Let’s start this piece off by saying that mc chris is 36.
Despite his penchant for sounding like Justin Bieber on the mic and rapping tunes with titles like “Han Solo,” “Pizza Butt” and “Hoodie Ninja,” mc chris is, by all appearances, a grown man. Nevertheless, if there has ever been a rapper more suited for this generation of crazed, Comic-Con attending fanboys, it’s mc chris. Heck, he’s even performed at Comic-Con a few times. “When I first started doing this,” says chris (full name: Christopher Brendan Ward), “I hit up all the Cons.”
You can thank (or blame) years of growing up in a lily-white suburb in Illinois, watching reruns of “Diff’rent Strokes” and “The Muppet Show” and listening to Public Enemy and De La Soul for the Brooklyn-based rapper’s point of view. Those aforementioned hip-hop legends also taught the MC how to be more truthful in his lyricism.
“I just applied those rules to my own life and I just talked about what I liked – and that was ‘Star Wars’ and girls and drugs,” he says. “And that’s just what I rapped about and, you know, a lot of people liked that.”
The mc chris persona didn’t start forming until his college days, when he went to parties and started drunkenly spitting rhymes to get people’s attention.
“For me, in college, I just wanted to be somebody else,” he admits. “I didn’t want to be who I was, because who I was wasn’t interesting enough. So I had to kind of come up with an alter ego. And that’s what mc chris is.”
Being a professional rapper wasn’t initially going to be his life calling. Studying screenwriting and animation in college (as well as studying improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City) definitely came in handy when he got a job in the early aughts with Williams Street, the animation studio responsible for such Adult Swim network programming as “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.”
He worked extensively on those shows and others, doing everything from animating scenes to writing jokes to providing character voices.
“Because it was such a kind of new industry, they needed someone who could do multiple things, who could be an actor and who could also sit down in front of a computer and pretty much animate the whole thing,” he says.
During that time, he started recording as mc chris, dropping his first album, the 17-minute “Life’s a Bitch and I’m Her Pimp,” in 2001. He left Williams Street in 2004 to concentrate on his new career as a rapper. He’s definitely made being a musician his top priority, releasing a litany of self-distributed albums and EPs in the past 10 years, and recording theme songs for Kevin Smith’s SModcast Internet Radio programs. He even came out with a children’s album, “Marshmellow Playground,” last year.
Yet even though he takes being an MC seriously, you shouldn’t think that way about his music. “I think they’re messing up if they take it too seriously, you know,” he says of neophyte listeners. “That’s how I’m different from other acts, in that it’s not a serious thing. It’s supposed to be taken lightheartedly. It’s supposed to be taken as satire. And, you know, obviously, it’s a character and it’s a performance and people take it with a grain of salt.”
Even though mc chris is on tour, promoting his latest album “Race Wars,” he has recently taken some time off to deal with other things, like working on a cartoon show of his own.
Titled “the mc chris cartoon,” it may get picked up by a network soon, especially after he and his fans raised more than $62,000 to make a pilot. It’s a project he needed to do to help him deal with the passing of his father, who died last December from cancer. “It’s just been a really amazing experience and just been something that’s helped me get through a difficult time,” he says.
In his own smart-alecky way, he’s also been helping with the fight against cancer. He recently came out with a parody of Carly Rae Jepsen’s summer hit “Call Me Maybe” called “Tasty Face.”
He got the inspiration when he saw a YouTube video of Jepsen performing the song and scanned through the user comments. “I saw a comment that said, basically, the hook: ‘I just ate bath salts, your face looks tasty,’ ” he says.
“So, I just went over to my producers and we just knocked it out and we put it online and it was a really big hit. But we decided to do something good with it, you know,” he says.
He released the song for a dollar on his Bandcamp page, where it made $2,000. He donated half of it to the American Cancer Society and the other half to the Ronald Poppo Fund, going to help the unfortunate victim of the Miami face-eating attack in May.
“Sometimes,” he says, “you need to laugh to get through it, and I think that’s what we were doing.”
So, does mc chris know if Jepsen has listened to his version yet? “No, I’m still very small-time, and I don’t really come onto the radar, which is fine by me,” he says. “It means I can be more mischievous.”