Nerd-centric Hip Hop is a lucrative niche, to say the least. The genius of it is that unlike other sub-genres, listeners within this demographic are prone to intense fandom and financial support of shit that they feel; to that end, they are amazing fans to amass. The problem, though, lies in making the crossover. That — of course — refers to the delicate balance that exists between traditional Hip Hop and that which is littered with comic and game references to the point that it obscures itself, stifling an artist’s ability to compete on a mainstream level.
Young New York upstart Outcastkid is on a quest to break the mold with his latest LP, Nerd DNA. He first came onto our radar when he dropped a remix of Smoke DZA and Joey Badass collaboration, “Mood.” While that track didn’t accurately establish the nerdism this LP encapsulates, it did give us a taste of his cadence and flow — which is trenched in a New York sound.
Reminiscent of an artist he has an affinity for, Joey Badass (he even mentions the rapper on the song “I’ma Get Mine”), Outcast’s music is built around lots of complex wordplay. Interestingly, the thematic context of the project seems to shift as it rolls on, from “nerdy” to more of the everyday portrait of a high school underdog engrossed in Hip Hop culture.
To illustrate this take, we look at tracks like “Shock Jockey,” which plays up a concept he also rolled out online, building himself as a character who was experimented on as part of a secret government project. Then there’s “Rick and Morty’s Outcast,” laden with punchlines from the popular show — sure to make fans drool.
That’s the nerdy shit, though.
Songs like “Outkast Vibe” and “Bad Girls” see him lusting after girls as — more or less — that every-man in the back of the class that they don’t notice. He laments, especially on the latter track, how popping off in the industry will have all these girls that once overlooked him taking a second (or third) look.
Then bangers like “Indigo Smoke” — a clear highlight — and “Printer Life” seem to also portray this weed smoking kid with confidence and swag. It’s a weird juxtaposition that ultimately illustrates the multiple relatable facets to this kid’s personality (as a rapper),
which plays out quite organically. This is even true as he switches gears for a trap vibe on “Cash Flex,” for example.
Ultimately what I like about this kid is his willingness to be deceivingly diverse while staying on topic. Sure, he raps about video games, comics, and other overt nerd shit, but he also creates this relatable young guy aura — kind of like Khalid — and he has pretty dope pen game. It will be interesting to see if he continues to run with the “nerd rap guise”; this album is (actually) less “nerdy” than he may consider it to be. At points it’s Actually just “smart.” Solid listen.