1. My long-held secret desire to be a (Nerdcore) rapper. I put Nerdcore in parentheses because I was in love with rap way before I discovered the genre.
2. Capcom’s release of DuckTales: Remastered, an updated version of the classic NES game, and promotion of it by letting nerds like me take pictures in a replica of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin.
3. The accessibility to and inspiration from artists involved in the Nerdcore genre. Some provided motivation through their work and social media updates. Others offered opportunity.
This past summer I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, except I wasn’t directionless (sort of). My ship was being steered by other peoples’ missions. Some of the pursuits were worthy and of high quality. The captain and his senior officers treated me with respect. In others I was just swabbing the deck, only allowed above deck to clean the poop off. (Is a poop deck even used for pooping?) Ultimately I was frustrated and scared. If that circus was what my life was going to be, I’d have run into the middle of the lion tamer act to try and end up worse than Roy.
Fortunately self-mutilation isn’t my style. Intense introspection is. During the in-between moments on set, in offices, and on trains, I daydreamed and planned. What else could I be doing with this time? I thought. Mostly I thought about writing projects, one of which I brought into reality in the past month, others which are on the horizon. But every once in awhile I dared think about my fiercely protected fantasy of being a rapper that I didn’t really want anyone to know about because I was afraid of being an embarrassment.
Several people and the products of their passion dissuaded me of this debilitating notion. The final piece in the process was Malibu Shark Attack’s “Doing It Wrong,” an experience I wrote about here. After I saw Tribe One perform that song live, it was “all over for me.” I became a man obsessed (ask my girlfriend). I couldn’t pretend I didn’t want to be a rapper anymore. Maybe I wouldn’t be a full time touring artist (who knows what the future holds), but I would start my journey from where I could:
It’s important to note that I didn’t write this EP in the few weeks between when I saw Tribe One live and I released it. I’ve been working on it in some form or another since June. It was then that I visited the mock-up of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin with the intent of taking the picture that would end up as The Launchpad EP’s cover. It was then that I emailed Mustin, one of my favorite nerdcore producers, about buying a beat from him. After a few emails, it was decided he would do a rendition of The Moon theme from the soundtrack to the DuckTales NES game. Upon receipt of the track, my mind raced and my stomach twisted into a knot.
Immediately I thought of how the beat sound smooth, relaxed, and confident–like if the Most Interesting Man in the World rapped Nerdcore. The opening 18 seconds or so also seemed to be begging for spoken words to go over them. I touched base with what I was going through in life and my definition of nerd and the first track was born–an athematic declaration of my nerdiness.
As well as working hard this past summer, I also came to terms with something I’ve felt my whole life yet was unable to name–I often feel invisible. I uttered the statement, admitted it to others, and did research. The realization gave me a new lens to look at everything I love in life, and there’s arguably nothing I love more than The New England Patriots. After another viewing of The Brady Six, which again ended with my bawling my eyes out, I knew exactly what the words would be. The documentary culminates with a Tom Brady interview:
“It’s not really a chip on my shoulder. It’s just that feeling that man, maybe nobody wants ya. That’s what gets me up and motivates me. I always wanna feel like I’m the best. I wanna earn it every single day.”
For me, this statement cuts to the core of the complex psychological issues going on when someone is called a nerd. It’s not just about feeling invisible, it’s about why you feel that way. Nerds are known for three things: being socially inept or awkward, being into things most people aren’t, and approaching things on a level most people don’t. Generally, the latter traits leads to the former. People who are highly skilled, super-passionate, or incredibly intellectual are outliers. Outliers aren’t integrated into the group because the group doesn’t understand them and they don’t understand the group. This lack of integration causes unused social skills to deteriorate. It also usually makes a person feel unwanted, unattractive, unworthy, or invisible.
In other words, being a nerd is about being misunderstood and passionately searching for that understanding–of yourself, of others, of the world. It’s being that person that sticks out in group and you and nobody else really knows what to do with it. This description leads perfectly into the hook of Quackaroonie:
“Enough is enough
I’m a diamond in the rough
I never say die like I was a Goonie
And when I start to fly I yell quackaroonie
It was important for me to follow Brady’s quote immediately with “enough is a enough” because it’s a direct response to his mentality. It’s time to stop seeing myself as invisible, to stop thinking that no one wants me around. I need a new perspective. The next line references my favorite Disney movie by pointing out that Aladdin struggles with many of the things nerds do for the same reasons. His conflict may be concretized in him being poor, but you can easy see how One Jump Ahead is a metaphor for being on a different intellectual level than everyone else. Likewise, Brady was a diamond in the rough for the Patriots. I take the fuel of these comparisons and push forward into nerd rallying calls from Goonies and DuckTales. Quackaroonie, of course, is the ultimate battle cry because of my love for the show it’s from and the concept of the EP.
The first verse, which is the first rap verse most people will ever hear me spit, builds on this idea of me starting over, trying to do something different, and defining myself as a nerd.
“This is my mission if I choose to accept
Write a rap song and lose no respect
For myself, I genuflect at no one else’s altar
That’s Rule #1: Self Esteem can never falter
Even selling meth please don’t call me, Walter (bitch)
Rule #6: Build up what you lack
Find the loose ends and tie up the slack
Mind your true friends and they’ll have your back
Rule #5: You’re alive by your will, keep it intact
The size of your skill is measured in fact
Make practice a thrill and you’ll be on track
Always on time, protecting yourself and that #1 dime
So boys I confide
Heed these bromides soon for good luck
This is the guide, you’re a Junior Woodchuck”
I chose to write it like it was a list of rules from the Junior Woodchucks’ Guidebook because we never actually see that thing. Trust me, I tried to look it up and use actual rules to write the song. Instead, I focused on what principles I’d need to go forward with this journey. The Jesse Pinkman line is actually the last I wrote for the song. I had other lines in there that I was unsatisfied with. After I marathoned Breaking Bad, I realized Jesse’s story fits the whole diamond in the rough theme, so I worked it in. It’s one of my favorites on the EP because of how the “Bitch!” sample is used.
The second verse builds further by my trying to reconcile what it stereotypically means to be rapper with my nerdiness:
“Verse 2, this is where I curse you
Worse, you hear this was rehearsed (woooo)
Line by line I’ll cut this like a CM promo
I’ll diss and miss, you’ll be screaming “oh no”
I’m an embarrassment like a speared Fozzie
That’s fine by me I like to keep it posi
You lost me when you said Moffat is a Nazi
I wanna be your friend but your talkback is too costly
You scream as I defend everything life’s taught me
It’s not me, my top three is motley
When I lead the pack, you can call me Huey
When I seed this track, you can call me Dewey
When I bleed the Pats, you can call me Louie
Always heed the tactic
Less talking, more doing
Pursuing my dreams wishing for nothing
Spending my days accomplishing something”
Not long after bragging that I’m going to rap with bravado, I recant on it, saying it’s not me (even though I compared myself to a famous nerd who does so, CM Punk). I then start defining who I am, what my unique nerdiness is and how I’d rather not talk crap like most people do. “Talkback” is a reference to Ain’t It Cool News, a site full of nerd crap-talking that I have since left in favor of the newer and friendler Talkbacker.com. I specifically never understood their hate for Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat in their discussions about the show. The man is a genius. (Yes, someone literally and seriously called him a Nazi once.)
The final verse takes off and jumps into my nerdiness.
“You should have seen me when Heroes was a hit
I was out of my mind all punching walls and shit
I’ll admit its unkind so here’s some lines I submit
To the jury, please consider, I can’t not be in a hurry
Tired of staring at the net like a bored Brianna Scurry
There’s something I don’t get and it’s causing me to worry
How can I accept a life that feels so obsolete?
Heroes was just LOST with a plot much less replete
Characters less developed and no theme of which to speak
LOST was like a game with a fourth quarter defeat
And all the while I’m at work with no challenges to meet
Burying my brain to earn a little pay
Putting up with pain each and every day
Settling to survive is not the Woodchuck Way
Write your own tales, you don’t have to be stuck
Swim like a McDuck (x3)
(Down in Fraggle Rock)”
The second line is a reference to a running gag about my passion for ideas in a Survivor fan group. I show off that passion here, unleashing the full fury of my nerd rage with my critique of Heroes as a copycat in favor of my revered LOST. But even LOST isn’t safe as I bag on its finale. I then transition into some comments about being unsatisfied with my work life, a foreshadowing of the next song Blathering Blatherskite, before finally culminating by bringing it all back to DuckTales with the final realization of the song.
We all dreamed of swimming in Scrooge McDuck’s money bin. Let it be an inspirational metaphor instead of an impossible to realize fantasy. Amass your fortune of whatever you value and swim in it–even if it is just rhymes about Aladdin, DuckTales, CM Punk, Steven Moffat, and LOST.