We Did It, Nerds: The "Game Of Thrones" Mixtape Makes Dork Culture Unassailably Mainstream
Thanks, Big Boi!
Have we spent the weekend letting the Catch the Throne mixtape sink in? It's something, for sure: A 10-track homage to the Game of Thrones universe featuring rappers like Big Boi, Wale, and Common whipping out their rhyming dictionaries to see what goes with "Khaleesi." Every song opens up with totally canned dialogue from the show, there's a lite-Reggaeton Daddy Yankee jam in which he mixes a metaphor about the Drowned God and the Wall, and as you might expect, there's only so cool any rapper can sound talking about dragons. If you were making a listicle of the corniest Big Boi lyrics, you could do worse than placing this at #1: "So fuck the Lannisters and everyone that ride with 'em / Jon Snow and the Night's Watch finna slide some iron in 'em".
But in going for cool and instead coming off as impossibly corny, the mixtape captures something honest about nerd culture and shows why Game of Thrones has firmly pushed it into the mainstream. Look, I don't really remember a point in my post-pubescent life where openly liking dork shit—comic books, videogames, anything with an airbrushed wizard—was an anchor attached to one's social life, but I accept that riding for this was probably a one-way ticket to No-Sex-Having City for people who grew up in previous generations, when admitting to playing Dungeons & Dragons was like walking around with a bleeding sore on your face. When nerds get huffy about who's a "real" nerd and who isn't—see the stupid idea of a "fake gamer girl"—they're being defensive about their safe space being casually co-opted by norms with only a fraction of obsession, who never had to wade through an ocean of garbage because of their dedication to the cause. (The cause being the ineffable radness of swords.)
Nerds lived for this shit. They were proud of this shit. They wore Green Lantern t-shirts even if people thought they looked like virgins; they hung out in comic book stores; they loudly debated the temporal physics of spellcasting. This didn't do much, no, but it was an identity: I like this, and there's nothing you can do about it that'll make me feel otherwise. That's exactly the way that these rappers come off on Catch the Throne as they try to flex with a thousand analogies to the Red Wedding, the White Walkers, and—of course—the game of thrones itself. They're trying to appear cool to justify their love of a show that is righteously awesome—whatever money HBO paid them probably helped, too—and instead sound like a bunch of dweebs. Big Boi's kids probably make fun of him for this song. But that's kind of sweet, isn't it? Love means never having to say you're sorry, and there's nothing apologetic about the way Wale says, "I'm like a Lannister / Run my town, that's seven kingdoms". (Amended from the original line: "I'm like a Lannister / I fuck my sister, I got no hand".)
It's the sonic equivalent of wearing a wolf shirt, and it shows that if rappers—the coolest demographic in mainstream culture, according to this study I just pulled out of my ass but is probably true considering Glee is legitimately popular—are okay riding for this, then nerd culture has crossed the Rubicon from outsider territory to the verifiable status quo. Don't get me wrong: It's still lame to talk about dragons, but it's okay to be lame. I take it back: Big Boi's kids probably love that their dad did this, even if he won't let them watch all the sex scenes. The mixtape is only missing one song.
We also chronicled the similarities between rappers and Game of Thrones characters.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremypgordon