YTCracker on the virtues of Nerdcore and the finer points of hacking
Straight outta C Springs, YTCracker is among nerd core's finest
YTCracker rolls with a crew and movement known as "nerdcore," the epicenter of all things sophisticated and geeky. The rapper -- aka Bryce Case, who pronounces his name as "whitey cracker" -- and his contemporaries, guys like MC Lars, MC Frontalot, MC Chris and Dual Core, aren't your average pocket-protector carrying, Brooks Brothers-on-a-weekday-wearing nerds, though. YT, in particular, is a computer programmer and has been producing rap music since 1998.
Beyond his music, YTCracker is known for hacking and defacing several government and commercial websites, including NASA and NATO, on down on to the Colorado Springs Police Department website. He owns the board DigitalGangster.com which was also responsible for several high profile hackings, including Paris Hilton's T-mobile Sidekick, among others.
A brilliant, high-tech hacking, rising hip-hop star, YT is also, by the way, the official DJ for Facebook. While there seems to be a certain amount of humor applied to the nerdcore movement, YTCracker is not playing. He's been a geek since day one, and with three albums and over 250 songs in his repertoire, he is certainly in it to win it. We chopped it up with the hack master and talked about everything from the history behind his hacking to his immersion in the roots of hip-hop culture.
Westword: Tell me about the rise of Nerdcore rap.
YTCracker: Nerdcore's genesis has a ton of different influences depending on who you talk to. Early, lighthearted hip-hop a la Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff's "Parents Just Don't Understand" and Kris Kross' "I Missed the Bus" can be seen as a stepping stone for the humorous, self-deprecating elements of the genre. Projects like Del the Funkee Homosapien's "Deltron 3030" and Kool Keith's "Dr. Octagon" persona encapsulate the technological aspects of nerdcore.
The rise, in recent times, I believe, is attributed to more and more "nerds" coming out in this society as a movement. As technology has become more ubiquitous and made its way into the mainstream space, the people who built these technologies or saw the growth of their popularity naturally wanted to document it in song form.
Some nerdcore is heavy in gamer culture, some in comic book culture, so nerdcore is even a bit of a blanket term. Many in my generation respect the nostalgia factor of simpler times when everyone who used a computer was nerdy, but that isn't the case any longer. The way that the streets used code and slang when speaking of slinging product, we do when it comes to pirating movies or spamming the Internet.
You are pretty well known for being a computer hacker with some high profile cases. What came first the hacking or the rapping?
The hacking, definitely. I've been infatuated with computers since I could walk. I played guitar and was bigger into electronic music before I actually started to rap.
Your bio says you are the official DJ/MC for Facebook. What does that mean, exactly?
They hire me to do their corporate parties at Defcon and in San Francisco, sometimes. I do a lot on the convention circuit.
YT Cracker is a pretty controversial name for a white rapper. Do you feel any social responsibility behind your image?
The racial declaration is actually a double entendre. The term cracker denotes a computer cracker, one who breaks security. YT has many backronyms, but Yours Truly was a Kourier/Hacker girl in a book called Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. If you wanted to be pedantic, I'm actually only half-white -- I am Chinese, Hawaiian, and Choctaw -- another generationally American product.
In the "Hacker's Manifesto," the Mentor points out how in the old school BBS culture, we as hackers existed without skin color, nationality or religious bias. The Masters of Deception
one of the oldest and most elite hacking/phreaking groups, was composed of a hugely multi-racial background, black, white, brown, pink, whatever. True hackers are far from racist -- everyone gets by on the merit of their skill.
Not because you're white, but because you use the gimmick of being a nerd as your overall schtick, do you face obstacles in having your rapping respected as a viable aspect of hip-hop?
Being a geek has been "in" for the past few years. Were you a for real geek growing up? Like the stereotypical pocket protectors and all of of that?
In short, yes.
What music influences you?
I love all kinds of music, but mostly electronic music. My favorite band is a group called Pendulum out of the UK who have done amazing things in the world of genre mashing. I like a lot of hip-hop from the mid '90s and early 2000s, especially the southern sounds of Screwston, TX.
Who are the artists and producers that you work with to create your sound?
I work a lot with my contemporaries in the genre, like MC Lars, MC Frontalot, Dual Core, Zealous1, the 8-bit Boys, Sinister Six, Former Fat Boys, and Beefy, to name a few. Lars and I just wrapped a two-part nationwide tour with MC Chris, Math the Band, and Schaffer the Darklord, and we're doing the UK next year, I believe. I work with a few producers religiously -- Elijah Lucian, Dicepticon, tanner4105, and RAM Ruffian. Sometimes I produce my own stuff, but it is awesome when other producers can give you a better voice or get something else
out of you.
You sample video games and other sounds of technology in your music. Is this a throw to your artistic progression or is it merely a part of the nerd persona?
As much as you see sampling done in today's music for nostalgia purposes (Flo Rida's "Right Round" hook was almost disjointed in its throwback), the video game noises are something many in my generation relate to. I'm an electronic head anyway, so squeltchy 2A03 noises just sound wonderful to me. I noticed Mike Posner and Black Eyed Peas starting to use a little more of it, and that is radical.
How immersed in the culture of hip-hop are you?
Very. The first ticket I ever got was for spray painting a wall with the worst graffiti ever, and my website defacements were nothing more than digital graffiti. I used to have videos of my terrible six-step on breakdance.com -- fourth down on the video list midway through page. I am a DJ and an MC, therefore, I represent all of the elements.
I think I am proficient at hip-hop trivia and lyrics enough to be a contestant on some mid-level game show. Off the top of my head, MC Lars, Dual Core, Random, and Ultraklystron are some of my fellow nerdcore artists that really know their hip-hop front and back, and we have wonderful discussions.
What are you working on right now? What's next for the rise of nerdcore?
My buddy Aqua [of Jay-Z "My First Song" fame] and I put a track together for the last season of Entourage. He scores the series, so he can usually get things in the door. Jace Hall
and I are shooting a video for the new "LOL Money" track we did together in Hollywood, and Frontalot, Dual Core, and I are shooting a video for Front's CD, the title track, "Zero Day." Other than that, we will keep selling out venues around the world and making billions of dollars.
What are your thoughts on the Wikileaks and Gawker hacking that have plunged many social networks like Facebook and Twitter into chaos?
The Wikileaks-related attacks on the financial websites are just a democratic denial of service - there are services like seti@home and folding@home that allow you to use your idle processor cycles to help search for aliens or fold proteins. The DDoS attacks by Anonymous are a way for people to wreak collective havoc with their bandwidth against things they feel are unjust or inappropriate.
I personally don't think denial of service attacks against huge companies are effective enough to extort change. I'm on the fence about Wikileaks, in general, but i support the discourse that all these current events have spawned.
Gawker had their user database stolen. The reason this is dangerous is because people tend to use the same or similar passwords across different services, so when you have someone's email address and password, you potentially have access to their Paypal account, Facebook account, Twitter account, bank account, etc. Even if the passwords are stored in hashes like md5 and not plaintext, they are easily cracked using a rainbow table, and, depending on the length of your password, are almost guaranteed a successful crack.
You're from Colorado Springs, right? How has the hip-hop scene evolved over the years?
I might be from here, but I never really cut my teeth here. I DJ some of the clubs every once in a while, but I believe Jesus said it best in Matthew 13:57: "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home."