Beating Guitar Hero Doesn't Make You Slash

Though MC Lars, born Andrew Robert Nielsen, closely associates and frequently collaborates with his nerdcore friends, his "post-punk laptop rap" blends hip hop with catchy rock guitar licks and lyrical matter that pleasantly dabbles in geekiness (like technology, Shakespeare and Poe) as frequently as it delivers biting social commentary. He, too, incorporates gaming references into some of his work, with two tracks dedicated to the subject on his new album This Gigantic Robot Kills. But Nielsen has a different perspective than his peers.

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"I think a lot of gaming culture is all about consumption," he says. "Yes, [games are] good for your mind, but it's ultimately finite. I love Super Mario Bros. I played that for hours, and Ninja Turtles, but I was a kid and couldn't leave the house."

While he enjoyed rocking the NES and Game Boy in his youth and even owns a PSP, both tracks on the new CD, "O.G. Original Gamer" (feat. MC Frontalot and Jonathan Coulton) and "Guitar Hero Hero" are humorous anti-gaming songs. Nielsen says Activision was actually interested in using the latter for its Guitar Hero franchise until the satirical nature of the lyrics became clear.

Much like the dueling lyrical roles Hess and Nielsen lightheartedly take on in "O.G. Original Gamer," arguing in favor of and against gaming respectively, the two rappers have playfully sparred on the subject in real life while on tour. Not all nerdy lyricists agree on the merits of embracing virtual worlds over the real one, whether Rock Band is superior to Guitar Hero or if rhyming over the internet beats hitting the road to perform in front of a crowd. Regardless, a sizable portion of their music is rooted in technology, pixels and digital culture.

Whether rappers invoke videogames out of a sense of appreciation and old-school nostalgia or to make a critical statement, they're a key aspect of nerdcore hip hop. Since the early days of hip hop, rappers have rhymed about their lives and what they know. For MCs who grew up memorizing the Konami code, striving for the best high scores and pulling caffeine-fueled all-nighters in front of their console of choice, it's only natural to trade lyrical boasts about drive-bys and bling for rhymes about epic boss battles, Halo teabagging and Chun-Li's killer legs.

Nathan Meunier is a freelance writer who wields a +2 Vorpal Keyboard (+5 vs. Mac). He's currently working on a book about the music of geek and gamer culture. You can read more of his work at http://nathanmeunier.wordpress.com.

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