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Fodder Exclusive: Interview with "Nerdcore Rising" star MC Frontalot

by Shannon Nolley, Filmfodder Editor

MC FrontalotThe "Nerdcore Rising" trailer hit the YouTube two weeks ago and is hot hot hot. (If you don't know what nerdcore is, head over to Wikipedia for a quick lesson.) It's been viewed more than 102,000 times from Vaguely Qualified Production's post alone. I even caught two teenagers talking about it at a sushi joint last weekend.

Folks want to know more about the film and, of course, it's nerdalicious subject - MC Frontalot and his first national tour. I caught up with "Front" and was able to extract just a bit of insight into his life and how the film came about. Here's the result.


SN: Nicknamed the "Godfather of Nerdcore," you've been throwing down rhymes since 1999. How did you get started rapping? Do you like the direction the nerdcore is going? Besides yourself, of course, who are some of your favorite nerdcore artists?

Front: I got started rapping early in high school. My current keyboardist Gminor7 had a funk band at Berkeley High School, and he and the harmonica player would to a mini rap set in the middle of their shows. I always wanted to participate, but I don't think I ever rapped onstage with them. Mostly late on the weekends in various parents' basements.

Nerdcore seems to be headed straight towards a brief, low plateau of national recognition, which will be followed immediately by a precipitous drop to before-unimagined depths of public scorn and irrelevance. It is the natural progression of small things.

I like MC Chris and Optimus Rhyme. I'm going to be touring with MC Lars soon -- his live show is amazing, totally wild and fun. Beefy has been steadily improving. YTCracker is going to mail me his new CD, I think. What I've heard of it was really impressive.

SN:You've said before that you've been influenced by artists like They Might Be Giants. What about TMBG directly shaped your music? Who else has influenced you musically and what inspired you to use hip hop as your medium?

Front: Well, I grew up on Weird Al, of course. But I don't think it was until I heard Particle Man on Flood that it occurred to me that a song could be totally funny and yet stand on its own without spoofing anything. The other thing about TMBG is the abstraction -- like, needing the kind of shoehorn that has teeth, or going off to cow town beneath the sea -- the idea that you could be hyper-literate and have no obligation to be hyper-literal. If you sit and listen to TMBG, the diction is high, the grammar is perfect, and the imagination is running five directions at once.

I am most interested in hip-hop because I am most interested in writing. Hip-hop is where the words are. I also love beats, but if I had to develop those on my own I'd be in serious trouble. The writing I feel really comfortable. The speaking part is kind of slowly catching up. I finally passed the mark in mid-2005 where I no longer feel entirely embarrassed to rap in public. Maybe someday I'll actually be good at it.

SN:How did you hook up with the folks at Vaguely Qualified for the "Nerdcore Rising" film? Was it something that you'd do again?

Front: They found me through Gminor7. Hearing the phrase "nerdcore hip-hop" made them think "indie documentary!" I didn't believe they were serious about it until they got in the van with us the first day of the '06 tour. I would surely do it again. It is kind of fun to have people pointing cameras at you and making you feel important all day. On the other hand, it is not fun to get interrupted every time you say something with "Um, could you please remember to incorporate my question into the answer?"

SN:Any idea when the film might hit theaters - even in as a limited release? The trailer's got folks (me included) chomping at the bit.

Front: I haven't heard the firm date yet. I think it will be somewhere around late July or early August. I know they're keen to screen it at Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle at the end of August. After that, I think they're showing it on whatever screens they can find, maybe in conjunction with another tour that I do -- like, we'll have an 8:00 concert and a 10:00 screening in the same town.

SN:The trailer for a "competing" nerdcore documentary - "Nerdcore for Life" - went up on YouTube in early December. Did you work on that film as well? Based on the trailers, it looks like "Rising" will rule.

Front: It's a little nuts that there are two movies about nerdcore hip-hop in one lifetime, let alone in a single Oscar season. How will the Academy be able to decide? I have not worked on N4L -- there are crazy exclusivity issues with Nerdcore Rising and etc. But we're trying to work out a way in which I can appear in both films. Dan who is directing the N4L movie is a nice guy and he's been trying hard to get me onboard for about a year.

SN: In the trailer, Weird Al is interviewed. His recent album "Straight Outta Lynwood" contains several songs that seem to be directly influenced by nerdcore, "White and Nerdy" for example. His song "Don't Download This Song" is also very similar in theme to your song "Charity Case." Any thoughts on this? Sure Al has always been on this side of "nerddom," but is this an example of a mainstream artist being influenced by those on the "cutting edge"?

Front: I'd love to think that. But he's been doing his rap parodies since I was in junior high school, and frankly I'd be amazed to discover that nerdcore was even a blip on his radar when he was writing Lynwood. I kind of have to wait for when Nerdcore Rising comes out, and I see his whole interview -- maybe he'll say "MC Frontalot is the key artistic influence in my career, and for that matter, in my life." I think chances are slim, though.

SN:Your website had a huge spike in traffic last week (according to, presumably due to the press around the trailer. Have you seen an increase in CD sales yet?

Front: Yeah, big surge at the store. The traffic came mostly from Penny Arcade. Those guys still have more internet muscle than any linkers I've ever seen. Even being on the front page of Slashdot was not like being on top of the PA news post.

Incidentally, Alexa is not good for tracking the popularity of sites that are visited by people who actually use the internet. I mean people who actually know what they're doing when they use the internet. No self-respecting techie would allow that piece of shit spyware onto a box.

SN:When will you hit the road on tour again? Which cities are you aiming for?

Front: Tour begins on April 6 with the album release. We're hitting NY and Philly, then up through the northeast, midwest, over to Seattle, down along the west coast, back through the south and up the eastern seaboard. Sounds exhausting when I put it in a sentence. Or when I drive it in a van. It will be exhausting in all possible ways.

SN:Your website mentions a new CD you've been working on. How's that coming?

Front: It is called Secrets From The Future. It's coming along great. Baddd Spellah is working overtime on the beats. Gminor7 is polishing up his tracks. I'm working on final vocals. DJ Snyder's going to do some scratchetty scratch type of stuff. I am very excited.

I have been looking over the lyric book and a lot of it is weirdly dark. I mean, it's got chuckles galore, but there's a lot of scary and/or depressing stuff in there. I hope that I do not disappoint the folks who are only interested in me because I'm goofy so often.

SN:You'll be doing a live online chat via Xfire this week (Thursday, January 25th, 2007 at 7pm EST). What can folks look forward to?

Front: To seeing text scroll by rapidly in a small client window. If they haven't already pre-registered they should go on my BBS and ask nice in the Xfire thread -- I can maybe sneak them onto the guest list.


Thanks for taking time out for Filmfodder, Front!

To find out more on MC Frontalot, check out his website. Be sure to download the songs he's made available from his album "Nerdcore Rising" (yes, the film used his title) and, well, just buy the album itself. It's worth the cash. My favorite is "Goth Girls" for... um.. no reason. "This Old Man" is also hysterical. (Ok. Yes, I'll admit it. I totally have a new celebrity crush - especially because he busted me for using

Don't forget to also check out the trailer for the film "Nerdcore Rising." For more info on the movie and its release date, check out Vaguely Qualified's website. Personally, I can't wait to see it.

Posted by Shannon on January 24, 2007 7:13 PM
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