Some of the nerdiest hip hop songs are actually some of the best hip hop, period. “What?!” you I can hear you exclaim, incredulously. “Nerdy hip hop that is actually good? Mais, c'est pas possible! Surely one cannot hope to assemble a fine and laudable specimen without the guns, bitches, and weed.”
Au contraire, comrade. There are plenty of alternative or underground rappers out there that are exploring themes other than the hard-knock life…
Take MC Frontalot, for example. He is a leader of the “nerdcore” hip hop movement. His often amusing–and sometimes hilarious–rhymes are rooted in old school-style beats. Behold Frontalot's “Fresh Dog”:
Or how about Saul Williams, the poet that came out of the spoken word movement of the 1990s and 2000s. His “Coded Language” sets the bar for epic spoken word/hip hop that uses big words.
Blackalicious of Sacramento, California is a lyricist to end all lyricists. (OK, there are a lot of those, but this guy is legit.) He takes on all manner of subject matter. One subject he tackles is the science of chemistry, in “Chemical Calisthenics”. His delivery is clear, concise, and, frankly, dope.
A favorite rapper of mine is Eyedea, of Minneapolis hip hop collective Rhymesayers. Eyedea won the prestigious freestyle battles Scribble Jam (1999) and Blaze Battle in 2000. But aside from tearing MCs apart off the top of his head, Eyedea (with DJ Abilities) writes some of the most philosophically obscure lyrics in existence. In “Shadows Have Shadows”, Eyedea paints a verbal picture that will leave your head spinning. Thankfully, the lyrics appear in the following video:
These are just a few examples of nerdy hip hop that is actually good. Hip hop has expanded well outside the boundaries of “the ghetto” (whatever that means).
Bonus: A song of my own, which I wrote and recorded on a cheap mic in 2007, under my old MC name, Musclemouth. I call the song “Love in the 21st Century”, as it is about finding love and friendship on the Internet. It doesn't get any classically nerdy than that!
What are your favorite nerdy (or just “alternative”) hip hop songs?
by Will Conley