Rap gets a bad rep. Haters label the genre meaningless and shallow, accusing rappers of glorifying sex, violence, and money. There are a lot of rhyme-spitters out there that are into a lot more than that, however. Some of them are downright geeky, even! Now, we’re not saying that every rapper is a future Bard (sorry, Wheezy) but there are definitely those who do it better than others. So, to honor those nerdy recording artists, we proudly present these crazy-geeky rappers.
“Gambino is a mastermind”—this opening line to one of Childish Gambino’s most popular tracks, Freaks and Geeks, is both accurate and self aware. Also known as Donald Glover, the 2006 NYU graduate is multitalented and wildly successful. As a rapper, he’s released eight albums and mixtapes. As an actor, he’s starred in the film Mystery Team and NBC’s hit show Community. As a comic, he’s written for 30 Rock and has had two Comedy Central Specials. And he did this all before turning 30!
As MC for his band Flipsyde, The Piper writes politically fueled and message-based music. His songs are honest and progressive, encouraging listeners to overcome adversity and be observant of world struggles. Piper is also an actor and writer. In 2009, his screenplay Walter’s Boys won the Tribecca Film Festival and in 2010, Piper played all 12 characters in his one-man play Cops and Robbers. Not content to just cheer from the sidelines, Piper graduated at the top of his class from The Bay Area Police Academy in 2010. He now fights for justice and peace through his art as well as from the front lines.
As one half of the duo Atmosphere, Slug is an innovative and honest artist who blends spoken word poetry with basic old school rapping. His songs are much more beautiful than what his name suggests and they often expose social injustices through emotional story telling. Slug is known for twisting his narratives at the last minute to leave surprised listeners on an impactful note as is the case in The Waitress or Yesterday.
Illogic’s diction is incomparable. The language he uses and allusions he makes are more characteristic of a collegiate dissertation than a rap song. Yet his natural flow allows him to pull it off so effortlessly that fans don’t mind nodding their head through 100 listens before finally comprehending the first half what is being said.
Aesop Rock is another artist who utilizes an abundance of allusions. Some critics may label his style as “nonsensical” but a more flattering term would be “abstract.” While his songs can be frustrating to decipher at times, they are far from meaningless. Aesop Rock has a degree in fine arts from Boston University and puts it to use in constructing lyrical labyrinths that lead listeners to gem of genius in every track.
When he was 14, Ryan Leslie scored a perfect 1600 on the SATs. Two years later, he went on to finish high school and three years after that, he graduated from Harvard with a degree in Government, and concentrations in Political Science and Macroeconomics. The boy genius could have taken his talents anywhere, but chose to funnel them into a passion for music. As a producer, Leslie has worked with artists such as Fabulous, Beyonce, Chris Brown, and Britney Spears. He was even integral in creating Kanye West’s dramatically symphonic hit All of The Lights. When creating his own songs, Leslie works alone and performs every part of the production.
Who's your favorite smarty-pants, hip-hop superstar?