Archives For August 2012

The Real mc chris

August 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

Me and mc chris circa 2006

Everyone is jumping on the let’s burn mc chris at the stake bandwagon after a Reddit user exposed a pretty rough situation he encountered at a recent mc chris show. The situation has been covered by the media, commented on by fans, and there are now diss tracks. The gist is that mc kicked a fan out of a show for critiquing the opener on Twitter and all hell broke loose in internetland.

I have a bit of an insider perspective on what kind of a man mc chris really is and I’d like to share that with you. Our relationship goes back to 2005 and to understand it I think a little background is necessary.

I always wanted to be the lead singer in a band (yeah, my salsa make all the pretty girls want to dance) but wasn’t even a remotely good singer. Horrible. I grew up with a love of boy bands and “Weird Al” and the way I mixed the two in my quest for rock stardom: yikes. At some point I recorded a rap song as a joke and friends told me that I might want to stop trying to be a singer and try something I was actually good at.

I took the advice. Rapping gave me a creative outlet that really let me have fun with music. But I didn’t rap about the stereotypical stuff I heard in hip-hop. I didn’t rap about drugs, money, or violence but instead I rapped about dinosaurs, videogames, boobs I would never be able to touch, being bullied to an extreme as a kid, and Star Trek. I called myself Former Fat Boys (I used to be chunky) and my artistic goal, if I had one, with was to be a Trojan horse. Package my off kilter rhymes in a format that everyone was used to hearing, but with lyrical content that was smarter and nerdier.

At the time I thought I was alone in my pursuit of nerdier hip-hop. However, sometime in 2003-2004 someone sent me one of the mc chris albums. This was back when they were still free on his website (are they still?). I was blown away. Here was a guy doing what I was trying to do, but better. Way better. And giving it away?!? Awesome. I joined his forums and became a big fan. Chris’s music probably inspired me to actually finish the first Former Fat Boys album.

At this time I was working as a DJ and Director of Imaging for a radio station (WPGU) in Champaign, IL. I read that mc chris was starting to tour and I messaged him through the message boards volunteering to do whatever I could to get him to come to Champaign and promote the show on WPGU.

To my surprise, he put me in touch with his manager Paul. I helped get Paul in touch with the folks at The Canopy Club in Champaign and suddenly mc chris was coming to town! I decided to bite off more than I could chew and asked to be an opener. Confession: I’d never played a concert before in my life. Paul relayed mc chris’s response: yes. Yes! My mind was blown. Here was a guy who had a lot of success on TV, was starting to have serious success with his music, and was just kind of embarking on the first tour that would be the start his assent to some pretty high heights in independent music world and he was letting a complete stranger with no on-stage experience open for him.

In the month or two before the show I promoted the hell out of mc chris on the radio (probably abusing my position…). I got up early every morning usually around 6 AM (a tremendous feat your senior year of college) just have time to finish my album in time for the show. I made t-shirts to sell and I practiced like crazy. So much so that by the daily concert my voice was completely gone.

There’s nothing that can really prepare you for performing. Practice is one thing, but when the stage lights hits and several hundred people are staring you down, man, it’s intimidating. And invigorating. If I were to review my performance that night it would not have been positive. Sure, the Dinosaur suit was a huge hit, but I forgot lyrics, my voice gave out, and I left stage feeling like I embarrassed myself. The crowd didn’t seem to see it that way. The fans were amazing. These were some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered. As a DJ at the radio station I been to countless concerts at The Canopy Club and I’ve never seen such a diverse audience. People drove from everywhere. I don’t think the club was actually prepared for it to be such a massive night.

Now, I’d seen Third Eye Blind at The Canopy Club and several other bands that had been on major labels or enjoyed national name recognition. None of those bands ever packed that club that tight and none embraced their fans the way mc chris did. The man got on stage delivered a kick ass set with hilarious comedy and then got off stage met several hundred fans. I think he was signing autographs for longer than his set. That is sort of the hallmark of mc chris. I don’t think mc chris actually saw my set, but was extremely kind afterwards and really encouraged me.

Former Fat Boys (me) and mc chris circa April 2005

Our story doesn’t end there. I didn’t get a job right after college but I did go try out for a reality show that was going to air on MTV. I tried out as a rapper and the premise of the show was that each contestant would get the pilot episode of their own reality show film with viewers choosing who got a full season of their own reality show on MTV. Somehow, I made it through several rounds of casting and was ultimately picked to be on show. The producers ran me ragged all summer with crazy demands. My pilot was set to shoot over a weekend in August.

This was the summer of 2005, and mc chris was back touring. I had seen that he was coming to Chicago in August and had asked his manager if I could open that show. chris agreed. The Chicago venue was legendary: The Double Door. This is a venue where bands like the Smashing Pumpkins cut their teeth. Local H, Wilco, Cheap Trick, and even the Rolling Stones have played on that stage. It was a venue where they shot High Fidelity. I was set to play a sold-out show in a Mecca of music. This was the coolest summer of my life thus far.

Meanwhile, the reality show planning progressed. The production company started opening lots of doors for me. They explained that they wanted to capture my “real” life, but had to compress the hell out of it. To that end they reached out to B96 (a huge Chicago hip-hop station) and put me in touch with the music director. B96 was keen on doing an interview conveniently timed to coincide with the day MTV shot the pilot. MTV wanted to show me playing a huge concert, but at that point I’d only played two or three concerts. My draw without mc chris was anemic. I tried working it out so that MTV could film in Chicago at the Double Door, but that date didn’t work for them. Luckily, mc chris was playing a week or so later in Milwaukee. I reached out to Paul again and explained the situation asking if there was a chance that I could open for mc chris in Milwaukee. He said yes again.

Outside the Double Door in Chicago

The Chicago show rolled around it was probably one of the best nights of my life. I saw Former Fat Boys on the marquee and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything cooler to this day. The venue was wall-to-wall people I think they went beyond capacity that night. The first rap collective that played was greeted with boos and I thought the crowd might be pretty hostile. However, this time I didn’t really screw up and the crowd seemed to have a lot of fun. When I got back to the merch table there was a line of people waiting to buy CDs. Holy crap! I signed tons of autographs and made a few hundred bucks!

Chris did his thing on stage, the crowd loved it, and again he was met with a monster line after the show and stayed until he had signed everyone’s CDs, breasts (male and female), and posters. He recorded voicemails, took pictures, and gave everyone an amazing night. I was young and stupid back then and when you’re young and stupid you don’t always handle everything perfectly. I had a girlfriend who was as bit of a handful. She didn’t really like the event or the audience. This led to her throwing a shit fit and demanding we leave. mc chris was still busy with fans so I just packed up and left. Later, I really regretted not staying and, at least, thanking mc chris.

Signing breasts

Later that week the summer took a turn for the worse. Two days before they were supposed to start filming, MTV called me to let me know that I would no longer be on the show and would only appear in the premiere episode (which was the only one that ever aired because it was probably the worst show ever). Holy embarrassment Batman! The “doors” that MTV had opened quickly closed. B96 all but declared me a laughing stock. The reaction from others was pretty rough. My mom only agreed to have her house shown on TV if my dad wallpapered it. Poor guy.

The Milwaukee show was the next day and I felt sick. I wanted to bail. I didn’t want mc chris to think that I had tried to manipulate him into letting me perform again. I couldn’t have been more grateful for all he’d done for me and I was really hoping that if I got to appear on MTV he would get some exposure as well. I felt like I couldn’t even show my face at the show.

But we went and the show was great. mc chris asked me where the MTV people were. I did my best to explain and he just laughed it off. At the time he was touring with DJ John and I think a guy named Bucky. They were all phenomenally nice to me. Chris was very busy with fans and we didn’t chat much, but he was more than cool about the whole situation.

A few months later we opened for mc chris one last time. I think there was always, some distance between mc chris and I. I don’t know if I approached him as too much of a fan or if we just kind of seemed a little too different with what we were trying to do with our music and who we were trying to appeal to, but we never really connected personally. Around that time I entered a remix contest on his website and probably shot my mouth off a bit too much on his forums and might have annoyed him. I don’t know. He also was moving on to bigger and better things and diversifying his opening acts. I think this was a really smart move. I tried to reach out a couple times and see about doing a song with him or opening another show, but it never went anywhere. I don’t know if there was a reason for that, but I’ve never attributed to anything other than life. mc chris and DJ John split up, but I did stay in touch with John and he produced a track on my latest album.

My association with mc chris had other benefits. The Double Door show was attended by Dan Lamoreaux and it inspired him to make a documentary called Nerdcore for Life. The film became explosive viral hit and the trailer landed on the homepage of YouTube back when that was a thing. Suddenly everybody wanted a piece of nerdy rap artists. That concert led to that film which led to an explosion of nerdcore hip-hop. It brought together an entire scene of musicians that had previously only congregated online. I never ended up touring, but because of that concert and film, Former Fat Boys got to rap front and center at Comic Con in San Diego, attend film festivals, and meet and form friendships with MC Lars, Beefy, MC Frontalot, YTCracker, and many more artists.

To this day I can’t believe how lucky I was that a guy who was on an entirely different, higher level in his career as a musician gave me the chance to essentially learn how to play concerts by opening for him. mc chris is a trailblazer. He is a generous man that raises money for all kinds of charities. He embraces his fans on a level that few – if any – artists with his level of success do. He does this independently. It’s impressive and it’s rare.

Now, I don’t get why he did what he did to that fan that he kicked out of the show. However, I do understand what it’s like to be bullied. I do understand what it’s like to be bullied to such an extreme that for the rest of your life it always kind of colors the ways they see things and effects the way you react even if you don’t mean it to. I do understand protecting your friends. I think his apology is enough and I think Chris learned pretty hard lesson. In my opinion he’s a pretty great guy and it’s pretty clear he’ll work hard to fix things. What more could anyone ask for?

Former Fat Boys was never the Trojan horse that I hoped it would be, but mc chris was. You hear his tracks on commercials and in major motion pictures. Hip-hop has come around and co-opted nerd culture. Kanye raps like a nerd. Hell, even hip-hop and urban fashion has co-opted nerd culture. mc chris deserves some credit for making it cool to be a nerd and cool to rap about non-traditional things.

Sorry if this was too long or rambling, but I just wanted to put down my take and paint the best picture I could about exactly who mc chris is: a really awesome dude. Best of luck mc.