Childhood is one of the most difficult experiences of life. Your parents don’t understand the harsh judgement that other kids dish out just for being yourself (sometimes they contribute to that judgement). The more I look back on my childhood I see it was my destiny to be nerdy. I remember reading every science fiction book I could get my hands on, watching every comic book show, and playing every video game I could convince my dad to buy me. I don’t recall being mocked but I remember only having one or two friends that liked running around the playground on recess pretending we were X-Men (I was always Wolverine because even kids despise Scott Summers for leaving Morph to die).
There was a time that being a nerd wasn’t considered cool though. Long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe existed you had to hide your nerdy allegiance like you were stealing comics from a store. Growing up in a majority Caucasian town you don’t see diversity so it comes as a shock when you get old enough to meet people of different races and religions that enjoy the same nerdy things that you do. Charlotte, NC newcomer A.J. Phoenix has dedicated a whole song to this concept of being a black nerd with today’s premiere, “Blerd”.
Backed by a keyboard that sounds like it could have come from a video game and soft kick drums, A.J. documents what it’s like to grow up black while liking RPG’s, card games, and comic books. The idea of being a nerd is now cool but it took years before it became the trendy thing. On the second verse he rhymes, “I used to pick cartoons over the club/and Toonami was cool but we watched Anime with subs/’misunderstood socially awkward and weird’ were the designations given to us by our peers”, citing more facts about the labels people would give to him and fellow blerds for enjoying their own world. I love the concept of this record because it’s like going back in time and telling a younger you that things get better. The things you enjoy in secret will be popular soon and you won’t have to feel insecure about playing Final Fantasy or running home to watch Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers after school.
A.J. is a former member of the rap/rock group “IV” (FKA Black River Wine) and grew up in Dayton, OH and Birmingham, AL. After the group dissolved A.J. took time away from rap to learn the keyboard and engineer for other artists. “Blerds” is the first single from his upcoming To Albert, With Love EP, a project that is a letter to his adolescent self as he transitioned into adulthood. A.J. says about the EP: “Since I suffered from depression and low self-esteem, I wanted to create something that would uplift that kid if he were able to listen to it”. This will be a two part project with the first half releasing this spring.
Follow A.J. on Twitter and catch up with him on Snapchat: @mylifeasaj