Most people don’t automatically associate hip hop music with fanboys. Why? Because they’re about as opposite as things get.
Hip hop is part of a subculture that mixes jazz, funk, soul, reggae, disco and other types of music. Its pioneers — like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Public Enemy, and KRS-ONE — performed music in the communities that they were passionate about, music that spoke the truth about the social, economic, and political status of the times. Fanboys, on the other hand, are part of a subculture that mixes comic books, television shows, films, video games, and other nerdy topics. Self-proclaimed fanboys discuss (and dress up as) things they are passionate about, and they aren’t afraid to display this passion in their community at places like Comic Con.
So wait, maybe they’re not so different after all.
Hip hop music doesn’t traditionally address these fanboy passions, but there are a few artists who, like the title sequence to Star Trek, have gone “where no man has gone before.” Of course, there are the nerdcore artists, those who specifically rap about Star Wars, science fiction, computers, and role-playing games (like MC Frontalot, whose video for “I’ll Form the Head” is an amazing anime-themed adventure, or Richie Branson, whose Old Republic mixtape is the coolest Star Wars homage ever, and of course there’s Adam WarRock, who not only did our “Hard N.O.C. Life” theme but who also has an awesome new album that’s out now!)
While nerdcore is a full-blown genre of hip hop all its own, there are other hip hop artists who have managed to mix a few tracks that incorporate their love of fanboy culture as well. Here are a few of the best.
Although you might not expect it, hip hop artists love comics. Just look at Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run DMC, who created his own company Darryl Makes Comics to combine his love of hip hop culture and comic books, or the Wu Tang Clan, whose members include The RZA (aka Bobby Digital), GZA (whose Liquid Swords album cover art was drawn by Denys Cowan) and Ghostface Killah (aka Tony Starks, aka Iron Man) and whose classic album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) with its origin story themes, recently celebrated its 20 year anniversary.
There’s also Murs, who teamed up with Devil’s Due Entertainment to successfully Kickstart an ambitious concept album/graphic novel project called Yumiko: Curse of the Merch Girl.
There are a few other decent comic-themed songs out there like Eminem and 50 Cent’s “Gatman and Robin” or Kansas artist XV’s “Smallville” and “Spider-Man,” but Method Man’s “The Riddler” is the ultimate homage to the classic Batman comic books. Produced by fellow Wu-Tang member RZA, the song was on the Batman Forever soundtrack and features Method Man as a pretty “big” villain.
Then you have this song, which features a variety of artists rapping about everyone from Spider-Man and The Thing to Wolverine and Beast.
Of course we can’t forget our very own Tribe One, who created this homemade music video about the Marvel Universe:
Did you know that there are over 50 rap songs that have video game samples in them? Apparently Spin Magazine says there are, which is pretty cool considering that playing videos games is often only associated with fanboys. A lot of artists have incorporated the theme songs and sound clips to games like Super Mario Brothers and Contra into their songs, but in my opinion, they aren’t that good. (A perfect example is Lil Flip, who incorporated bits of Pac Man’s melody into “Game Over (Flip).” Namco had every right to sue him and his label for this horrible song!)
However there are a few gems, like the old school DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince song “Human Video Game,” and The People Under the Stairs’ “Gamin’ On,” that remind me of being young and spending all of my money on arcade games like Double Dragon. Those were good memories.
And then there is this song by North Carolina hip hop group Little Brother, whose name originated because they felt like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Public Enemy were their “big brothers” in the hip hop movement:
The song has an amazing funky vibe to it, and the video is an epic masterpiece of ‘80s nostalgia. Check out more of Little Brother on FM Radio.
Science fiction, in my opinion, is the biggest (and baddest) fanboy topic to generate amazing hip hop music. One sub-culture of this in hip hop music is called Afrofuturism, which is “an emergent literary and cultural aesthetic that combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of people of color, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past.” Early pioneers of this genre of music were Sun Ra and Parliament Funkadelic (in the album Mothership Connection), and today artists like Janelle Monae are reviving the genre (with her The ArchAndroid album).
Along the same vein, other hip hop artists have pushed the boundaries of Afrofuturism further with their albums. The first talented hip hop artist to do this was rapper Kool Keith of the Ultramagnetic MC’s, whose 1996 album Dr. Octagonecologyst was a crazy, hallucinogenic ride with his alter ego, Dr. Octagon, a time-traveling extraterrestrial gynecologist and surgeon from Jupiter. Sound crazy? Yes, but the album was abstract, surreal and super original, and that year The New York Times called it “…one of the most progressive rap projects to be released in the past year.”
Here’s my favorite song from the album:
In 2000, the hip hop supergroup Deltron 3030, composed of Dan the Automator (who also produced Dr. Octagonecologyst), DJ Kid Koala, and MC Del the Funky Homosapien, released a self-titled album. It’s set in the year 3030 and addresses a futuristic fight against giant corporations that rule the universe. Any fans of Star Wars, or anyone who cares about the planet, would love this.
Last month, the group returned after a 13-year hiatus to drop the long awaited follow-up, Event II and proceeded to blow the minds of internet hip-hop heads across the globe.
Then in 2008 The Mighty Underdogs, made up of Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, Lateef the Truth Speaker of Latyrx, and producer Headnodic (Crown City Rockers), released Droppin’ Science Fiction. The album is a trippy ride into outer space that would make any sci-fi fan proud.
Here’s the song “Science Fiction”
So these are the fanboy hip hop songs that I thought were the best representations of video games, comics, and sci-fi. If I missed any, please let me know in the comments below!
But before I go, let me leave you with this instrumental classic from MF Doom. This video does a great job of combining all three fanboy genres I mentioned in this post.