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There seem to be two prevailing tones in Nerdcore Rising, apologetic and disinterested. The lack of interest comes mostly from the celebrity talking heads brought in to give the documentary legitimacy, namely “Weird Al” Yankovic, whose tone gives the viewer to understand that he knows he’s here as some kind of “Godfather of nerd music,” and not because the subject has really anything to do with him. Besides Yankovic, last word on metal nerds Brian Posehn weighs in on the origins, popularity and meaning behind nerdcore, a style of hip hop that celebrates culture revolving around comic books, gaming, fantasy RPGs- you’re on the internet right now. You know the drill. It’s’s catalog written in rhymes. That sentence sums up most of the documentary to me, thus the feel of disinterest that nerdcore generates as a topic of discussion. MC Frontalot, the focus of the doc, raps about the aforementioned topics. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

To fill the other 75 minutes of its feature length the movie follows genre leader Frontalot and his band around on their first tour. The biggest drama occurring along the way is a lost synthesizer piece, which is apparently as easily replaced by a trip to the mall. Much to do is made of the possibility of groupies, which turns out to be some awkward flirting and one fan that follows them around to a number of shows. Prince Paul pops in frequently to handle the hip-hop legitimacy portion of the show, and provides some of the more appropriate commentary, likening nerdcore to the early days of hip hop being about being smart with rhymes. His segments were thoughtful and informed, lacking the air of not really wanting to be involved I perceived from other sources.

He also spoke on two topics in the documentary that I found out of place, the first being hip hop’s image of gangster rap. The movie was produced in 2008. I’m not a big follower but I’m pretty sure gangster rap was a fading memory more than a current trend at that point, and not at all the prevailing image of hip hop. It felt tacked on and made the producers look either desperate for content or sadly out of touch. The second was the idea that nerdcore may be somehow racist for the generally white artists using the style of rap to express their own interests. Again, the argument felt forced and only there to provide some sort of socially relevant commentary that wasn’t all that relevant. If you missed Mr. Show’s “WPCBCN Awards” sketch, look it up and you’ll know everything you’ll ever need to know about it. Prince Paul, once again to the rescue, sums up the unnecessary defense in about a minute.

The documentary starts to really come together once it finally gets personal toward the end. Several of the commentators open up about the sort of shyness, fear of rejection, outright actual rejection and loneliness that drove them so deeply into the cherished hobbies that Frontalot and others represent to them. This part of the documentary helps the generally apologetic nature that flows through it. There’s a defensive front that keeps popping up, as though the subjects, the musician and the fans, know this stuff isn’t really worth all the hype, yet they feel the need to justify the attention that they lavish on it.

Without the padding of nerdcore’s place in hip hop and the overreliance on, but probably necessary for distribution, inclusion of so many celebrity talking heads, Nerdcore Rising likely would have made a compelling short subject. The movie starts to feel like someone at a party who won’t stop talking about a subject in which you have no interest. But then, I guess that’s what nerds do and what makes them love nerdcore so. Yes, I’m aware of the irony in writing over 600 words to say that. 2 ½ stars


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