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.