Editor’s note: This article was originally published February 7, 2014
It’s coming: For a glorious six-day stretch starting March 11, the music world will have all eyes and ears on the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin. Leading up to the festival, we will be profiling a different artist each day.
Artist: Adam WarRock
From: Memphis, Tenn.
Online: adamwarrock.com; official SXSW page
SXSW shows: Nerd Rap Showcase on Tuesday, March 11 at Flamingo Cantina, other SXSW appearances TBA
About the artist
Adam WarRock will never run out of things to rap about.
Whether it’s comic books, television shows, movies or podcasts, it’s all fair lyrical game for the 33-year-old nerdcore rapper, whose real name is Eugene Ahn. Among the pop culture shoutouts on Adam WarRock’s four full-length albums: the X-Men ("M.L.F.," among so many others), Green Lantern ("Sinestrocore"), and a beloved public radio host ("Ira Glass"). Ahn has also released entire mixtapes devoted to "Doctor Who," "Game of Thrones," "Parks and Recreation" and more.
Actually, there’s not much point in trying to list off examples of Adam WarRock’s pop culture namedrops; he references superheroes like other rappers reference models of luxury cars. (Even his nom de guerre is a play on the name of a Marvel Comics character.) While Ahn still draws from personal experience in his songs, anything "swirling around in this ether of pop culture," as he puts it, is something the rapper can capitalize on.
But indie hip-hop about nerd culture? It’s a hyperspecific genre, which the rapper will be the first to admit. (On his song "The Silver Age": "And though you probably never thought of it before/How rap and comic culture could convert to one form.") However, Ahn has been able to parlay a robust Internet following into a career. He started rapping in 2000; in 2010, he quit his job at a law firm to pursue music as Adam WarRock full time.
It’s hard work to keep up with all that pop culture ephemera. When Ahn is on the road rapping about the Incredible Hulk and Benedict Cumberbatch, that’s time not spent soaking up new song fodder.
"It’s become this weird Frankenstein thing," Ahn says. "I’ll have my laptop plugged into my car, listening to TV shows."
Ahn says he gets tips on new entertainment from fans he meets in comic shops in whatever city he happens to be in. When he gets back from tour, it’s still time to work — but not in the way that most of us think about work.
"I get excited to come home to all these podcasts and TV episodes," Ahn said. Girlfriends and friends don’t have a hope of understanding that he’s binge-watching TV shows for his job, he says.
"It’s hard," Ahn says, then laughs. "And it isn’t."
Adam WarRock knows his way around SXSW by now: It’s his third year, and 2012 was also his first experience performing in a music festival. This go-around, Ahn says the crowd should be on the lookout for a good time at the nerd rap showcase he’s set to play March 11 — rappers "cross-pollinating" each other’s sets, a good dose of humor, and high energy, which he attributes to his own punk and hardcore roots.
The pop culture smorgasbord may take most of the spotlight, but Adam WarRock’s flow is also crisp, tight and energetic. He wears his Wu-Tang influences on his sleeve. Even if you think Dark Phoenix is just an Arizona city at night, don’t worry — Ahn promises there are surprises in store come showcase time.
Could share a bill with: Sage Francis, Czarface, Childish Gambino, Chiddy Bang