This piece originally appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, The Full Lid on 8th February 2019. If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.
MC Frontalot is known for many things. The best rap song ever written about bridges, an entire album reconsidering bedtime stories and, most of all, the invention of Nerdcore. A sub genre of Hyper articulate, technology facing rap that Frontalot, or Front, became synonymous with. leading to the iconic ‘Nerdcore Rising‘ becoming the ‘Freebird‘ of the PAX set.
But times have changed and so has the internet and only one of them has changed for the better. Front is back. And Front is very far from happy.
Net Split or The Fathomless Heartbreak of Online Itself wears its heart on its immaculately ironed, probably pocket protectored sleeve. A raft of new songs, a skit and some unplugged versions, all of which revolve around the central idea that digital culture is horrifyingly, probably endemically broken. Which, let’s face it, there’s a certain amount of evidence for.(If you’re worried, this is not the New Zealand video. I wouldn’t ever link to that. Something showing how much of a massive asshole Jack Dorsey is? THAT I’d link to.)
Each of the songs is scattered with the syllabic pirouettes that mark Frontalot’s vocal style. He’s a rapper who loves the shapes made by the beats and shouting and his work is never less than clever, usually very funny and often brilliant. That leads to some jewels of lyrics. Internet Sucks, the album opener, has this which is also pretty much the album mission statement:
But how exactly is one supposed to mute the fact that a tenth of our netizens
When offered the chance to shit on anything pull down pants without hesitance
And he is just getting started. Memes are Stupid(Featuring Dual Core) is a laconic plea for clear communication and a deeply eloquent assault on shitposting. It’s followed up and built upon by Never Read The Comments, which explores the endless cesspool of internet comments sections. The song gives Front a chance to show off his vocal flexibility and gifts the album with another golden line. The endless horror of the perpetual disappointment machine that hangs off the bottom of every article ever, expressed in one phrase:
As if anything could be wonderful enough to be unhateable
Dating Profile is up next powered by cronky synths and a seething sense of plausible entitlement.. The song’s fast and never quite sits down, always has eyes on the exit. It’s plausible and driven and a little impatient, one of the most sinister things Front has ever put out and contains this, artful and revealing, chorus:
Before you look at me
I could tell, you could be
All that I have ever wanted
Not even Miss or Mister Right. Just Right NOW. It’s arguably the darkest the album gets and Extremely Online which follows it builds on that darkness. It takes a look at the consequences of endless signal and the constant need to be informed and to inform. It’s driving, frantic stuff and book-ended by the perfect description of online life:
Don’t know how to turn the box offand:There’s no way to relax. It’ll say how on the forum. Okay, wow
There’s one technique, and nobody’s verified it:
Flick the power switches off. But that won’t work, I’ve tried it
The thick, soupy beat of DDOS (Featuring Quelle Chris) is next as Front walks us through the consequences of our lives being online when online is turned off. Big and stompy, it hides another of the album’s standout lines:
All heads saturated by internetsGet progressively worse at thinking
Let that thought be the last to sink in
IWF follows it and is a strong contender for the best thing he’s ever done. Not so much playing devil’s advocate as stealing the beard and fedora and claiming them as his own, Front argues why women shouldn’t be online and then cedes the floor entirely to Miss Eaves, Lex the Lexicon Artist, E-Turn and Starr Busbywho proceed to school him utterly. It’s furious, hilarious and wrapped around the best refrain on the album,
Boy you better get yourself together it ain’t 2007 your backs are up against the wall.
Hell yeah we should.
The original material is closed out by Bad Nerd (Featuring Corn Mo). It’s simultaneously an apology and a plea for nerds to behave like they think do, not like many have been. It’s also very much a sequel to Nerdcore Rising, as Front looks on in horror at just how big what he once yearned for has got. It’s a little bit Alexander weeping because he has no more subreddits to conquer and rounds out with this hopeful, forceful verse:
Why you got to make internet cruel?
Turn part of it into a murderous idiot school.
Turn the rest of it into paranoia fuel.
Wreck the normies, they’re annoying you.
But what you’re wrecking is the clique you represent
You don’t need to be bad. Ain’t too late to repent.
The album is finished off by unplugged versions of Pr0n Song, Message No.419 and an incredible, jubilant version of I Hate Your Blog, along with a great skit featuring Anita Sarkeesian (Or in this instance ‘SARKEEEESIAAAAAAAAAAN!’). Front’s work is always good, often great but this is the best material he’s put out in a few years by some distance. Netsplit is an album and a statement that both say the same thing. The internet is broken. People aren’t and as a result may be able to fix it. I think he’s right. After all, the words do what he tells them to.
Frontalot’s entire back catalogue is available now and honestly I’d recommend all of it. Click through on the guest rapper’s names to get to their bandcamp pages too.