MC Frontalot @ The Knitting Factory, 11/21
I feel at home at hip hop shows. I am in my element. I am around people who love the same kind of music I love. This past Wednesday night, however, for the first time in my show-going life I was at a hip hop show as an outsider. Nerdcore rap was something that I had only vaguely heard of, all I knew of it was rap with a whole lot of references to video games, Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, the Internet and comic books and oh yeah this MC Frontalot guy was considered the "Godfather" of it all.
KRS-One said "you must learn" and my fortune cookie from Panda Express the day before said to "expand my horizons". So I decided to listen to the "Blast Master" and the company that types up fortune cookies and go out of my element and take in a night of Nerdcore at the Knitting Factory.
Despite the fact that I am not an avid D&D player or had no idea what a "module" was, I was very impressed with the performances I saw on this night.
Schaffer the Darklord brought his A game as the opener for Frontalot. While you would never confuse him for a member of 50 Cent's G-Unit, STD might very well have taken a page out of Curtis' man, Lloyd Banks' book. Like Banks, Schaffer's flows are heavy on punchlines. The Knitting Factory could have very well been the Laugh Factory, as STD had the audience cracking up on a regular basis. For those of you keeping score at home, yes I did just use Lloyd Banks and Schaffer the Darklord in the same sentence.
Schaffer's set included a song about people who like cats, a song about Jesus as a Zombie, a song about having sex with his clone and a song about the decaying of the English language thanks to text and instant messaging (my personal favorite or should I use a ridiculous acronym and say MPF?). Not exactly what you've come to expect from hip hop in regards to lyrical content. I definitely had to adjust to my surroundings.
Schaffer paid homage to Frontalot throughout the show, constantly dropping his name which got a good pop from the crowd each time.
After being thoroughly warmed up by Schaffer, the crowd was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Frontalot. Out from the back, through the crowd of about a hundred Nerdcore lovers, ran Frontalot (the self-proclaimed "world's 579th greatest rapper") and his band. Clad in short-sleeve shirts and ties, Frontalot along with keyboardist Gminor7, bassist Blak Lotus and drummer The Categorical Imperative hit the stage.
Guys who probably never got a B in their life were getting their B-Boy on to the funk/soul/rock beats banging from his trio of instrumentalists while Frontalot rhymed about everything from his dog to goth girls to blogs to religion to computers.
Here's a sampling of Frontalot's flow about computers on "Secrets from the Future"
Get your most closely kept personal thought:
put it in the Word .doc with a password lock.
Stock it deep in the .rar with extraction precluded
by the ludicrous length and the strength of a reputedly
dictionary-attack-proof string of characters
A Frontalot show plays out like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" complete with 12-sided die, but on this night, however, a fan threw a 20-sided die. If he rolls one way he does one song, roll another way he does the other song. The crowd absolutely ate it up.
For the show's finale, Frontalot brought Schaffer back on stage to perform "Nerdcore will Rise". As fan of hip hop at its purest, I'd love to see genuine artistry, lyricism, charisma and independent spirit - something both Frontalot, Schaffer and from what I have heard/read the entire movement has. Unfortunately, I don't know if Nerdcore will in fact rise above the following it has already attracted, but that definitely is going to stop these nerds from trying.
Check out the duo of Frontalot and Schaffer performing "Nerdcore will Rise" in Columbus, OH:
Photo by Sean McPharlin