Posted on December 3, 2012 AT 03:24pm
The video game community has been bleeding out into the mainstream conscious over the last few years. Mainstream media has been focusing on the over- (and in some cases under-) exaggerated extremes of the community. However, there are areas within this misunderstood subculture that deserve recognition and respect.
This community is filled to the brim with talented writers, artists and musicians. There has been an emergence of various genres of music that cater to this particular subset. One of those genres is called Nerdcore.
By Wikipedia’s definition Nerdcore or Nerdcore hip hop is a sub-genre of hip hop music characterized by themes and subject matter considered to be of general interest to nerds.
Now, if you were to sit in a circle of rap and hip-hop enthusiasts from back in the day, many of them would share their love for KRS-ONE, Mos Def and Common. These Hip-Hop/ Rap artists stood out for developing a conscious flow; one that spoke to the mind and encouraged the listener to think for themselves.
Now turn on the radio. Do you hear a difference?
However the solution is out there. His name is Random. Don’t recognize the name? How about Mega-Ran? Still don’t? Don’t worry you will. Approach any Nerdcore artist and ask them who Random is. More than 90% will know exactly who that is.
There isn’t a single shred of doubt in my mind that Random/MegaRan shares in several of these nerdy interests like video game and dropping obscure movie references. But his music transcends that bare bone definition. So much more is going on in this trilogy than skillfully crafted rhymes that have nerd or geek undertones. These three albums are sophisticated, elegant and are dripping with appreciation, passion and above all else: love. They’re love letters, to music, video games and to dreams. How do I know this? You won’t find fowl language anywhere on these albums and that shows respect.
Random tells us a particular tale through these sequential albums. Some of the elements of it are “embellished”. Ok they are exaggerated. What we are meant to take away from all of this is the story: His story. It ultimately should spark a small flame of motivation in all who sit down and really listen.
So lets break em down. Shall we?
In the first album Language Arts: Volume One, we meet our protagonist existing in the real world. His name Raheem Jarbo. He is a school teacher, struggling to motivate and inspire his students to dream and achieve big. Jarbo is also internally struggling to do it himself. LA:One shows us the everyday person right before they decide to change.
Even though the first volume only consists of seven songs, each one has a distinct purpose, whether it is exposition or character development. An example of this is the track “Wake Up” feat MC Frontalot. Frontalot’s presence is significant to the entire album. Whose else to personify the protagonist’s desire to live his dream than the man who did it first? Just think about it.
Another song, which happens to be my personal favorite is “Buggin’ (The Metamorphosis). The song summarizes the novella, The Metamorphosis, written by Franz Kafka. The protagonist takes on the role of Gregor Samsa, who one night awakens to discover he has physically changed into a giant bug. He struggles with the changes but eventually embraces them while the rest of the household outright rejects what he has become. Ultimately wanting to learn properly live in this new state, Gregor meets his end. Random uses this song to highlight all of his doubts and fears that come with pursuing his dream: misunderstanding, resentment, and failure. Kafka’s piece was ideal for the albums protagonist. However it is Random’s lyrical skills that make the song brilliant.
The only setback (and it is so minuscule I detest even bringing it up) is the order of songs. It may elude most first time listeners. They will hear songs that are cool but they may not understand why they are cool until later down the road.
My suggestion: multiple listens.
Language Arts: Volume Two has several songs that can stand on their own, but some cohesion is lost. It isn’t a major detraction but one that can not be overlooked. Trilogy 101 teaches us that the second installment’s purpose is to help set up the climax and dénouement of a story. The album does that. It is muddled by the massive amounts of story elements that are introduced. These include the love subplot between Random and his girlfriend, the fear of losing his job and losing the competitive rap battles where he performs. These obstacles get their steam in this volume at the cost of overloading this eight track album.
The focus of the album is his relationship. Romantic relationships are hard–period. It presents a real tangible threat that connects to every person who has been in one. “Love Is Not Love” (feat Sammus) is the foundation of Language Arts: Volume Two. Sammus delivers as that voice all of us women have when we feel hurt and vulnerable. Both of their deliveries set the tone for the track. They are completely believable. Listeners can help but live in the moment and be captivated. It is meant to be personal and show tenderness and it gives in spades. Very well done.
The setback is more obvious in this album. Deal breaker? No way. Perhaps there should have been more snippets of the tension between Random and Maya before “Love Is Not Love” seals the deal. The second album relies a little to much on the listener having similar experiences. Albums shouldn’t assume that unless they properly established that the theme will reoccur.
Lastly we come to Language Arts: Volume Three. The “back-in-the-day” vibe is the strongest here, playing with bouncing melodies, and spoken word flows that coffee houses still hear today. That word Nerdcore flutters around this album more-so than the others. That gets attributed to the chiptune sound and the musical stylings of MC Chris who is featured in “Student vs. Teacher” along with Storyville.
Volume three delivers that killer combo that LA: One established. Even though there are several sparkling gems in this album, the crowning glories are found in: “The Regimen” feat Wax, “The Path” and “Everything” feat Tina Estes.
The build up got the best pay off imaginable in this trilogy. You never lose sight Random’s passion from beginning to end. He wants it- and badly. Anyone could pick up any of the albums singularly and be entertained. The true effect of this man’s art can only be unlocked by all three. Take my word for it.
I hope to see more like this come from this unique individual. In a world where chasing dreams are treated like a suicide missions; I have nothing but admiration for a man who can look at the naysayers and show them that they are wrong. If he can live his dream so can the rest of us.
You just have to ask yourself “How Bad Do U Want It?”
Anyone interested in hearing this for themselves (You should be by this point.) can find these three albums and more from Random/MegaRan over at megaranmusic.com, iTunes and streaming on Spotify.
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