It's been a long time since MC Frontalot came up with the term that started a music movement.
In 2000, the San Francisco-born, Brooklyn-based rapper released a song called "Nerdcore Hip Hop," which not only became a hit with nerds and geeks, but the official title of the hip-hop subgenre rappers like Frontalot trafficked in.
So, after all these years being known as the progenitor of nerd-core rap - one of the first MCs to spit bars not about money, cash and hos, but technology, comic books and Asperger's (and still come off sounding like fire) - has Frontalot gotten tired of the nerd-core tag?
"Well, it still serves me quite well," says Frontalot (real name: Damian Hess), 40, on the phone from Austin. "I like that a whole second - and, now, almost a third - generation of kids have come up who want to use that term to describe their music, too. And it keeps going as a real, like, theme in the community."
Unfortunately, being a nerd-core rapper also means that certain audiences won't take you seriously as an MC. Even Frontalot has mentioned in his work how some people dismiss his funny yet straightforward rhymes as mere joke rap. (He calls this a "permanent, small concern.") It's enough to wonder if fellow MCs in the nerd-core camp have gotten fed up with the term.
"You know, no artist wants to get pigeonholed," says Frontalot. "I think some of the compatriots out there who've got national touring - perhaps either they or their management have maybe rebelled a little against the term over the years. But they always come back to it, because the fan base likes the term and feels fine with it. And so the artist makes their peace with it."
But nerd-core came about back when nerd culture was still a niche thing. Now, since it appears that everything geek-related is considered cool (and lucrative), is it even harder for a rapper like Frontalot to be taken seriously?
"I'm sure that there's a lot of that kind of commercial energy out there pointed at people who are essentially in my audience," he says. "And I think if somebody came up with nerd-core for the first time right now, it would seem very much to me that same kind of thing. It would seem like just another random cash-grab on the nerd pop spectrum. But it comes actually from a much smaller place, like 15 years ago, and I just thought it was a funny description of what I was already doing and interested in rapping about.
"The giant explosion in nerd culture grew up around it - and that's great for me, I guess, because it gives me more exposure," he says. "But it probably makes my style of music sound even more suspicious than ever before to someone encountering it for the first time."
For his latest album, the just-released "Question Bedtime," Frontalot bypasses his usual geek talk in favor of doing a concept album about fairy tales and folklore.
"I think that both the fantasy elements of fairy tales and the whole idea of child literacy are firmly nerd-core things," he says. "I think this record comes out of me being in the library, instead of playing kickball during middle school, and reading all those fairy-tale books and always trying to find more."
He rounds up an assortment of fellow, quirky MCs to help him rap about the bedtime stories he finds fascinating, like getting Jean Grae to assume the role of Goldilocks for "Gold Locks" or having fellow nerd-core rapper mc chris play the titular character from the Japanese tale "The Ugly Son" in "Devil in the Attic." He also gets such comedians as Paul F. Tompkins, Kyle Kinane and Negin Farsad (who captured Frontalot on film in the 2008 documentary "Nerdcore Rising") in skits where he's trying to get them to bed.
Having stand-ups do guest shots on his albums is beginning to become a tradition. "I was lucky enough to have John Hodgman on my fourth record," he says. "And once you can say you had John Hodgman on your record, then other comedians don't dismiss you immediately."
But even though he knows a lot of funny people and says a lot of funny things himself, MC Frontalot still hopes that people won't laugh off his years of work as a legitimate MC. "My hope is that they will give it the one listen," he says, "sticking themselves to this position to find something there that they didn't expect, that maybe causes them to click on the next one and getting invested in it, maybe even despite themselves."