Monday, April 02, 2007

We Hustle Bytes

YTCracker is an unenlightened world's greatest fear; he is a genuine nerd unencumbered by awkwardness or social ineptitude. He is an empowered geek with his eyes on the proverbial prize.

When YTCracker and Spamtec Crew roll out, they do so draped with beautiful women and demonstrating exactly the type of nerdy swagger you'd expect from a collection of true DGs . When they hit the stage, they spit rhymes with the ferocity of Tolkien's Balrog, and even in the studio they seem to take no prisoners.

And yet, though he's never hesitated to call out another whom he feels has somehow disrespected him, YTCracker has also shown an immeasurable amount of nerd love and enduring support to the community and its humble inhabitants. YTCracker was one of the earliest proponents of current scene staples like 1337 Geek Beat, and, after Rhyme Torrents broke down the walls between nerdy rappers and crafted an impromptu home for their community, YTCracker was the first to welcome related acts like Former Fat Boys to the nerdcore family.

But somehow, through all of this, so little is known about YTCracker, and, when the chance to interview him arose, I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate Hipster, please!'s impending anniversary than by talking to the man himself.

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Bryce Case, Jr. and YTCracker: are they the same person or two totally separate individuals?

It really depends on the day - I'd say in general that I am a very laid back, relaxed individual. My home life is relatively benign, and I find that my "alter ego," as it were, seems to be where I act out.

You are an MC, a DJ, a writer, an entrepreneur, a father, and, at any given time, you are involved in innumerable diverse projects. How do you maintain such a broad focus?

Functional Attention Deficit Disorder. When utilized properly it becomes quite the tool for productivity, provided you do things that actually hold your attention.

Despite the many years since its occurrence and your many successful (and much more legally permissible) accomplishments since that time, you are still often associated with the 1999 defacing of the Goddard Space Flight Center web site. Are you ever bothered by this?

Not at all - I believe it provides a certain level of credibility to my "image." What would 50 Cent be without a few bullets to his name? I believe the sensationalism that goes along with hacking plays well into some sort of convoluted celebrity status, so I wouldn't say it hurts me.

A little bit of relaxation is never a bad thing.Your Wikipedia entry cites that you learned BASIC at the age of 4. C'mon now, YT, is this true?

I was one of the fortunate ones of my generation to have a computer in my home from a very young age. Such a thing is very commonplace now, therefore I would assume that learning how computers work is typical of kids these days ( i.e. my daughter, who is INCREDIBLY proficient at computing). I learned to read through memorization and sight, not phonetically - getting the early jump there was obviously beneficial to my learning how to program. As far as the fact itself goes, I suppose you simply have to take my parents' word for it, or I might be able to dig up some old photos in some album of me in front of my TI.

I don't imagine that will be necessary, but I do appreciate the offer. :)

It's obvious that you spend a lot of your time writing rhymes. Do you write anything else?

I try to write a lot. When I was younger, I really liked to write fictional stories, mostly sci-fi. I migrated into things like whitepapers and articles for the computer security field - little op-ed pieces of commentary. Now, like every other loser on the Internet, I practice armchair philosophy on weblogs.

What's a day-in-the-life of YTCracker like? I find it hard to believe that you show up at 9:00 and sit in some cheesy cubicle like the rest of us.

It really depends on the day. My cubicle era might be behind me, but the cheesy parts of business are inescapable. I like to keep as much of an active role with my businesses as possible, but a little bit of relaxation is never a bad thing.

You've recently become a favorite among fans (and producers) of G4TV's The Feed. How did this relationship begin?

I spoke with Frank Meyer, who is an awesome guy and writes for The Feed's weblog. He basically rolled up the ladder and shopped my music with the office, who loved it. Plus, I got a free webcam out of the deal - so thank them for the moronic videos on YouTube that I've been posting lately.

You've rhymed about everything from nerd girls to net neutrality. Is there a common element inherent in your inspiration to write? What is the song-writing process like for YTCracker?

I believe that I mainly just write about what I know, and if I don't know, I got some help from an "expert." For instance, I hadn't played WoW by the time I wrote "Get on My Level," so I enlisted the help of my friend namrak to give me the skinny on some zones and buzzwords. Fundamentally, I try to run a broad spectrum of nerd life in my lyrics to appeal to a mass audience.

You've become somewhat of an inspiration and a role model to many 2nd and 3rd generation Nerdcore artists. Whom do you count among your influences, musical and otherwise?

Too many to mention them all, but I definitely would say the typical greats like Tupac, Biggie, and Jay-Z have a huge influence on me. I listen to so many forms of music as well - I even played guitar in a punk band (lots of love for No Use for a Name, Pulley, Lagwagon, Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies) - people like Eric Clapton, old Metallica, RHCP, Tool, The Beatles, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I also love drum and bass, funky house, and breakbeat - I just have real eclectic taste.

I draw from a wide variety of styles, but I'd say I most closely identify with the southern states movement - thanks to my boy MostHateD from gH, I was turned on to Swishahouse in the late 90s and groups like No Limit and Cash Money. I love their inflection and energy and how they structure their songs.

As far as non-musical influences go, I have love for anyone hustling to make a come up, nerd or otherwise.

Which Nerdcore MCs do you, personally, enjoy? Are there any up-and-comers that we should be watching?

Again, too many to name (and I risk getting myself in a load of trouble by leaving anyone out), but I really love the diversity in the scene right now. I really like Frontalot, Beefy, Router, FFB, EPP, Zealous1, the Metamystiks, and FSR - all have their own unique qualities and skillsets that bring personality to the scene. mc chris has his set of qualities and marketing that set him apart from everyone else, and special mention to Doctor Popular - he oozes so much style it's not even funny.

Unlike some of your contemporaries, you had no problem adjusting to the Nerdcore label; in fact, you passionately embraced it. What is it about the term that you find appealing? Why do you think that others have resisted applying the phrase "Nerdcore hip-hop" to their own music?

I believe it's the fear of being typecast. To be honest, I know for a fact my music is commercially viable and has the capability to embrace a larger fanbase than the nerd subculture. There is merit to the "for nerds, by nerds" mantra, but the purpose of music is communication. My mission is to spread the word of the nerd where it might otherwise not be found. I represent the end result of a nerdy existence. I am a nerd to the core. I bring the non-typical image and realistic persona to this genre and not letting the gimmick cheapen my message. In reality, the Nerdcore label itself is just a category, not a bona fide affiliation - when you break it down, hip-hop is hip-hop, period. The Nerdcore designation is nothing more than a guideline. I feel a good Nerdcore artist could exist outside of the realm of Nerdcore hip-hop and do just fine, just as a Latino rapper like Pitbull does fine in mainstream hip-hop.

Your long-standing feud with mc chris has recently been squashed, publically and unbelievably amiably. Is there anyone else, from within the realm of Nerdcore or without, that YTCracker has beef with?

Not at the moment. The night mc chris posted his thoughts about me, I was floored. He not only gave validation to the Nerdcore community as a whole, but voiced that he respected my marketing and promotional abilities. To make an outward move like that and reach out took a lot of guts, especially in his position, so I respect him greatly for that. I still think he primarily focuses on his own interests, as do I and most other people, but making that mea culpa was sincere and I think he did a great thing.

MC Frontalot and mc chris have recently launched successful national tours. When can we expect to see a full-fledged YTCracker tour?

I'm performing with Lars, Frontalot, and Optimus Rhyme in Denver on April 15th as part of their tour. Honestly, I want to make sure when I'm touring that I'll actually be selling venues out and not making the mistake of thinking I'm bigger than I really am. Therefore, until the results of my demographic hacks have come back, I'm on hiatus. The worst thing you can do to yourself as an indie artist is launch a tour, get promoters stoked, and not bring heads in the door - you'll put a railroad spike in your coffin.

One aspect prominent within Nerdcore (both from the perspective of fans and artists) is a shared sense of social awkwardness, of marginalization. You, however, ooze confidence and charisma. How do you explain this disparity?

I've always had an ability to blend in socially, but in reality I am fairly personal and introspective 90% of the time. Social interaction is an RPG like any other - you're just role playing yourself. You have certain strengths and certain weaknesses and play them accordingly. I know my strengths and am confident in what they offer, and my weaknesses I can effectively downplay because of that confidence. Alpha nerds like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are some of the most charismatic people on the planet - beasts in the board room and public relations. Bill Gates throws like a girl though, which is why you don't see him pitching for the Yankees; he just buys them instead.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming Nerdcore Rising and Nerdcore For Life documentaries? What effects do you anticipate these films will have on the landscape of Nerdcore hip-hop?

I think they will bring some legitimacy to the scene in general and at least shine a light on the faces of Nerdcore and its issues. I don't subscribe to the fact that it's going to completely revolutionize Nerdcore as we know it, but I won't be displeased if it does.

In what ways does your most recent release Nerd Life differ from fan favorite Nerdrap Entertainment System ?

We actually own the beats! Really though, NES was aNerd Life concept album that got way more attention than I ever thought. It's done over 100,000 downloads since it came out in 2005. The Spamtec releases collectively haven't even done 20,000. Nerd Life is more of a grown up album in the sense that it stands alone as good work, both representing Nerdcore and as a commercial release.

You've recently established your own label Nerdy South Records. Do you plan to focus solely on the genre of Nerdcore hip-hop, or are you open to including artists from outside of the Nerdcore community?

NSR is built on the foundation of the nerd work ethic, and so I believe that NSR will stay core to that group. My partners and I (stc is the greatest, but ya'll knew that) are learning a ton about the music business as we go along, and hopefully our future releases go much smoother.

You've played a string of recent gigs with your Spamtec groupmates phlow and eGod. Are there concrete plans for a third STC album?

We're always working on new tracks - ALWAYS. There's like three floating around right now. Spamtec has always been more mixtape oriented and we just kind of release songs as we finish them.

In your own words, what is a Digital Gangster?

If you've ever sold someone gold on WoW, then phished their account to steal it back, you're a DG.

If you ever piggybacked someone's wireless to print horse porn to the HP on their network, you're a DG.

If you've ever called Yahoo! distraught about how you can't log in to your email and it has important business documents in it, and you NEED the password reset, but it really isn't your email, you're a DG.

Or, if you're simply proficient in the Internets and have seen Goatse or Tubgirl more than five times, you're a DG.

Fairly loose definitions, but you get the picture. We hustle bytes.

You've recently taken it upon yourself to launch a Nerdcore Ning. What is it about the Ning concept that piqued your interest?

The Ning is one of those newfangled Web 2.0 properties that shows a lot of promise. I believe that having a ground floor presence on such a site establishes the staying power of the genre. The site's basic premise is that of social networks within a social network, and I would rather have a social network with that kind of pooled community than run a stupid mailing list or what have you.

This question is so hypothetical that it borders on ridiculous, but, if you'd be so kind as to indulge my morbid curiosity; if you decided tomorrow to leave the Nerdcore game forever, who would you name as your successor?

That's quite a decision to make off the cuff, so I nominate my daughter.

That's certainly a sound decision.

Lastly, what is the nature of nerd?

In this day and age, the definition of nerd has become so blurred. You can be a car geek, a movie geek, a sports geek - everyone is a nerd to some capacity. Getting them to actually embrace and accept that part about themselves is another thing all together.

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To say that YTCracker is a definitive force within nerdcore hip-hop is a laughable understatement. I'd love to relate to you exactly how many nerdy musicians have told me, at one time or another, how songs like “Surgerunner” provided the soundtrack to their late-night shenanigans long before they came to know YT as a kindred musical spirit – in a time not so long ago when he was more akin to a figure of myth – but such details are inconsequential. The true significance lies solely in the fact that YTCracker is, simply by virtue of being himself, a veritable landmark of nerd culture.

YTCracker is not important solely for his hacker past, his dedication to nerd camaraderie, or even his superlative contributions to geeky hip-hop; his importance is rooted in all of these things and more. Perhaps there's no clearer example of this than the pride he takes in the steady breakthrough of nerd culture to the mainstream and his part in it.

YT advocates nerd life because he lives nerd life. He is nerd life, publically, proudly, defiantly.

His blend of intelligence, diligence, and intestinal fortitude makes YTCracker the quintessential nerd, and his commitment to espousing the virtues of self-realization and self-determination within the nerdy sphere makes him a hero to those seeking to rectify their own geeky tendencies with their public personas.

In short, the man simply refuses to hide his nerdy light under a bushel. YTCracker shines that light as a beacon for all to see, and laughs away the very thought of societal repercussions. If you'll afford me the luxury of one more altered cliché: he lets his geek flag fly.

7 comments:

ChurchHatesTucker said...

Nice one, Z.

Huge props to YT. He's a genuine alpha nerd.

Love the Jeff Foxworthy routine, although I'd have to question anyone who's fallen for the goatse guy five times...

Anonymous said...

c'mon Church, all that takes is a half-hour on 4chan and you've got your 5 Goatse's and then some.

ChurchHatesTucker said...

(Note to self: Avoid 4chan)

Z. said...

I hope if the feature teaches anything, it's to avoid 4chan! ;)

ChurchHatesTucker said...

"And that's One to Grow On."

Steffo said...

I've sent pr0n over the wireless in my apartment, then posted the picture on the apt. complex mailbox. Should've seen teh faces.

Z. said...

Steffo, I’m both impressed and not-at-all surprised by this confession. :P