A decade after Beck penned "Loser" as the anthem for Generation X, 21-year-old MC Lars thought an update was in order.
He didn't think the self-deprecating tag suited his generation. As students at Stanford University, he and his friends were hardly the shiftless slacker types that marked the early '90s and inspired such films as "Reality Bites" and "Singles." Instead, the thread of commonality involved something a lot more fast-paced.
"Our generation is criticized in a lot of ways for being so reliant on the Internet," said MC Lars. "What people don't realize is that our generation uses technology not necessarily as a distraction from real life, but as a way to augment their friendships or interactions with the world. And I think that they need an anthem because it kind of justifies what they do and what they are."
The result of Lars' observations is "iGeneration," a hip-hop ditty that drops references to everything from iTunes to abbreviations like LOL and BRB and what it means to enter a space, colon, dash and closed parenthesis consecutively on your keyboard. The song -- which samples "American Hearts" by Massachusetts indie rockers Piebald -- was created entirely in Lars' dorm room, as was the rest of The Laptop EP. The self-proclaimed Laptop MC was born.
Lars (né Andrew Nielsen) got his first record deal with U.K. indie label Truck Records while attending Oxford and gigging around at coffeehouses and open-mic nights. The 12-track Radio Pet Fencing was released in January under the name MC Lars Horris. He's since dropped the "Horris" because people mistook his name for "Lars Whores."
"I made up the name when I was about 13," Lars explained. "I just thought it was really funny, and when I was in seventh grade it stuck. It's probably the world's dorkiest name for a rap person, so I thought it would be a funny name to take."
In the past, Lars has been a shameless fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic and the Insane Clown Posse, and he doesn't attempt to hide his dorky side. Instead he tempers it with cleverness, coming off as the nerdy guy who knows better but has more important things to do than care too much about it.
"Signing Emo," a song about how major labels scurry to sign the "next big thing" without fully understanding what that is, is the perfect vehicle for his acerbic wit. Within a squeaky hip-hop backbeat, Lars raps about out-of-touch A&R scout Marty, who eventually hits pay dirt with the fictitious Hearts That Hate and their hit "Cry Tonight," a prime piece of formulaic emo shtick that wouldn't be dreadfully out of place on next year's Warped Tour. To add credence to his ploy, Lars credited the band in the EP's liner notes for using their sample.
"A lot of people think the band's real," Lars said. "Well, it didn't really help that we set up a fake Web page to make people think they were real. Some people got really upset about it. They think we're disrespecting the genre, but I'm really just addressing the fact that it's become so derivative."
Another track on the EP, "Mr. Raven," transcends clever for downright brainy. Inspiration for Lars' rapped version of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" came to him one night while he was studying the classic poem and listening to Brand New's "Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't."
"I realized the song had that same bouncy iambic pentameter," Lars explained. "It was kind of a stretch of an idea to see if I could put [the poem] and the song together. I had to clear the sample with the band, so they thought it was cool. And I played it for my American literature professor, and she thought it was good, too."
MC Lars has taken the fall semester off to promote The Laptop EP on the road and work on his next full-length album, which promises to be just as ambitious as any of his undertakings.
"I'm doing a song about 'Moby Dick' and one about the '90s," he said. "I'm trying to combine all the different genres of the '90s in one song. It'll be retro, but not too super-retro. Each chorus will be a different genre, like the first is pop-rock and the second is grunge. The challenge is making it original but familiar enough so people can recognize it."