Yes. This is an article about Pokémon rap, and how it’s building up and starting a community (well has already established a community). I don’t exactly know how to start this, because Pokémon Rap explains itself–it’s rap where the lyrical subject matter is Pokémon. What I like about PokéRap is the point that it mixes cultures. We’ve had nerd culture and rap mix plenty of times, but it seemed to not get directly into something so specifically nerdy.
I mean while growing up, I would have killed to have something so poignant in my neighborhood (rap) mesh well with something so important to my life (nerdy culture and Pokémon). In the aspect of rap being mixed with nerd culture people could point to De La Soul and then later point to Pharrell’s time with the Neptunes and NERD, but for my first time dealing with nerd culture, it was Kanye West. Kanye was (is) weird. He had albums that had teddy bear robots on the covers. He every once in a while made nerd references, and then there was his music video for the quite divisive track, “Stronger”.
As an anime fan, I enjoyed the music video because I liked Akira, but none of my friends were really about it (by that I kind of mean both anime in general and this specific anime movie). Quite a few people didn’t like the song or the music video though. Either they were mad at the sampling of the sacred artist group, Daft Punk, or they were mad at a man rapping while inspired by Akira. And though this was a good moment in my life, and I felt connected to a popular rapper, I couldn’t claim Kanye as the nerd rapper I wanted him to be for me, because most of his rap wasn’t nerd rap, and having a connection due to one song wouldn’t abolish you from nerdiness during childhood. Also, as we get further down the Kanye timeline, we get further away from what could be thought of as nerd culture.
Eventually I encountered Childish Gambino and I’m still in love with his music. His references, his punchlines, the point that he loves to play Mario Kart. Lines such as, “everything I’m saying, I’m super saying (saiyan) like Goku” (though in like the next line he goes on to say, “fuck nerdcore”) or “let me poke ya ma, raichu” were things that made seventeen through nineteen year old me happy. And though I would love to and Wikipedia actually defines Childish Gambino as nerdcore or a nerd rapper, he isn’t. A lot of his rapping comes from the experience of being a nerd when young while being black (which is something I connected to, vibed off of, and desperately needed to hear in media), but it isn’t focused on nerd subjects. And also most of my favorite songs and lines from Childish Gambino aren’t nerdy references, they’re usually the kind of dark lines and tracks i.e. “LES” (“I’m a mess. That don’t rhyme with shit. It’s just true.” that’s really the only dark-ish line, “LES” is more of lighter song.), “I’m Alright” (“I’d rather die than be average, and chances are I might”. Side Note: I used to listen to this song every day at three in the morning when I’d wake up to go the library during junior of college), “Flight of the Navigator”, “The Last” (the last line of “The Last”), “U Don’t Have To Call” (“This melanin pit they placed us in and said get out”), and the entirety of “Not Going Back” (there are other songs I like too, but then I’d almost list his entire discography).
But PokéRap is different from most things I’ve experienced. It’s rap solely referencing and about Pokémon (well almost). It’s kind of an appreciation and boast of their Pokémon knowledge and skill. The first Pokémon rapper I had heard of was Shofu. I was a freshman in college and saw a shared video on my newsfeed. It was Shofu ft. Jok3r “TM87”.
And my jeez, it was something I could bump to. I enjoyed it. It mixed something that I liked, but seemed alienated from, with something I liked, but caused my alienation. I had assumed it was a one off thing. Maybe it was a parody as some might do in order to show nerdy cred in a world of nerds, but Shofu kept making Pokémon raps. And then he collaborated with other people who liked to rap about Pokémon and collaborated with producers/ musical engineers who liked making beats for Pokémon BGMs. It started to build. And then there was the 2013 cypher.
In this cypher you saw that there was a budding community that liked to rap about Pokémon, and though it took till 2016 for there to be another cypher (which was kickstarted, well produced, and filmed in San Fransisco during the Pokémon World Championship–it’s the first video in this article), there were still other rap videos and songs that were made. So you might be wondering, “Well why are you talking so much about this?” It’s because it’s fascinating to see people mix two opposite things and make it work, but also it brings light to a usually cartooned demographic of the black nerd. It shows that you can be part of both, slightly stereotyped, worlds. And also it’s rap garnered for a specific thing. Some Pokémon fans don’t like the rap, and some rap fans don’t like to hear bars dedicated to Pokémon, but it’s not for you–much like genre fiction to MFA literary culture, sometimes it’s not for you, but it makes someone’s day (Was this article supposed to lead up to that line? No, but I enjoyed getting here somehow.). And so with that I leave you with one of my favorite Pokémon rap videos.