HomeInterviewsSXSW Artist Spotlight: Nerdcore rapper GameboyJones

SXSW Artist Spotlight: Nerdcore rapper GameboyJones

Our latest SXSW 2024 Artist Spotlight features nerdcore hip-hop artist GameboyJones. Based in Akron, Ohio, Gameboy got his start freestyling and competing in rap battles. His hook is his interest in anime which he raps about and uses in his lyric videos. He’s moved on from making cover songs and now creates original tracks based on his favorite anime characters. In this exclusive interview, Gameboy talks subgenre hopping, Dragon Ball Z, and making a living on YouTube.

You can catch GameboyJones at SXSW on March 16 at 10pm at Flamingo Cantina.

Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Find the full video interview at the end of the article.

360°Sound: I read where you got your start freestyling and winning rap battles. How did you get into this business?

GameboyJones: The whole freestyling thing, I didn’t even think about it as me freestyling. I just would casually do it; I just did it like goofin’ around. Then I just got really good at it. And then eventually, I did decide to start making music; it just kind of transferred over at that point.

Rap and hip-hop have changed and splintered into a lot of subgenres. Where do you see your style fitting in?

Oh my god, I am basically every subgenre. I am a person who can be a rapper’s rapper. I  just rap and do technical stuff. I’ve made party music. I’ve made melodic rap. My next song is going to be a pop song, like with a rock hook.

What kind of stuff did you listen to coming up?

Lupe Fiasco is one of my biggest influences. Childish Gambino. As far as radio stuff, it’d be Ludacris, Jay Z, and stuff like that. I’m very much a product of the internet, because I really dove deep growing up into music and stuff. So a lot of YouTube artists, and a lot of random mixtapes that I found.

I know you drop a lot of geek references into into your stuff. Is like ‘nerd-hop’ a thing?

The actual genre for this is called ‘nerdcore.’ I make songs based off of characters or shows. Typically, I can take an aspect of a character or a show, and then make that its own thing, expand upon it. The main core is always anime based.

Your anime lyric videos are great. Tell me about your connection to anime and your passion for the art form.

I watched it my entire life. Unfortunately, we just lost Akira Toriyama last night – maker of Dragon Ball Z, basically the father of anime – so RIP to him. My first anime was the Toonami block, and then I branched out from there.

What’s the story of “Uraraka Ochako,” your most spun tune on Spotify and YouTube?

She’s a character from My Hero Academia. Everyone was making songs about the other characters. I was like, ‘Yeah, I just want to make one about her.’ And that song actually did very poorly. And then someone randomly posted it on Tik Tok, like three years ago, and it blew up and took on a life of its own. So, a shout out that person on Tik Tok.

What platform did you get the most traction on when you first got started?

YouTube, 100%. YouTube’s the thing that really got things going. It kind of gave me a community aspect. I’m gonna really try to do [Tik Tok] this year.

What does making it look like for you?

I’ll be honest, I’m gonna say it’s the only thing that I do for about three years now. I’m blessed. So yeah, worked out during the pandemic. It really paid off.

Do you also do shows? Do you tour, or play around the Akron area?

I’m definitely not a tour guy. I’ll get a show every couple months, and I’m like, ‘Yep, cool.’ Get to sprinkle these in. Be onstage, do my thing a little bit.

What else should I know about what you’re doing?

What I do in nerdcore isn’t necessarily unique. Nerdcore’s been around since I was in like middle school-ish – made by MC Frontalot. And it was basically rapping about nerdy-based things; that’s how it started. Then we took it, and now we rap about properties and different characters and stuff like that. So, what we do is newer in the nerdcore space.

Are your anime videos on YouTube original? Do you make them?

No, somebody else does. It’s all footage from shows and stuff. People splice them, and make them look cool.

So, you’re rapping about these characters and then cutting up footage that already exists. Do you ever get into any copyright snafus?

There’s some studios who are more strict about it than others. So, it is what it is. Technically, it [might] be covered under fair use, because this isn’t serving as a replacement. It’s a completely done, cut up, cool thing.

Sometimes getting tracked down on the legal tip is one of the best compliments. Litigation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I’m always nervous for the day that Nintendo comes for me for ‘Gameboy.’

Then you’ll know you’ve really arrived.

Keep me a little bit, at the bottom. I don’t want to arrive too much.

What can people expect from a GameboyJones set at the at the Flamingo Cantina on Friday?

I think I’ll go for a more hype set. Then I have one more like, somber, emotional song in the middle of that. For the most part, I’m gonna try to keep it hype. I like being funny on stage. I like talking to people and stuff. So, you know, just overall entertainer vibes.

Check out Gameboy’s YouTube channel here

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