With somewhat of his own take on nerdcore hip hop, Spoken Nerd has been making albums since 2005. He's been a part of independent crews like Hug Life and Killuh Sheep, but has primarily focused on his solo albums. He gained a little more popularity with his 2010 album, Apocalypse Awareness Day, and is now primed to independently release his latest work, OUR TEAM IS GOING TO WIN.
For those want to get down to labels, Spoken Nerd is a hip hop artist, but he's also an indie artist. It's impossible to label him as strictly one or the other, as you will certainly notice if you listen to his latest work. On the one hand, you get hip hop tracks like album highlight "Big Beards." It has almost a gangster rap feel in the music, with flows that aren't the most fluid, but are a great fit. The guest emcee, Ceschi, provides some classic lines as well, such as "I know some big words, sesquipedalian" (look up the word and see why it's a good line), and "I know some big puns, I'm not afraid to spit, I used to have a fear of hurdles but got over it." Classic. "Detective Novels" and "In the Lodge" are also good examples of his style of hip hop; there's a lot of singing involved, but the verses are done in the same style as older Listener material (and in "Detective Novels," with music that resembles something from the album Wooden Heart).
On the other hand, when Spoken Nerd isn't providing some fun hip hop, he's crafting some hip hop-esque indie music. Again, at the risk of sounding a little redundant, it's almost like the band Listener meets Death Cab For Cutie. Nerd's singing resembles Death Cab's Ben Gibbard; they don't necessarily sound alike, but Nerd uses a lot of melodies that sound like they could've come from Gibbard. The music itself is a little more rough around the edges than Death Cab, but it has some electronic elements and guitar sounds here and there that could fit on Death Cab's Codes and Keys. If that sounds like your kind of thing, but you're not too into hip hop, you may have an easier time with OUR TEAM IS GOING TO WIN than you may have thought, as most of the album is indie/alternative music.
A lot of the songs feature layered vocals, including several other than Nerd. Frequently throughout the album, you can hear a couple sets of female vocals. One of the main vocalists is a young lady named Karina Elizabeth, while the other set of female vocals are from Serai Zaffiro McAnulty, who also sings for the groups Paris Ontario, By Lightning and more. The girls' vocals combined in "I've got a friend in Money" and "Faith, Hope, UNITY and let's CRUSH those who stand against us" sound great and passionate. Admittedly, it may be a bit of an acquired taste, but they work very well for the songs.
Some interesting imagery is used in some of the songs, such as "Watermelon Heart." The opening line says "You've got this watermelon heart," and if you stopped there, you probably wouldn't understand what that means. But it's a metaphor I've not heard before this song. Nerd is talking to a person who has a tendency to hide his/her heart inside of a hardened shell (like the meat of a watermelon!). The song doesn't get too descriptive, but it's nice imagery, and it's a solid track. I'm also a fan of the perspective taken in "The Truth and the Lie." It's not 100% clear, but what I get out of it is that it's directed toward overbearing and really pushy Christians and the negative impact it has on non-Christians who may or may not be searching for something. Lyrics like "They were thirsty, you poisoned the water" point to the sour taste that gets put in peoples' mouths. I also like "We don't have to be enemies, what would that achieve, it's not a catalyst for anything, not even your very important beliefs that you claim set you free." It definitely makes you think, and it's a good reminder that we need to be more peaceful in our approach and the way we live our lives.
If you've never heard of Spoken Nerd before, this is a great time to get into him. OUR TEAM IS GOING TO WIN is a solid indie album. Again, this album can be somewhat of an acquired taste - not everyone who likes indie or hip hop will like this album - but it's worth taking the chance on it. Spoken Nerd is one of independent music's best kept secrets. Head on over to his Bandcamp to pick this one up, and while you're there, check out some of his previous work as well.
- Review date: 3/27/12, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com