Being a good rapper requires a deft command of the English language, as well as a large knowledge of popular culture. The best rappers pile wordplay upon wordplay, employing strange rhyme schemes and complicated metaphors, as well as references from every conceivable era and field. For rappers that produce tracks as well, they often have to search for the most obscure and esoteric samples possible, from old soul records to cartoon themes. All this requires a certain nerdy mindset. Thus, many good rappers tend to be nerds.
Tends to show up in rappers that are more critically acclaimed than popular, though there are exceptions.
Trope is named for Trope Codifier Wu-Tang Clan's song C.R.E.A.M., which stands for "Cash Rules Everything Around Me."
- As far back as the 80's, Big Daddy Kane referred to his style as "Transformin' on stage like a Decepticon."
- The entire genre of Nerdcore is basically taking this trope and running with it like you had the Speed Force.
- Egoraptor's project Starbomb is composed of nearly constant video game references, though he's better known as a video game commentator than rapper.
- Doctor Steel: Only thing keeping this guy from just being a comic book character? The fact that he isn't in a comic book.
- MF DOOM is one of the kings of this trope. After his brother was killed in a car accident, he reinvented himself with a Doctor Doom-obsessed supervillain persona. His work contains references to numerous comic books, movies, and Saturday morning cartoons, and he collaborated with mega-producer Danger Mouse on an [adult swim] sponsored album called The Mouse and the Mask that contained songs about Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Perfect Hair Forever, and more.
- The other ruling champions of this trope are the Wu-Tang Clan. All of them are massive Wuxia fans, as well as comic books and Blaxsploitation movies. Members Ghostface Killah and Method Man have rapped under the aliases Tony Starks and Johnny Blaze, respectively. The RZA does guest commentary for many DVDs of kung-fu movies, often putting so-called experts in the genre to shame with his knowledge. These obsessions aren't mere gimmickry, though. Their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) has been called the greatest rap album of all time by many, many sources. Ghostface Killah also made cameo appearances in 30 Rock and Iron Man, although his part in the latter was cut.
- RZA also did the soundtracks for Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Kill Bill because of his skill as a musician and his knowledge of the genre, making him ideal to create a suitable score. He's also starring in/writing/directing The Man with the Iron Fists, a martial arts film that features Russell Crowe, who took the role after working with RZA in The Next Three Days.
- Eminem, of all people, loves comic books. He is an avid collector and especially a fan of Batman and Spider-Man (he even did a song for the Venom movie). In his single, "Business", he portrays himself and Dr. Dre as Robin and Batman respectively. And in the video for "Without Me", they are both in costumes reminiscent of the dynamic duo.
Dr. Dre: Marshall! Sounds like an S.O.S.!
Eminem: Holy wack unlyrical lyrics, Andre! You're fuckin' right!
Dr. Dre: To the Rapmobile! Let's go!
Kneel before General Zod/This planet's Krypton/No, Asgard, Asgard/So you be Thor and I'll be Odin/You rodent, I'm omnipotent.
- The opening of "Rap God" is taken from a Captain America radio show, and the music video references Super Mario Bros. and Portal while the song itself doubles back to comics.
- Rap-metal band Stuck Mojo drops comic references in its songs, including in "Here Comes The Monster" referencing The Incredible Hulk — note reference to Bruce Banner, as in the comics, and not David Banner, as in the TV show:
Ill fools from Atlanta busting out Like Doctor Bruce Banner.I am green with envy I just want my shot in the Industry.
- Lupe Fiasco loves anime and RPGs, and has made this known in many of his songs (see page quote). He also has a punk band side project called Japanese Cartoon. While he denies naming his fifth album Tetsuo and Youth after the character, he does admit to being inspired by the character.
- J Cole sometimes comes across as this; on his verse on Jay-Z's "A Star is Born"
Cole got the glow like a lil' lightsaber
- Snoop Dogg did a track called "Batman & Robin". While ostensibly a cover/parody of the Adam West Batman (1966) series, Snoop mentions characters that weren't in the series, such as Clayface. Generally Snoop Dogg has proven himself to be quite nerdy, showing interest in a wide variety of areas, including Game of Thrones and Dragon Ball Z.
- Pharrell Williams' rock band side project is called N.E.R.D., and their symbol is the Vulcan salute.
- Kanye West recreated shots from AKIRA in his video for "Stronger".
Good morning and, look at the valedictorian
- Graduation (the album "Stronger" is on) also includes the track "Good Morning", where West rhymes
Scared of the future while I hop in the DeloreanStar Wars fur, yeah I'm rockin' Chewbacca
- Even Soulja Boy has admitted to having an anime obsession. He released a mixtape that sampled the Death Note soundtrack, and he released two mixtape-exclusive tracks titled "Anime" and "Goku".
- Lil Uzi Vert is himself a lover of comics both Western and Japanese, and his passions have frequently influenced his work and his aesthetics. His Luv Is Rage-Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World-The Perfect LUV Tape mixtape trilogy is heavily inspired by Scott Pilgrim (particularly the cover art and name for vs. The World), and he also drops various references to Naruto on "New Patek", the instrumental for said song also sampling the main theme from Death Parade. The cover art for his latest single, "Futsal Shuffle 2020", also shows an anime-fied version of him chased by various groupies in a similar fashion to a Harem Genre manga, and he has also an Audi R8 Itasha.
- Lil Wayne, of all people, has some lines that fall under this. An example in "Mr. Carter":
I'ma need a coupe, I won't need a roof
Flyer than Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice Beetlejuice
- Ludacris's song "Press the Start Button" is one video game reference after another.
- He also wrote and performed the theme for one iteration of the Madden NFL series.
- Speaking of which... Italian rapper Caparezza made a song about improving as an artist, that is, going to "the next level". Of course, it includes many references to video games from Arkanoid to Wonder Boy. Oh, and the video is a giant homage to TRON.
- Indie hip-hop group Furthermore ended their first album with "Melted Vinyl", which name-drops a downright ridiculous number of Marvel Comics superheroes, then mentions a crossover with the Justice League of America in the final verse.
- And then there's Ken Leavitt-Lawrence, a.k.a. MC Hawking, who performs his astrophysics-themed raps with a WillowTalk speech-to-text and represents himself as being Stephen Hawking.
- Rapper Greydon Square, who describes himself as "the black Carl Sagan."
- Radical leftist rapper Paris has a degree in economics from the University of California.
- The Large Hadron Rap.
- The Cover for OutKast's second album, " ATLiens ", looks like a comic book cover, it even goes as far as having a date and price on it in the style of comic book covers. Most of the booklet actually is a mini-comic book, depicting the group as superheroes in a science fiction setting. Taking this one further, the CD single for Jazzy Belle comes in a standard jewel case with a booklet containing a sequel to this comic. The music on the album is quite spacey and sci-fi influenced and some of the lyrics are quite alien themed. It's pretty well known that André3000 is the nerd of the group, with a wide variety of pop cultural interests and a rather eccentric personality all expressed in his lyrics. Big Boi on the other hand models himself as the straight man with more straightforward hip hop image.
- Acclaimed hip hop producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura, know for his work with Kool Keith (aka Doctor Octagon), Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (aka Deltron 3030), et al, travels heavily in this, frequently sampling retro comic-based radio shows and other comics- and sci-fi-based media.
- Rapper Wale, who, although he nicely drops sports references in his rhymes (and refers to himself occasionally in songs as "Wale Ovechkin" as per the Washington Capitals player), gained notice for a critically acclaimed mixtape that was inspired by (and used samples from) Seinfeld. He had a second Seinfeld-themed (and popular) mixtape some years later.
- Jay-Z references several comic characters in his track "Kingdom Come" off the album of the same name. He compares himself to Superman/Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, and Peter Parker. Plus the parallel between the state of Hip-Hop at the time of his album's release and the state of the world in DC's Kingdom Come.
- This was at the suggestion of his longtime engineer, Young Guru.
- Childish Gambino is full of nerdy references, including to Invader Zim in "Bonfire" and Dragon Ball Z in "Not Going Back". He also acted in The Martian, Solo, and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and is the voice of Miles Morales in season 3 of Ultimate Spider-Man.
- Rapper Floco Torres has released two albums which reference Rocko's Modern Life: Floco's Modern Life and Ralph BIGhead.
- Rico Nasty appears with a Hello Kitty backpack in her track "Smack A Bitch", and includes anime-styled versions of herself in promotions. Her website includes an interactive 8-bit streetfighter version of herself.
- Bliss N Eso stuffed their track "Destiny Lane" with pop culture references. Alice in Wonderland (2010), the Black Pearl, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Tim Burton, The Beatles, and the list goes on... Other tracks also contain references to The Matrix among other things.
- Some of Diafrix's tracks and music videos have references to Wally, Superman, and other pop culture characters.
- The High & Mighty include references to Star Wars in their tracks, for example in their most famous "B-Boy Document '99" Mr Eon claims: "I'm Jedi Master, Mace Windu".
- gmcfosho has songs referencing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, Street Fighter, Power Rangers (among other things), and one of his music videos contains a lightsaber.
- Tyler, the Creator is a huge fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, even recording new music for the game's fifth installment.
- Deltron 3030 weaves its own bizarre anime-inspired science-fictional continuity, but also drops liberal references to comics, anime, video games, and other nerd culture. Del Tha Funkee Homo Sapien has been known to do so in his solo work as well, one of the better examples being "Proto Culture," a love letter to classic video games.
- While the Barenaked Ladies are mostly rock, there a few songs with just the lead singer rapping. Their hit "One Week" includes nods to Akira Kurosawa and Sailor Moon.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic spoofed Chamillionaire's track "Ridin'" with "White and Nerdy", which is all about an extremely geeky white guy who wishes he could be accepted by the 'gangsters'. Given the title of the spoof, this was of course full of nerdy references, from collecting X-Men comics to finding out if he liked Kirk or Picard better.
- Princess Nokia mentions being a fan of Marvel comics on the track "Bart Simpson", the reason being:
Characters look just like me,
And women don't have roles that make them look too sexually
- Yo-Landi from Die Antwoord is often seen with a Pikachu-Hoodie. Pikachu also is mentioned in the song Banana Brain.
- The Nicki Minaj song "Chun-Li" has her rapping about how she, like the titular Street Fighter character, is the most powerful female character in her "game." The song also contains references to Storm, Lara Croft, King Kong, and Michael Jordan.
- Rapper Jean Grae named herself after the Marvel superhero Jean Grey.
- MC chris ships Elixir and Wallflower, if the song "Nrrrd grrrl" is any indication.
- Darryl McDaniels, one third of RunD.M.C., started his own line of comic books, Darryl Makes Comics.
- It's worth noting that much of early hip-hop — Afrika Bambatta, Gradmaster Flash, Mantronix, Malcolm McLaren — had many stylistic similarities and roots in early electronica — Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, space disco — which often had sci-fi themes and notions.