often referring to her Senpai or Daddy.
Others people and tracks to check out:
Tiny Jag – Nagasaki Zombie
Panama Jane – Wicked City
Keshore – KiKi The Joestar
Paper dragun – Shonen Jump
Koo Hefner – Nani?
Skyblew – I’m Blew
Shiki tmns – Niisan
Blvk Divmonds – One Piece
Slickarudi – Battousai the Beatslayer