A few weeks ago on Jeopardy!, contestant Susan Cole said she was a “nerdcore” rap fan. She described it as music about “video games, science fiction [and] having a hard time meeting romantic partners,” to which Alex Trebek replied, “Losers, in other words.”
While Cole chuckled at his quip (then proceeded to walk away as winner of the night with $22,600 in her pocket), nerdcore fans sought justice, turning to one man for defense: MC Chris, reluctant hero of the genre.
“The host of the nerdiest show on television calling out other nerds. Kind of ironic,” he says. “It ruins what the nerds are trying to achieve, which is an insult-free utopia. For a lot of people, this music is their respite from lonely, hard lives, so don’t spoil the party. Don’t rain on this very small parade.”
For the past 15 years, Christopher Brendan Ward has been rapping about Star Wars, Harry Potter, G.I. Joes, Batman, masturbating, horror films, unrequited love and pizza. With a high-pitched, nasal voice and comedic flare, Ward’s songs hit you with a fast-paced onslaught of words, and so many references to pop culture that Kevin Smith once referred to him as the “pop-culture poet laureate.”
Ward got his start as an animator, voice actor and writer for Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Brak Show, Sealab 2021 and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, some of the most absurdly genius shows from the early days of Adult Swim. In 2004, Ward left Cartoon Network to focus on music. His 10th album, MC Chris Is Dreaming, came out on Sept. 30, and is fully devoted to one of the scariest, ugliest villains of all time: Freddy Krueger.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was the first slasher film Ward ever experienced. When he came to a rough patch in life, he felt drawn to Krueger to help him deal with his own personal demons and nightmares. “I’m an autobiographical rapper, speaking in the context of the stuff that I love,” he says.
Ward studied the films while reading Sigmund Freud's and Carl Jung’s theories on dreams. He explains, “I found some core issues I wanted to address, mainly about addiction and anxiety. How do I get rid of these nightmares? The movies were inspiring because they’re all about changing your point of view in order to beat the villain.”
He also looked into filmmaker Wes Craven’s personal history. “I think Craven was dealing with these themes and motifs because he was raised in a Baptist/fundamentalist household and felt a lot of guilt and shame. He wasn’t allowed to watch anything but Disney films. Everything was sinful. Art was sinful. Sex was sinful. You would burn in hell forever if you enjoyed these things. That’s why Krueger’s skin is burnt and he has this painful, gloved hand. He’s in a constant state of torture because he’s a sexual being who wants to enjoy art and be an artist.
"I relate to that. And I relate to the girls in the movies because they start out really afraid but by the movie’s end they’ve found a way to change their point of view and mental state to in turn become more powerful than Freddy. It inspires me not to let my personal demons get the best of me. So by the end of the album I’m talking about hope. It ends on a positive note.”
In addition to Freddy, Ward immersed himself in slasher films during his creative soul-searching. While he recommends binge-watching everything starring Jamie Curtis from the 1980s, especially Terror Train, there are a few villains that he thinks stand above the rest. In the spirit of Halloween, here are MC Chris’s top three horror villains.
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Russ Thorn, the driller killer from Slumber Party Massacre
“This guy was so disturbing to me mainly because he didn't wear a mask or have some sort of themed costume like, say, a fisherman, or a miner or a soldier. Wearing a simple Canadian tuxedo and a red shirt, the dude looks pretty much totally normal. Which is more like what a real serial killer would look like. And his weapon is a giant drill with a huge corkscrew bit. When he reveals his motive, it’s simply, ‘You're pretty. All of you are very pretty. I love you.’ So creepy!”
Max Cady from Cape Fear
“Without a doubt the scariest thing I’ve seen in my life is Max Cady running across Sam Bowden’s backyard at night. You never see how a killer works and you have to assume when the camera’s not on them they’re sprinting to their next hiding spot. We got to see a split second of that sprint and it’s horrifying, because he’s so insane and yet determined. The entire movie is frightening, but just that shot gave me the extreme willies. Beyond that, this performance is one of my favorites by [Robert] De Niro because I’m always scared of him. I was scared of him in The Intern. But in Cape Fear he truly gives you a really good reason to be scared to death of him.”
Darth Vader from Rogue One
"Now this is just me hoping. You know I love all things Star Wars, so of course I’m beyond stoked for Rogue One. And my hope is that it’s about meeting these cool new characters only to have Darth Vader kill them all. Vader can be seen as somewhat of a hunter in comics and novels, and he’s a very chill, force-choke slasher in A New Hope. He’s supposed to be this heartless cyborg that finds and kills people that are working against the Empire no matter where they are. Always driven, methodical and very silent in his approach (like, say, Jason). I’m hoping Rogue One is actually secretly a slasher flick where he kills everybody one by one. Please, please please! I beg of you, Star Wars gods, make it so!
MC Chris Is Dreaming is available now via www.mcchris.com.