By Justin Ivey
The pairing of Raheem “Mega Ran” Jarbo and Kyle “K-Murdock” Murdock is a truly genuine one comprised of two like-minded individuals. While the music they create together is typically classified as part of the “nerdcore” subgenre, the two built their respective reputations in the more traditional hip-hop world.
Murdock became a favorite on the indie hip-hop scene from as a member of the Washington, D.C. duo Panacea. Murdock, the producer in the group, and MC Raw Poetic landed a deal with the famed label Rawkus Records and released two critically acclaimed albums during their tenure at the imprint.
Mega Ran, who is also known as Random, began his career with a backpack rap aesthetic during his days participating in the underground scene in his hometown of Philadelphia. After a move to his current home of Phoenix, Megan Ran went on to compete in the Scribble Jam Championships, a now defunct but illustrious rap battle that the likes of Eminem and Rhymefest once competed in.
“My end game and my mission statement is to eventually get the underground rap fans and the nerd fans to realize that they can co-exist, that there is more overlap than they think.”
Ran’s big breakthrough came in 2007 when he made the album Mega Ran, a tribute to the video game Mega Man. The album debuted his new “chip-hop” style and quickly built a following in the nerdcore community. It was even supported by Capcom, the company behind the Mega Man franchise. The project would coincidentally be what brought Ran and K-Murdock together.
K-Murdock was hosting a hip-hop show at XM Radio called Subsonic, and Ran submitted his music, as many artists and labels do. He sent in The Call, a more traditional hip-hop release in line with what was typically played on the show, along with the Mega Ran project. And while K-Murdock enjoyed The Call, he was more intrigued by Mega Ran album.
“The cover art for it had the video game character Mega Man, which I knew of course because I’m a big gamer, but he was black,” Murdock said. “I just thought it was gonna be a funny gimmick. But after listening, I was blown away by it. I’d never heard anything like this before. The CD would kind of be my introduction to the subgenre called nerdcore.”
K-Murdock would reach out to Ran, who knew of his work from Panacea, and a bond developed as the two began collaborating online.
The duo would release their first album together, Forever Famicom, in 2010 and have regularly toured together ever since. Mega Ran feels performing with K-Murdock brings a new dynamic and energy to his stage show.
“It’s like a comedy duo when we’re up there,” Ran said. “Laurel and Hardy wouldn’t work with just Laurel. It’s always much better. The jokes go over better. We have a lot of routines that we’ve worked on that I just can’t do by myself. It just makes for a more overall fun, smoother and bigger show.”
For K-Murdock, the partnership with Mega Ran has opened up a lot of doors outside of the traditional hip-hop realm.
“I’ve gone to places I never thought I would before because of remixing video games music,” Murdock said. “It’s pretty crazy how life works.”
Since both artists built loyal fan bases before they began working together, their live show can bring a unique mix of audience members.
“People have come out to see me and don’t even know about Ran,” Murdock said. “They’ve got Panacea shirts on and that’s crazy. I’m just the other dude! It never ceases to amaze me who has listened to your music.”
Since he began touring with Mega Ran, K-Murdock has noticed a similar phenomenon.
“This always happens,” Murdock explained. “Literally not one show goes by where someone doesn’t comes up to the merch table and says, ‘I don’t even listen to hip-hop, but your stuff is dope.”
Mega Ran, who is heavily respected in both the hip-hop and nerdcore scenes, regularly encounters fans with drastically different tastes.
“People will come up to after shows and say, ‘I really don’t like rap but you’re awesome,” Ran said. “Or people will come up to me at rap shows and say, ‘When I saw you pull out that Nintendo, I thought this was gonna be corny, but you opened my eyes.’”
While he appreciates his contrasting fan base, Mega Ran hopes his music can bridge the gap and bring the two sides together.
“My end game and my mission statement is to eventually get the underground rap fans and the nerd fans to realize that they can co-exist, that there is more overlap than they think.” Ran said. “If I can’t kick open the door, I just want to crack open that a little bit and maybe the next guy after me or after that will come in to just completely blow that door off the hinges.”
As he begins another tour, Mega Ran made a point to stop in Baton Rouge as it’s become one of his favorite destinations.
“You get all the great food of New Orleans without all the nonsense of New Orleans,” he said with a laugh. “That’s why I love Baton Rouge. It’s the same great folks without all the temptation.”
The Spanish Moon and the latest edition of the Dolo Jazz Suite showcase will play host to Mega Ran and K-Murdock in what should be memorable night for all those in attendance.
“I have a great time out in Baton Rouge and some of best friends and biggest supporters happen to be there,” Ran said. “The friendliness there is what I really love.”
Dolo Jazz Suite featuring Mega Ran & K-Murdock. Spanish Moon. August 14th. 9pm. Admission $7. 18+.