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MC Frontalot takes "nerdcore" rap in a new sonic direction

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Revenge of the nerd: MC Frontalot
  • Revenge of the nerd: MC Frontalot

Credited with coining the somewhat regrettable if descriptive tag "nerdcore," MC Frontalot started releasing music in '99 while working in San Francisco as a web designer. Hardly the first nerdcore rapper (that could be MC Paul Barman, 2 Skinnee Js, or even Beastie Boys, depending on one's perspective), his work is nonetheless emblematic of the genre's geeky, cheeky, white middle-class, pop-culture-biting style. 

By the time Frontalot released his debut LP, 2005's Nerdcore Rising, he'd largely been overshadowed by artists like MC Chris and MC Lars. They've remained more prolific than Frontalot (born Damian Hess), but his irreverent, self-deprecating humor and nimble tongue has him hot on their heels. 

He's honed his goofy self-consciousness along the way, producing a passel of endearing tracks. In "Braggadocio" he rhymes with Ralph Maccio and pledges to become "revered and passé, like Madonna," while in "Bizarro Genius Baby," he's quickly outshone by his back-talking infant. And on "Charisma Potion," from his latest album, Zero Day, he transplants Dungeons & Dragons into the everyday world.

Deeply influenced by electro-pop and other contemporary trends, Zero Day alternates between synth blips over skittering breakbeats, and synthetic soul-pop backdrops reminiscent of Mike Posner or Asher Roth. It's a significant sonic departure for Frontalot, and a little disorienting at first -- his raps don't slide so neatly into the grooves as on his prior three albums. But the colder textures ultimately pay off in a more distinctive sound whose jutting corners and chilly digitalism place Frontalot's windy rhymes in bas-relief.

 

MC Frontalot with Lord Grunge, Varsity Squad, Mustache Required and Dr. Shadeballs. 8 p.m. Wed., Oct. 6. Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $12.50. 412-381-6811 www.rextheater.com

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