February 21, 2002

Revenge of the N*E*R*D

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Lately, hip-hop appeals to me most when it makes me laugh. Currently, I am hooked on the comical boasting of Ludacris’ hit “Roll Out” and before that it was the absolute stupidity of the Big Tymers featuring Juvenile, Lil’ Wayne, and whoever else they could fit into a studio singing “#1 Stunna.”

Unfortunately, the entire hip-hop genre is a mystery to me. There seems to be an unfortunate homogeneity to the portion of hip-hop that enters the mainstream. Almost all rap on the radio and TV is unnecessarily profane and unabashedly cocky. If a song isn’t about sex, it is about money, cars, and jewelry that allow the performer to increase sexual activity. It’s a vicious cycle that actually reflects what’s usually on most people’s minds. It used to be funny when 2 Live Crew was the novelty and even when Sir Mixa Lot was prowling the charts, but the uniformity is getting old.

Gone are the days that the “gangsta” style prevailed, the deaths of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. being the main catalysts in its demise. Nowadays, popular rap is rarely as poignant or flows as well as it did when delivered by those two. You can trace the turn of the mainstream from the dark urban storyteller to the loudmouth pimp back to Puff Daddy’s debut. Since then, hip-hop’s new guard of Master P, Jay-Z, and the Cash Money Crew have been trivializing the entire art as a means of expression.

But all is not vapid in the realm of rap. There is a more serious and artistic side. The Dirty South kingpins Outkast offer a more funkdafied and eye-opening view of urban struggle, the Jurassic 5 turn the clock back to the old-school almost a capella style, and Eminem plays the ultimate satirist and shockster. Now you can add another group to the list of deviants from hip-hop’s general trend: N*E*R*D.

The new project by