There is no debating who coined the term “nerdcore”
Though there is some debate as to who the first nerdcore emcee was, there is no debating who coined the term, and that’s the indelible MC Frontalot. The San Francisco born and bred geek aficionado turned his love of “nerd” culture into its own sub-genre of music. He then paved the way for a whole new breed of rapper, and a whole new kind of sound that could blend pop-culture and hip-hop like never before. So while historians can argue whether it was Kool Keith, Will Smith, or even Weird Al who birthed the genre, it was Damien Hess, a legend in his own right who gave it a name.
Before there was the nerdcore icon MC Frontalot there was the competitor on the online songwriting and recording competition “Song Fight!” back in 1999. Frontalot garnered a reputation as a winner in the competition laying waste to 7 opponents throughout his days as a participant, with 0 defeats. His impressive run as a winner in the competition was highlighted by a particularly heinous trouncing of one opponent with Front winning 614 votes to just 28.
It would be another year before Frontalot came out with his tune “Nerdcore Hip-hop '' which would break the sub-genre wide open. Along with being an instant classic among geek communities, the song also gave a name to an already growing movement within hip-hop where purveyors were rapping about video games, comic books, table games, and other things that until that time just didn’t seem to fit in with hip-hops cool-centric culture.
While perhaps Frontalot wasn’t speaking for the disenfranchised in the same tradition as Chuck D, he was still in many ways giving a voice to the voiceless. Through his unique perspective on hip-hop music, MC Frontalot took on the mantle of spearheading a different kind of inclusion. The sort of inclusion that began to make video gaming as a legitimate topic to rap about as trapping. Frontalot’s transcendent contributions to the sub-genre of nerdcore helped the game attain a level of respectability beyond parody and satire. It may sound like typical hyperbole, but it’s hard to imagine nerdcore hip-hop without MC Frontalot.
In his 20-years of being one of the best-known purveyors of the genre, MC Frontalot has been the subject of a documentary, Nerdcore Rising. He has also been invited to play countless cons and festivals, he’s appeared on TBS, he was in an early edition of the Walking Dead comic book series, and acted as the rapper laureate of Penny Arcade Expo and appeared at all of them for a nine-year spa between 2004 and 2013.
As MC Frontalot begins his celebration of 2-decades worth of the sub-genre he birthed, and the brainchild that brought him to the prominence it’s hard to think of what he has left to accomplish. Perhaps he hasn’t done it all, but he has got to be getting close. But at the end of his day, his greatest accomplishment has to be seen as opening up the eyes of millions of nerds to the world of hip-hop music and letting them all know they are allowed to be a part of it.