Saturday, October 17, 2009

InstaRapFlix #23: Nerdcore Rising

So, it had been such a shamefully long time since my last InstaRapFlix update, that I figured I better do another one before I get lax and let it drift away again. So here we go, kids, #23!

Now the film's promotion and title might lead you to suspect that Nerdcore Rising (Netflix Rating: 2.5 stars) is a comprehensive look at the tiny, novelty sub-genre of hip-hop known as "nerdcore"... and it sort of is. But it's really more of a glorified promo DVD for one nerdcore MC in particular, MC Frontalot (who, according to this doc at least, invented the term "nerdcore"). This was probably infinitely more obvious to hardcore MC Frontalot fans, since it turns out Nerdcore Rising was also the title of his 2005 album.

Interestingly, nerdcore hip-hop (at least as shown here) is really no different than a lot of underground hip-hop... typical, punchliney battle rhymes with a pop culture reference thrown in every so many lines. Everyone seems delighted that, well heck, I'll directly quote one example, "anytime you can work the name Ralph Macchio in a song, you have to respect that!" As if hip-hop wasn't already plagued with rappers throwing cheap pop culture references like Ralph Macchio into their music already. What I learned most in this documentary is that, except for one song about Magic: the Gathering, nerdcore hip-hop isn't as compellingly different or interesting as I imagined it might be.

The movie has some Frontalot performance footage (I'll give him credit, he does attempt some styling in his delivery), brief soundbites from fans, and a few other nerdcore rappers and other celebs (Weird Al Yankovich, Prince Paul and J-Live, most notably), which it keeps cutting back to every so often. And for the rest of the time, about 98% of the film, it's basically a behind-the-scenes tour documentary of MC Frontalot and his band, which means a lot of footage of them bantering in parking lots or hamming it up in hotel rooms. At one point, Frontalot admits to the camera that he's "not that good at rapping," which is refreshingly honest one hand, but on the other just makes you wonder why am I wasting my time with this foolishness?

Unsurprisingly, the editing is enhanced with a lot of random computer graphics. Basically every single effect in the Final Cut Pro package was probably used, possibly going directly down the list in perfect order. And while, unlike a lot of other InstaRapFlix DVDs I look at, this is a proper, full-length film, that really works against it when you keep checking the clock and it's like, oh my god, we're only 30 minutes into this! There's just not enough substance or content to sustain a feature film, and so it's all padding and random footage of the band chatting about nothing. By the 45 minute mark I really, really wanted to turn this off; but stuck with it for the sake of writing a completely fair review here. But now that I have made it through to the end, I can look back and say I really wouldn't've missed out on anything but more of the same.

So I can't recommend this unless you're a serious Frontalot fan, because really, this movie just boils down to spending 90 minutes with him and a little of his music. And I can't recommend the "nerdcore" unless you're endlessly amused by the juxtaposition of gansgta rap cliches and computer geek memes. And if these nerdcore guys weren't such "outside artists" to begin with, they'd realize they're not nearly as novel or "refreshing" as they seem to think, as hip-hop's already been riddled with the kind of stuff these guys bring to the table for ages. ...And hopefully they'd stop patting themselves on the back for not rhyming about guns and drugs so much? While Frontalot himself seems like a nice guy, the bottom line is: I was expecting a fun time with this Instaviewing, but just wound up disappointed, bored and annoyed.

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