There was a time when I’d never heard of nerdcore. I didn’t listen to rap, with the rare exception of some Beastie Boys. (Because who doesn’t love “Sabotage”?) Then, a friend of mine sent me a mix-tape which included some MC Frontalot tracks. Around the same time, I played the PC version of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness- Episode 1, and that game’s end credits included MC Frontalot’s song “Final Boss,” in which he’s rapping as the titular final boss.
“Every time you ever lived, it’s because I delegated your demise
to the wrong size of minions
Got a bigger batch coming – statisticians got a dim opinion
of your chance to survive – make your time”
You have to be a giant nerd to even get the Zero Wing reference. I was hooked.
And that’s Frontalot’s style. He raps about everything from text adventure games and cryptography to 419 scams, collectible card games and plenty of less-SFW topics. He’s even got a song about how in the age of file-sharing, selling tee shirts is more profitable than selling music. He’s collaborated with Jonathan Coulton, collaborated with and written music about Wil Wheaton, and he’s even done a song with my personal favorite nerdcore rapper, Adam WarRock.
If you’d like a general sense of what Frontalot’s music is like, check out a few of my favorites from his past albums: “I’ll Form the Head,” which is about a Voltron knockoff in which the pilots are arguing over which of them should form the head, “Stoop Sale,” (like a yard sale if you live in Brooklyn), and “Braggadocio,” an old favorite of mine which is a wonderfully crafted rap song full of egregiously absurd brags.
Since I’m writing here on GeekDad, I should make it very clear that not all of MC Frontalot’s music is appropriate for kids. The opening line of his song about Dungeons & Dragons is an F-bomb, and while much of his music has no cursing, his earlier stuff especially is not something I’d ever let my own children listen to. His sixth album, Question Bedtime, was specifically put together language-free so that the kiddies could partake. If you have especially young kids, I recommend Elmo’s Potty Time, which features a rap song by MC Frontalot about a toilet paper factory.
On March 8th, MC Frontalot is releasing his seventh album.
Frontalot’s newest album focuses exclusively on internet-based topics, especially behavior on social networks.
It strikes a bit of a dichotomy in that the first nine tracks—the new songs—have a somewhat more electronic sound than I’m used to from his music, whereas the final three are “unplugged” remakes. The writing reminds me a lot of his earlier music—songs like “You Got Asperger’s” or “Listen Close.”
“Dating Profile” has a decent hook, but is a bit more electronic than I like in my nerdcore. And the song “Extremely Online” is a thoughtfully written take on internet addiction. I’m not a big fan of the song “DDoS,” but that may be just because Quelle Chris’s style of rap just doesn’t appeal to me.
“IWF” (Internetting While Female) is easily my favorite track on the disc. In it, Frontalot has teamed up with four female musicians: Starr Busby, Lex the Lexicon Artist, Miss Eaves, and E-Turn. Together, they put together a humorous rebuttal to men’s rights activists. Busby’s harmonic chorus is excellent, and that solid musical anchor is something I think some of the other tracks on this album are lacking.
The last of the album’s original music is a song by the name of “Bad Nerd.” It’s very catchy, and the chorus by Corn Mo is the anchor the song needs. After having recently seen the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, I spent some time on Wikipedia researching Freddie Mercury and I became aware of vocal belting. I’m no expert, but from the sound of things, I think Corn Mo may be belting.
“Bad Nerd” briefly recounts the history of nerddom. When we were kids, we were picked on and we hid our nerdiness. Now, as adults, we’ve entered a time when the nerds rule the world. We are the ones who know all the things. From that point, Frontalot brings it around and reminds us not to be bad nerds, not to be a jerk online. It’s a plea to nerds to just be civil and use their powers for good.
“Why you got to make nerd mean a******?
Why you got to make internet cruel?
Turn part of it into a murderous idiot school.
Turn the rest of it into paranoia fuel.
Wreck the normies, they’re annoying you.
But what you’re wrecking is the clique you represent”
Then the album goes into one of Frontalot’s non-musical skits, this time featuring Anita Sarkeesian. Frontalot plays largely the same role he did in “IWF.” It’s funny, but the skits are never in my daily playlist.
Lastly, the album has—as a kind of bonus—“unplugged” versions of three previously released songs, all of which touch on the internet. The unplugged version of “Message No.419” is even better the original, with some nice jazzy background piano. The second unplugged track, “I Hate Your Blog,” has never been my favorite of Frontalot’s tracks. But the song does grow on me the more I listen, and this piano-and-drums version is pretty nice. Lastly, there’s “Pr0n S0ng.” While listening to the explicit subject matter makes me slightly uncomfortable even a decade after first hearing the lyrics, the rhythms and the way that Front lays down the rhymes shows just why he’s become as popular as he is. But the pedant in me cannot help but notice… this song adds an electric bass guitar to the piano and drums, so is it really unplugged?
Knowing how politically outspoken Frontalot has been at times, part of me was disappointed not to find a more overt statement on the current situation in the United States. Years ago, MC Frontalot wrote “Special Delivery,” a song unabashedly critical of the rationale for war in the middle east, and “Black Box,” a complaint about unaccountable electronic voting machines. It feels an omission that in today’s climate, Net Split lacks an analogous entry.