Geek God

MC Chris leaves Adult Swim to pimp his pop-culture rap.

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MC Chris The Red Parrot Café Sunday, September 10
MC Chris: The next Paris Hilton?
MC Chris: The next Paris Hilton?
"My backpack's got jets/I'm Boba the Fett/I bounty hunt for Jabba Hutt/To finance my 'Vette." -- "Fette's Vette," MC Chris

MC Chris' geeky paean to Star Wars' intergalactic badass changed his career.

Before, he was but one of the shadowy creators behind Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. He worked on Sealab 2021, The Brak Show, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force as a writer and occasional performer. Those familiar with the subversive late-night lineup of adult animation may recognize MC Chris (aka Chris Ward) as the voice for Sealab's angry misanthrope Hesh, or Aqua Teen's diaper-wearing spider, MC Pee Pants.

But when "Fette's Vette" got played during an episode of Sealab 2021, it turned Ward into an underground sensation and a poster boy for the burgeoning "nerdcore" rap movement.

Throughout college, Ward was the guy who won every school drama or art award. He began rapping as a lark, sometimes joining his roommate's punk band Dirt Bike Annie onstage. It was never more than a hobby. After graduating from NYU with a degree in screenwriting, he headed to Tinseltown.

"I went to L.A. thinking it'd be like Kermit the Frog, walking into Orson Welles' office and he was going to be like, 'Oh, we've been waiting for you,'" says Ward. "It was more like, 'Can you find a car?'"

Ward wasn't ready for L.A., so he moved back with his parents in Philadelphia. Eventually he made his way back to New York, crashing at his brothers' house until he got his own apartment.

Around this time he met his DJ, John. They got together to do some recording. Their first session produced "Fette's Vette." Meanwhile, Ward had begun interning with the improv group Upright Citizens Brigade.

Out one night, Ward got drunk with Aqua Teen Hunger Force writer-director Dave Willis. Ward claimed he could finish a pint of beer in five seconds and proved it a dozen times on Willis' dime. Later that night, Willis passed Ward his card, telling him, "If you're ever in Atlanta . . ."

A few nights later, drunk again, he met Sealab producer Adam Reed. The two hit it off, and Reed hired him on the spot to do some animation. Three months later, Sealab moved down to Adult Swim's base in Atlanta, taking Ward with it.

"When I was little, I wanted to be an animator," Ward says. "But when I saw how much work it was, I was like, 'Eh, I don't wanna do that!' It's ironic that towards the middle of my career, animation came into it, but it was this newfangled cheap animation where you don't really do all the work; you just kind of do it on computers."

After five years at Adult Swim, Ward decided to leave. Ironically, it was the airing of "Fette's Vette" -- which had been a bone thrown to placate him -- that made it possible.

Thirty thousand MySpace friends later, Ward took the plunge. Last year, Ward did his first tour in support of his debut, Life's a Bitch and I'm Her Pimp.

"It was basically, 'Throw me into the arena. If you can survive all the elephants and rhinoceroses, then we'll bring out the mutants.' It was pretty difficult," Ward says of touring. "But you have no idea what you're capable of until you try it."

Last week, Ward released his second album, Dungeon Master of Ceremonies. It features more of MC Chris' spitfire rhymes, amusing pop-culture references, and self-conscious humor. One skit has jealous haters assassinate Chris, screaming, "Where's your jet pack now?"

Ward admits that the album tweaks his nerdcore buzz and his association in many minds with Boba Fett.

"I was definitely playing to the expectation that it was going to be a nerdcore record, and it's not," he says.

Ward will be appearing in the February 2007 Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. "By Thanksgiving you'll be, 'Enough with this MC Chris, bring back Paris Hilton!'"

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