The Anti-Nerd Nerd Syndrome



Believe it or not, I recall a time when underground rap was the hipster music of choice. While this could spin into an angry and bitter rant on “what happened to my musics!?’ , that’s not really my aim here. My goal is to discuss what makes one a nerd. Back in the day, I spent hours upon hours discussing rap with friends. We’d contrast and compare, over analyze lyrics and argue over any number of pointless things. You know, we’d do what nerds do. Because we were hip hop nerds. Around the late 90’s and early 2000’s, there was a surge of popularity for underground hip hop. That surge enabled me to start my career, as well as countless others. It was like being a comedian in the late 80’s. Even the mediocre hacks got a chance, and often they’d succeed on some level. But, like so many sub-genre’s before it, it’s popularity , on that large scale, ran it’s course and people found other things to be obsessed with. And by “People” , I partially mean Hipsters. I use this term loosely. It could apply to anyone from 16-35 who was paying attention to trends in music and clothing. Meaning, me , you and you’re shitty friends. So, yeah, the hipsters moved on and , while i was sorta bummed that my genre wasn’t as cool as it once was, it’s not like the fan base completely disappeared. But the hipster fan base? They were already getting hyphy or listening to garage rock or whatever the fuck came next. It’s hard to keep track.

The point of all of this is to point out that just because tastes change, does not mean a person is any less of a nerd than they were before. The underground rap scene faced it’s inevitable backlash and all of a sudden people who had been jocking the most verbose, obscure rap imaginable were now scoffing at it like “What kind of loser would still listen to this shit?”. These were the same people who, months earlier were in the front row of an anticon or Aceyalone show rapping along to every song. These were nerds who thought , because they had grown out of one thing that they were all of a sudden no longer nerds. The reality of it is nerdiness is like herpes. It never goes away. The basis of being a nerd is being obsessive over something. Whether it be Math , guitar solo’s or grind time battles. If you’re into music like that, it doesn’t just stop. So, basically, these nerds just transferred their nerdiness to new thing that they can nerd out over. They were no longer discussing Dose one verses at length. They had moved on to pontificating about Manny fresh’s drum or Cam’ron verses. Nothing wrong with either of those things but, in it’s essence, it’s the exact same thing. The only difference is that they were speaking with the same smug tone about something, that’s completely devoid of pretentiousness. At least with underground rap, a lot of those people were full of shit. It begged for pretentious conversations. There was a lot to discuss. In the case of the latter trends, people are really just looking for anything to say.

I know that, as people with self proclaimed refined tastes, we want to be able to explain why we love what we love. But, sometimes, we like something cause of a feeling. Not cause it’s able to be broken down into parts and explained like a math problem. Hearing people have in depth discussions about music that is, in reality, just simple and basic, is hilarious. I mean, shit, pitchfork.com had made a living off that. I recall a review of Cam’ron’s album “Purple haze” where the writer had the nerve to try and weave his love for the album into something that had to do with Cam’s rough life on the streets and soulful tales. That album was great cause the beats banged and Cam is fucking hilarious. Leave it to a dipshit hipster nerd to need to justify his taste with depth where it doesn’t exist.

Appealing to hipsters is nothing you can plan or maintain. That’s thing about them, they’re nothing if not fickle. They tear through musical genres like fat through skinny jeans. But, what they need to embrace is that the same obsessive behavior they applied to that thing they loved two years ago, is now being applied to whatever they like now. There should be no eye rolling at people who now like what you once liked. All eye rolling duties should be reserved for those people who thought whatever trend was once popular, sucked from the get go. But nerds? You guys can’t say shit to anyone if you were , at any point, just like them.

Just to be clear, I’m a nerd. i wouldn’t make the kind of music I do if I wasn’t. There’s nothing wrong with being a nerd and embracing it is important. Hell, nerds are responsible for most great things. It takes that kind of focus and obsession to take anything to the next level. No one ever created something otherworldly by accident…except maybe Cam’ron. That dude is a fucking genius.

19 thoughts on “The Anti-Nerd Nerd Syndrome

  1. Dose one is still badass in my book. DMX is in our town tonight, or tomorrow. I’ll probably go cause he still is a dope rapper to me. Any thoughts on that dude?
    I also saw Grand Master Flash at a Basquiat art show a few years back and was utterly disappointed. Although he did have the crowd dancing, but playing Laffy Taffy and everything else that was on the radio instead of The message or even White Lines was a big disappointment. I’m wondering if DMX is going to do his older stuff or strictly his new stuff. Do you think artists get tired of playing their old hits they were known for after awhile?

      • The music that we discovered the artist with is always our favorite stuff even of the artists new music is light years better than the old stuff. Agent orange is how i found out about cage and ill nerd out everything he plays it live.

    • Agent Orange is THE SHIT.
      I was a big video game nerd,still am, and the one game that really made an impression on me is Grind Session. The music on that game was what lead me to alot of what I still listen to to this day. My favorite was Blue Flowers-Dr. Octagon, it also had GZA, Krs ONE, Jurassic 5, Black flag and a bunch of others I really liked, Sometimes I’ll nerd out for a couple of hours and play it. Came out on ps1 before that tony hawk shit.

  2. this is a great post.

    i remember watching a jedi mind tricks documentary a couple of years back and them saying the best and most memorable music to someone is the music they heard back in high school and grew up with in their teen years. That music for me was underground hip ho.. atmosphere, jedi mind, especially the def jux guys like aes, rjd2, el-p, cage, can ox, and the ninja tune dudes like you, daedelus, amon tobin, bonobo etc..

    to me you guys will be the most memorable since my high school years were 2001-2005 the years in which underground hip hop really blew up (in a way) and also started to fade a little again (late 2006). now im mostly jaded to hip hop music and now my tastes changed to mostly indie rock/alternative.. i havent logged back in ughh.com in years. i only tend to follow the new stuff from the guys i already know and im not really on the lookout anymore for new hiphop artists and nerding out like i used to. also, now im a fan of wayne, drake, rick ross guys that i scoffed at in my younger years, which btw i would despise myself now looking back.. i hate those people now.. now i just like GOOD MUSIC no matter if its mainstream, uncool, cool or whatever. my point is your point, that i will always still be kinda a nerd about the music and guys i grew up with. any new release from you and those guys and ill be anticipating it anxiously till this day!

  3. Well I might get laughed at for saying this, or I might just get realized as someone who’s taste in Hip Hop was completely captured in the years that “Don’t Jealous Me!!” was talking about. For one, my musical development happened a little differently than most. It’s funny I was actually talking about this with someone before I came home, in that I always new that I liked certain types of music, but I had trouble finding, being exposed to it. For me, I was mainly into ’77 and ’82 style punk rock in my teen years, until I was about 16 (2001-2002), and then I started to rediscover the music I had been raised on; basically being classic rock, and some post punk type stuff that I hadn’t differentiated before this time. Then when I was 18, after getting the Dirt Chamber Sessions Vol. 1 when I was 13 or 14, and already knowing that I liked a certain kind of rap, just not knowing what artists were in the genre; I finally started finding the type of stuff from the underground time period you all are talking around 2003. I went pretty much straight hip hop, until about 2004-2005, and then I also started picking up on another type of music that I already knew I liked (but wasn’t informed on), being neo-psych rock (if that makes sense). I listened to both equally as much until about 2008, and then because I never had tons of people to introduce me to the stuff as maybe some did, I kind of didn’t have any new hip hop to listen to except for the artists i knew about and followed up on with their new albums, and although I would still listen to the stuff I had gotten into around 2003; I mostly listen to neo-psych rock type stuff. I still love all of this music, but at the beginning of 2010, I started to wonder about all the hip hop I had missed out on because I didn’t know tons of people that were into it really heavily. I am still a complete nerd as you say for all of this, I still see the Black Angels and that type of artists every time it comes around. I never talked badly about any of this, it is my musical history and I love all of it as much as I ever did; but I definitely do not listen to the amount of 77 and 82 punk rock that I used to, as often as I used to, but I still appreciate it. I have just 1 friend who has a close enough taste in music as me. I realize that this could sound, somewhat like I am some sort of hipster that doesn’t let go of what was once “hip”, but for one I always knew I liked this type of stuff. I always leaned towards 77 punk rock, and liked stuff like the Talking heads, etc etc and all that before I got into post punk/neo psych rock; so when I found that stuff it was like finding a treasure chest I already new existed, just couldn’t hunt down. The same for hip hop, I always knew there was a kind of it I liked, but didn’t know where to find it. I didn’t have people around me that were into it because it was the in thing. I was like the lone nerd; and sometimes still am. Although more people know about it now, very few I run into have the knowledge of it that I do. Might be because I have always seemed to hang out with people that don’t really fit my musical tastes, for the most part. No one else has ever influenced my taste in music before, it is sacred to me and I like what I like. Sorry about the book; buzzed a bit, hope this makes sense.

  4. Not to mention, there is neo-psych rock, and hip hop from times before this era in question, that I am equally as into. Also, as you’ve said before Block, good music is good music. I am a straight nerd for all good music, regardless of genre.

  5. You are making GREAT music. I love it. Don’t worry about the categories – all that other stuff is bullshit. Closest I can think of is Alex Paterson’s Orb project – wonderful stuff since the beginning. But you’ve got much more serious melancholy – maybe the best electro jazz rock funk since Death in Vegas. Please please please continue to make more such magic music.

    Feel free to contact me if you want my marketing insights. Hint – go after the geezers – they can dig complex music and have not yet learned that people who pay for music are suckers

  6. I figured I should clarify if anyone cares to know that in middle school before acquiring the dirt chamber sessions, I equally listened to old school punk and the then current time in mainstream stuff like Jay-Z around the time of “streets is watching”, dmx “it’s dark and hell is hot”, some Nas, and stuff like that. Also, when I said no one had ever influenced my taste in music, I meant that I’ve always listened to what appealed to me, if I had let others be my guide to music I would have ended up with a very poor understanding of what was proper. I wish I had people close to me to sit around and debate lyrics of and obsess over the details of good music, but unfortunately for more than the most part, I never did. Those of you that live in areas with a good hip hop scene are lucky, not just because of the scene (yea yea, scenes aren’t perfect), but because with them comes fans and those that nerd out. Which I guess could be a chicken and egg type thing.

    • Was reading this and still felt the need to clarify more, not that it matters at all though. I started out listening to Jay-Z, DMX (the albums I mentioned before) and other stuff of that time period like Nas, Biggie and Tupac. Then I got the Dirtchamber Sessions, and loved the whole album. Had UltraMagnetic MC’s, KRS ONE, and others on it. Not too long after that went to Wu-Tang and some others. This whole time I was into varying forms of Punk but mostly the ’77 and ’82 stuff I mentioned, but also listened to Rap. Refined my taste from there until I came to listen in the early 2000’s to more and more underground hip hop and neo psych post punk type stuff. Alright I feel I have clarified the original slightly drunk post enough now. Wiping my hands of it.

  7. I really don’t like pitchfork. I’ve given them plenty of opportunities, but i pretty much disagree with literally everything i have ever read from them. I know its probably not an original comment here, but to me they epitomize all i loathe about hipsterism that thinks they are so superior and knowledgeable about music. If i was on the fence about an album, and pitchfork gave it a bad review, i would probably run out and buy the album in question immediately.

  8. Pingback: Rap Round Table, Week Ending 9/2/2011

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