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YTCracker: NerdRap Entertainment System

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I'm not sure exactly what to make of this.

Bryce Case, Jr. is better known as YTCracker, “the king of the burgeoning genre of nerdcore hip hop.” (His Web site said so.) My first exposure to his, uh, oeuvre, was perhaps a year ago when a coworker pointed me to his album, NerdRap Entertainment System.

From the beginning, I am impressed. The album name an obvious play on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which made me smile, reminded me of many hours spent playing (and writing) early video games. One track after another contains music from various games from the NES, given some edits, and used as foundation for YTCracker's raps. Each track covers a topic well familiar to anyone who spent time growing up trying to understand how things worked instead of spending all day long with friends. A good example is Meganerd, set atop the music from the game Megaman.

Hackin' on computers, disassemblin' stuff
Paid off in the end, now who got it rough?

And another favorite turn of phrase:

Basically, BASIC was the first language I spoke
And I was tellin' Apple deuces just where they can PEEK and POKE
I had a five-and-quarter floppy, labeled “please don't drop me”
Used to load a million copies and no one could ever stop me

From where I sit, it's hard not to be attracted to the main message here, that the misery that is school, where the smart are rarely judged as “cool” turns on its head later in life:

Who's laughin' now 'cause most of us your bosses
The rest of you are flippin' burgers, smellin' secret sauces

On the other hand, the dynamic is no different from the rest of hip-hop, where the life of a “gangsta” is exaggerated and worshiped. YTCracker holds up the transformation not as a development of character or being a positive influence. It's much more simple than that, going from “from a trash-80 to a black one can stop us now 'cause we're keepin' it nerdy...”

The path to the Mercedes is similarly about staying ahead of adversaries. Nothing about a good, clean fight. Nothing about supporting and developing society. It's all gangster mentality, taken into the digital age: sending spam, breaking into computers, and doing anything else to get ahead. YTCracker's bio page includes such ethical (not to mention legal) lapses as defacing Web sites as a teenager. Clearly, the lyrics aren't about an invented character but are meant to be autobiographical. Looking at the evolution of the genre, it seems that what might have started out as a joke (or at least as tongue-in-cheek) is now getting more serious. The man trying to live as the character that he created.

This is sad. Much of what makes the so-called nerds hostile to those around them is the rule of physicality that prevails in high school. It's all Lord of the Flies, with the nerds low on the social hierarchy and there being no other way to succeed in the eyes of the majority of peers. Turning this around and trading position on the varsity squad for money seems to have a sense of ironic justice. But it's simply beating an opponent in round two of the same game. It's wrestling a pig: in the end, you both get muddy and only the pig is happy.

Or, to be a little more nerdy, we can conclude with a quote from the film Wargames, a lesson learned by Joshua, the computer built to study war:

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.
Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2008-02-03 12:01 PM
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