"I don't think anybody likes being called a novelty—it has a very negative connotation," says "Weird Al" Yankovic in Nerdcore Rising, a documentary about... well, novelty hiphop. "Rap is all about 'I am awesome, I am the shit,'" explains one of nerdcore's biggest acts, MC Chris. "Whereas nerdcore is all about, like, 'My car doesn't really work and I haven't had sex in a year and a half.'"
Nerdcore Rising follows the first national tour of MC Frontalot, "the godfather of nerdcore," as he travels from Brooklyn to Seattle. What Frontalot's crowds lack in numbers, they make up for in passion: As a subgenre of hiphop, nerdcore might be really, really niche, but as one of the chief figures in that niche, Frontalot is massive. Most have no idea who he is, but those that do love him with a passion rivaled only by their lust for Lara Croft.
On their tour, Frontalot and his band lose equipment, make Chewbacca noises, discuss traditional roles of masculinity, debate white musicians' appropriation of black music, and try to make sense of Frontalot's singular devoted groupie. ("I just think she makes us nervous," one of Frontalot's posse stammers. "Like, y' know... 'cause girls make us nervous.")
Overlong and occasionally indulgent, Nerdcore Rising still manages to be both charming and insightful: Sure, it talks a lot about the music, and it's packed with interviews with geek icons like comedian Brian Posehn and web comic Penny Arcade's Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. But ultimately, the film's about what it means to be an outsider, and throughout, there's a sense of earnestness that's touching, funny, and awkward. Frontalot won't be busting into the mainstream anytime soon, but that's kind of the point: A rap with the chorus "Now it's time for a little braggadocio/while I swing my arms like Ralph Macchio" isn't for everybody. But it is for a passionate few, and after Nerdcore Rising, you might realize you're one of 'em.