This album was released on June 7th this year. I’ve learned a lot about Nerdcore music in the past 40 days. I’ve been binging Mega Ran’s entire discography, and it’s been really great. My first introduction to him was his featured verse on Kill Bill & Rav’s NEW MOON album from January of this year. Or maybe it was February. I can’t really remember. It doesn’t matter though. I ended up being super impressed by his verse on that project, so it made me wanna look into more of his work. I was kind of shocked to see just how much music he’s put out over the years. He’s been dropping a ton of material for over a decade, yet I’d somehow never heard of him until 2019. It’s really a disgrace because I’ve been missing out. He’s easily in my top 5 rappers from Philadelphia. Maybe top 3. I’d have to think about it. Off the top of my head, Black Thought & Freeway are the only ones that come to mind. Cassidy is from Philadelphia too right? Is… Is he? Lemme see real quick… Okay, yeah I just googled it. He is. So yeah, he’d be on that list too. Where is Beanie Sigel from? Okay, he’s from Philli too. When it’s shortened to Philli is it spelled with one L or two? I think it’s actually just Phili. I don’t fuckin’ know. Oh shit. How could I forget Vinnie Paz? Shit, a lot of Army of the Pharaohs members are from Phili. Oh my God. I just realized that it’s spelled “Philly.” I’m a dumbass lmao. Well anyway, I’d probably say Mega Ran is top 5 from Philly along with Black Thought, Vinnie Paz, Freeway and maybe uhhhh Dice Raw. I’m just thinking of this on the spot so I obviously haven’t put too much thought into it. I could be forgetting someone. Anyway, MC Lars is another Nerdcore rapper who I’m not quite as familiar with, but I’ve heard him featured on some of Mega Ran’s songs in the past. I thought he was cool on Nerdcore Died?!? and Me & the Mouse. Speaking of Me & the Mouse, that song is fucking incredible, and it seemed like a precursor for what was to come with this album. It was basically MC Lars & Mega Ran telling the story of Flowers for Algernon in the form of a Hip Hop song, and the entire premise of this album is them rapping about other short stories and books. I was pretty excited for it since I loved the aforementioned song so much, but I was keeping my expectations in check because I haven’t been crazy about some of Mega Ran’s more recent work.
Unfortunately that trend continued with this project. I don’t think it’s bad and there are a handful of tracks that I did actually enjoy, but overall I just couldn’t do it. As always, I’ll start off by mentioning the tracks that I liked. The album begins with my favorite track, the self titled intro.
The production from Rich Matthew is really great, and the way they were trading bars was pretty nice too. It’s a really short track, so I don’t have too much to say about it. It’s just a nice little intro song with some playful lines and a fantastic beat. The way the song ends is unbelievably nerdy, but in kind of a wholesome and endearing way. Mega Ran interpolates Nate Dogg’s iconic outro from Dr. Dre’s The Next Episode, but replaces “smoke weed everyday” with “just read everyday.” They actually put the vocals over the beat from The Next Episode for the music video’s version of the song, and it sounds considerably worse than the regular version. I just don’t think Lar’s nerdy ass voice fits over that beat at all. It sounds like what you’d hear if a couple elementary school teachers were trying to encourage their students to read, so they just made a child friendly remix of The Next Episode. It’s crazy how much of a difference your beat selection can make because I think the original version of the song is dope af. I’m gonna skip forward 10 tracks to talk about the next song that I actually enjoyed, The Masque of the Red Death.
The production on this one is really great, and I think they did a really good job of retelling the story with a modern take. Mega Ran obviously had the better performance, but Lars was more tolerable on this track than he is on most of the others; his delivery is still super nerdy and awkward, but it didn’t make the song unlistenable for me. I think it’s pretty good overall. I also enjoyed the following song, Walden.
Lars kinda interpolates Eminem’s “if you had one shot…” intro from the beginning of Lose Yourself, and it’s pretty goddamn cringy, but thankfully not bad enough to completely ruin the song. The production from Middle East Modern is pretty great, and the first verse from Mega Ran is great. I’ve never read Walden, but the story sounds really familiar. It reminds me of that Into the Wild movie, but less extreme I guess. The protagonist didn’t live the remainder of his life in the wilderness and die there. He only stayed for two years. Anyway, I actually thought the second verse from MC Lars was dope. His delivery didn’t sound as obnoxiously nerdy as it usually does for whatever reason. The hook is fine too. I think this song has Lars’ best rapping on the whole project. I loved the final verse where they were both trading quatrains. It’s a dope song. The intro was lame to me, but that’s just a nitpick honestly. I fuck with it. Unfortunately the only other track that I enjoyed was the outro, Between the World and Me.
They actually took a pretty interesting approach with this song. MC Lars rapped from the perspective of a literature-focused podcast host interviewing Ta-Nehisi Coates, who’s played by Mega Ran. Lars’ mispronunciation of Coates’ first name is a bit, uhhh…
I guess it at least fits in with the theme of the song. His overbearing whiteness kinda works because of the character he’s playing, who seems to be one of those virtue signaling fake “woke” white people.
Hold up, I’m not racist, you can ask my mama
I saw the 2Pac movie and I voted for Obama
Twice, plus I think the alt-right is disgusting
Let’s melt those statues down, it’s not even worth discussing
The production from Rich Matthew & G1 is great; I’m glad G1 didn’t provide any vocals because I like his beats a lot, but his singing usually ruins them for me. The way Lars & Ran were going back and forth was really dope to me. Mega Ran—Ta-Nehisi Coates in this case—speaks from a more realistic & pessimistic point of view than Lars’ character.
You write about plunder, you write about knives
subjugation and fear, that you’ve seen your whole life
National landmarks, still casting a shadow
Black Lives do matter, just ask Rachel Maddow
Well it’s easy for you to say when we never owned y’all
For every Rachel Maddow there’s a Rachel Dolezal
I know it’s sounds bleak, but we all play a part
In protecting black bodies and furthering the art
I actually think the song’s dope af. Lars’ delivery is still super nerdy and awkward sounding, but it works for the character he’s portraying. The song is great. Unfortunately I have to talk about what I didn’t like now. Strap in, y’all, because there’s a lot. First of all, I’ve already kind of mentioned it already, but holy fuck Lars’ delivery is so obnoxiously nerdy. It’s like the whitest shit I’ve ever heard in my life. This usually isn’t something I even consider when listening to music, but this dude has absolutely zero swag at all. It pains me that I even have to use that word, but it’s appropriate for this context in my opinion. It’s hard not to cringe when hearing what sounds like the whitest, nerdiest, most awkward Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast try to rap. I don’t even know if he plays D&D. That’s what it sounds like though. Just the nerdiest possible dude you can imagine. Well, not the nerdiest. There is one other Nerdcore rapper who somehow sounds even whiter, nerdier, and awkward-er than Lars, and he coincidentally has a feature on this album.
Schäffer the Darklord is legitimately the whitest rapper I’ve ever listened to. I’m sorry for saying this. I know it’s fucked up. I don’t mean it in a backhanded way like “Oh he speaks English properly, so he must be white.” No, it has nothing to do with his diction or grammar. It’s literally just his voice and the way he pronounces shit. Most white people don’t even sound like this. It’s a very specific kind of whiteness. You know Chuck Taylor? Dave Chappelle’s news anchor character from the Chappelle Show?
Imagine him, but with a higher voice. MC Lars & Schäffer the Darklord are like if Chuck Taylor had kids who rapped. I guess it’s better that they’re rapping how they do than trying to alter the way they communicate. At least they don’t go the Iggy Azalea route and throw on a fake Southern black accent. It’s still just really hard to stomach on most of these songs though. It’s not like that’s the only problem I had with the album, but it’s the most prominent one. Schäffer the Darklord appears on the song Watchmen, which was a pretty frustrating song for me.
They all rap from the perspective of characters from the series. I’ve never really been into superheroes or comics, so I’m not into Watchmen at all. This song is a really mixed bag for me though. I surprisingly liked the electric guitar-driven production, and the first couple of verses from Mega Ran & MC Frontalot are great. I gotta check out more of MC Frontalot’s work. If I’m not mistaken, he’s pretty much the founder of Nerdcore music. I think his voice and delivery on this track was awesome. Does he sound nerdy? I guess so, yeah. He sounds nerdy in a good way though. He sounds unique. His voice sounds really powerful. It’s reminds me of a nerdy version of El da Sensei for some reason. I don’t know how to explain it. So yeah, I really enjoyed the first couple of verses on the song. Shit goes downhill fast after that though. The hook from MC Lars is tolerable enough I suppose, but the third verse from Miss Eaves is legitimately terrible. I’m not familiar with her at all, but this was a really bad first impression. I think her vocal delivery sounds lame as hell, and a few of her bars just straight up do not rhyme at all.
Women are from Venus, I’m on Mars
Learning the comedian is my father
So guess crime fighting is in my blood
My mom pushed me to this family business
The following verse from MC Lars is relatively tolerable, but I still can’t say I really enjoyed it. Schäffer’s verse was my least favorite part of the song. You know what the frustrating part is though? It was actually pretty great in terms of the lyrics alone.
I am in the past, future; I am on Mars
I am 99 syllables in eight bars
The world’s smartest man, wealthy by birthright
Is no more of a threat to me than is its smartest termite
I think he’s a good writer. I actually counted the syllables in his verse, and he wasn’t lying. He really spit 99 syllables in 8 bars. It’s a dope verse lyrically. It’s just the actual way he raps that I can’t get behind. His voice and delivery are just way too hard to look past. Actually, you know what? I lied. He doesn’t have my least favorite part of the song. It’s definitely better than Miss Eave’s verse. I still didn’t like it at all though. Thankfully the final verse after his performance is pretty dope. Quelle Chris of all people shows up to end the song, and he sounds great.
The smartest man cold as Winter; world turned me bitter
I been overstimulating before Facebook and Twitter
With a wall full of screens, account full of green
And built a hideout where it’s white out for the plotting and the scheming
I don’t know what the name of the character he’s rapping as is. All I know is that Schäffer is Doctor Manhattan and MC Frontalot is the second Nite Owl. Overall, the song is mediocre to me. I liked three of the verses a lot, but I hated the other three. I actually used Garageband to edit out the verses I didn’t like, so the version I have is just Mega Ran, MC Frontalot, and Quelle Chris, along with Lars on the hook. So yeah that song let me down. Another song that really let me down was 1984.
I was really excited when I saw that B. Dolan was featured on this track, and he thankfully came through with a really great performance. Unfortunately, literally everything else about the song sucks ass to me. I was super disappointed because I think the story of 1984 is really cool, so I was looking forward to this track in particular, but I really just don’t think they did that great of a job with it. I wasn’t feelin’ the electric guitar-driven production from Rich Matthew, BeNeVoLeNcE & Mike Russo at all, and of course Lars’ abnormally nerdy delivery was hard to tolerate. I guess his verse was well written enough, but his flow sounded very corny and honestly a bit amateurish. I guess Random’s verse was fine, but his flow felt similarly simplistic for some reason. I guess the hook is alright, but ehhhhhh… I’m not feelin’ it. Again, B. Dolan actually killed that last verse. His flow was great, and the verse was really well written.
Sanitize time’s passage; smash the false idols,
Even redesign rivals when truth becomes libel,
Produce the drums, shoot the guns on my arrival
What comes after fake news? Fake words
Language disassembled while them devils take turns
Thats why rappers gotta mumble, they’re afraid to be heard
The way he kinda modernized the story and related it to Trump was really dope. One great verse isn’t enough to save the song though. It’s actually probably the wackest song on the album. If that isn’t the worst song, then Ozymandias definitely is.
It was really strange hearing MC Lars rap on an S.A.T. beat. I really don’t think Nerdcore meshes well with S.A.T.’s dark, Trap influenced style of production. I usually think his beats are pretty cool, but this one in particular wasn’t very good to me at all. It’s really just a super generic Trap beat. I didn’t care for the hook at all either. The rapping is okay I guess. I thought Mega Ran’s verses were solid, and I guess Lars was okay. I liked how they once again modernized it by relating Ozymandias’ reign to that of Donald Trump. They even say “Make Egypt great again” at one point in the song. I liked that line from Lars about how he writes his hieroglyphics 280 characters at a time. That was cool. I think he’s a good writer, but it’s just his actual delivery that I can’t get into. That along with the generic Trap production just didn’t work for me at all. It’s wack to me. Ozymandias and 1984 are honestly the only songs that I would say are legitimately bad though. I didn’t care for a lot of the other tracks, but I don’t think they’re flat out wack. Ode on a Grecian Urn wasn’t very good to me, but there are things I like about it.
I thought the uhh… I thought the percussion sounded good. Lol. I know it seems like a random & insignificant aspect of the song to praise, but it stood out to me. The main reason I didn’t care for the song was really just the overall tone. The pedantic lyrics make it seem like something an elementary school teacher would play for their students to teach them about John Keats. The hook sucks.
What you know about Keats?
What you know about Keats?
What you know about Keats?
And that Grecian urn?
What you know about Keats?
What you know about Keats?
What you know about Keats?
Sit back and learn
It’s a tolerable song I guess, but I’d never return to it willingly. This song is followed by Gulliver’s Travels, which is definitely one of the more palatable songs on the project for me.
Believe it or not, MC Lars isn’t the reason I don’t care for the song. I actually thought he did a good job with the first verse. He played the role of Gulliver well. He still sounds nerdy, but it’s not unbearable. Unfortunately my issue is with the hook from the featured vocalist, Jill Sobule. I’m sorry, but that hook is awful. It sounds so bad to me. I hate it. The second verse from Mega Ran was dope. The song also features Storyville, who performs the last verse. Storyville is another Nerdcore rapper who I’ve become pretty familiar with thanks to his frequent collaborations with Mega Ran, and his verse was really impressive from a technical standpoint. His flow was nice, and the rhymes were great. Unfortunately a lot of the actual lyrics were just really corny to me. Like when he literally made the sound of a horse neighing to fit one of his rhymes. I cringed. I cringed hard. It was okay overall though. The production didn’t impress me at all. The song is fine, but I obviously won’t be listening to it again. I feel pretty much the same way about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
I thought the production was actually really dope on this one, and their flows were tight too. I liked how they were trading quatrains with each other. The first verse was kinda cool, but man… That hook sucks ass. I’m sorry. This is another one of those songs that I really wish I liked more than I actually do. The final verse was okay. I just wish the hook was better. It’s definitely one of the better songs on the album, but I’m never gonna listen to it again. It’s just decent to me. It’s better than the following track though…
If you know anything about the Jabberwocky poem, you probably know why I don’t fuck with the song. Nonsense literature just does not work in the form of a Hip Hop song. Not for me at least. I cannot take the gibberish lyrics seriously at all. It’s like if someone read Dr. Seuss’ poetry over music, so they were flowing about Horton Hearing a Who.
Beware the Jabberwocky, he’s known to catch a body
With jaws that bite and chew you up if you’ve been acting naughty
Galumphing through the forest snicker-snacking with his crew
‘Cause the Jubjub bird is fuming and the bandersnatch is too
Also, before any of you poetry experts get up my ass, I am aware that Dr. Seuss did not write Jabberwocky. I was just using him as a more well known example of a nonsense poem writer. Thankfully Lars & Ran have some solid flows on this track. I don’t think the production was very good, but it’s tolerable. I wasn’t feelin’ the hook at all though. So yeah, I don’t like the song. It’s mediocre to me. The next track, Julius Caesar, is another song that I thought was decent.
I liked the production quite a bit, and I thought Mega Ran actually sounded great over it. His flow was really great, especially when he was trading quatrains with Lars during the third verse. I legitimately think that Dan Bull killed the final verse as well. I unfortunately just didn’t care for the first verse from Lars at all. His flow was really weak to me. The hook didn’t do much for me either. It’s definitely one of the better songs on the album to me, but I don’t see myself returning to it. The only other song that I haven’t mentioned yet is Bartleby the Scrivener.
I was pretty excited when I saw this song in the tracklist because I think the story is really cool. This one let me down though. I’m not really a fan of the production from Eric Taft, but it’s tolerable I guess. I thought the first verse from Lars was solid enough. The hook sucks ass though. It’s just all of the features chanting the protagonist’s signature catchphrase. I’m sure it’s not gonna bother everyone that listens, but I didn’t care for it at all personally. I guess Mega Ran’s performance was okay enough, but the main reason I was so disappointed is that they didn’t really go as in depth with the story as I would have liked. They pretty much left out the ending of the story, which was disappointing to me because that’s what really makes the story so good in my opinion. The track is mediocre to me. I guess I should also mention the skit that starts the second half of the album. It’s an interlude called Books Are Tight, and it’s pretty much just a parody in which MC Lars intentionally makes a terrible song. He produced the beat with one of those Casio keyboard’s and it’s really fucking bad.
Typically about video games, Mega Ran raps
But now we rap about books, yeah
Because reading is forgotten in this culture of screens
And humanities aren’t valued in the schools, in the schools
It’s actually pretty funny to be honest. I liked it. Mega Ran let him down easy by saying “we can add this one to the ‘maybe’ pile.” It’s a funny track. Is it on the level of a Little Brother skit? No, of course not. I think it’s really well done though. I enjoyed it a lot. I’m glad I could end this review on a high note. 🙂