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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."
- The entire genre of Nerd Core, obviously.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- Even much-maligned rapper Soulja Boy has admitted to an anime obsession. He released a much-maligned mixtape that sampled the Death Note soundtrack.
- Lil Wayne, arguably the biggest rapper in the world at this point, 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' 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 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 sophomore album, "AT Liens", 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.
- 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. Not to mention the parallel between the state of Hip-Hop at the time of his album's release and the state of the world in Kingdom Come.