You Dare Call That Thing Human?!?
As long as hip-hop has been recorded, it’s made room for comic-book references. Sugarhill Gang goofed on Superman in 1979’s “Rapper’s Delight.” Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Jean Grae, and MF Doom have made explicit references to Marvel Comics characters through aliases, album names, and lyrics. MF Doom even goes so far as to done a metal mask like his namesake, Dr. Doom.
Hip-hop and superhero comics share a zeal for hyperbolic four-color imagery, explosive action, and alter egos, but no rapper has waved the geek flag as proudly as Adam WarRock, who touts himself as the “Internet’s Foremost Comic Book Rapper.”
Like any good comic-book character, Adam WarRock has a fascinating origin story. In late 2009, Eugene Ahn was emboldened when “Ira Glass,” his scrappy tribute to the public-radio superhero, earned decent Web buzz. By summer 2010, he quit his job as an associate at a small, union-side labor law firm in D.C. and decided to focus exclusively on his rap career. Ahn’s sobriquet is a reference to Adam Warlock, a somewhat obscure, gold-skinned cosmic warrior from the Marvel Universe.
In comic-creator terms, Ahn is prolific like Jack Kirby: By my casual count, he’s released more than 200 songs since 2010. His favorite theme is comics, but the rapper also dabbles in other corners of pop culture. (See his EPs dedicated to the shows Firefly and Parks & Recreation.) The high rate of return has resulted in an increasingly proficient flow. At one point on You Dare Call That Thing Human?!?, his second full-length, he describes how he reinvented his future: “So he quit his job and made the mission his name/He did shows for crowds, sometimes nobody came/But he kept working and pushing the product out to the masses/Stayed deep in the Batcave, figuring out the patterns.”
Baltimore’s Vince Vandal provides the beats, which sound polished but never overly glossy, particularly the electro throb of “The Kid’s Table” and a delicate piano sample on “I Kill Giants” that could be straight out of a JRPG soundtrack. Once again, Ahn doesn’t limit himself strictly to capes and tights. On “Civil War,” he addresses racism and childhood bullying via his story of growing up an Asian-American in Memphis, Tenn. On the humorously self-deprecating “Sensitive Side,” he admits, “I’d rather watch a rom-com than drop bombs/I’d rather read John Keats that rock fat beats.”
But Ahn knows when it’s time to play to his demographic. In “616,” a nerd-code reference to the primary Marvel universe, he announces he’s about to “go Pietro on these cats”—referencing Quicksilver, Marvel’s moody speedster—before delivering a Twista-quick salvo of geeky allusions and pop-culture quips. Yeah, it’s a moment of pure, dweeby joy. It’s also totally superhuman.