If nerd rap has a spokesperson, it is reluctantly mc chris. The cough syrup-sipping, helium-voiced rapper, born Chris Ward, made a stop at the Rock and Roll Hotel last Monday to promote his new album, “Dungeon Master of Ceremonies.” Though Ward’s set was sprinkled with references to Star Wars and DQ Blizzards, he doesn’t even see himself as part of the nerd rap scene, much less its leader.
“I’m just being myself,” Ward said. “I make nerdy references, and Star Wars is just another reference that I make. I’m a nerd, but not an all-encompassing nerd. I don’t know anything about Star Trek or Dr. Who.”
When Ward took the stage, he looked as unassuming as the average Gamestop customer. Armed with a microphone and a laptop, the MC piloted his way through a raucous, banter-laden set. Ward built up momentum by starting off with old material, like the robo-trippers’ anthem “Robotussin.” But even when Ward moved onto material from his new album, the crowd still rapped along with him.
“I don’t really have a typical fan,” Ward said. “It’s kids from all across the board, not just nerds. I get everyone at my shows, from little kids to old people.”
The crowd at the Hotel was small but more homogenous than Ward suggests. As a cartoonist for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming, Ward made a name for himself in the nerd community as the voice of Hesh on “SeaLab 2021” and MC P Pants on “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” Ward isn’t bothered that the novelty of those characters may cross over to mc chris, or create a niche audience of couch potatoes with carpal tunnel from video games or more nefarious hobbies.
“I don’t mind being small time. When goals are smaller, like mine, they are easier to achieve. I don’t know how big this is going to get or how it is going to go. I’m just about entertaining people and helping them escape for a while,” Ward said.
Ward’s stage presence is as spastic and grating as “Problem Child”-era Gilbert Gottfried. But his high-pitched voice (yes, it is his normal voice) is one of Ward’s most endearing qualities. It’s what makes crowds of dejected white kids chant “one of us, one of us,” like extras from “Freaks.” It was with this voice that Ward soapboxed between songs about the difficulties of “Kingdom Hearts 2” and the lack of “titties” in videogames. This was one of the finer points of Ward’s pseudo-standup: an extended monologue that ended with a character from “Paperboy 2” bare-chested in a bathrobe.
For Ward, these topics are just as much a possibility for material as are his troubles selling records when his fanbase is so tech-savvy with peer-to-peer downloading. The topics he mused over 10 years ago are still an inspiration today.
“I’ve got a whole business to run now. When I make music, I try to tap into what was originally there. For me that was drinking 40s and partying on the weekends. School is so tough and those books are so sick. When I was writing back then, it was always a goof. That’s probably why I turned out how I did,” Ward said.
Ward’s dreams are beyond what nerd rap can offer. If anything, rapping is only the beginning. With the notoriety that rapping has given him, Ward wants to pick up his drawing tablet and return to cartoons.
“I want to create my own series, a full season,” Ward said.
“I’m excited to build a world. It’s something I’ve been doing with Legos since I was kid. Now I’ve got the resources.”