Mega Ran aka Raheem Jarbo is a nerd legend in his own right, appearing in every sector of mainstream pop culture. From SYFY to WWE, he is visible as the creator of his own destiny and his force is such a presence that even fans outside of the nerdcore circuit have taken notice. He has collaborated with hip-hop greats like Kool Keith and Joel Ortiz, he has a name in Japan, he even helps spread awareness and acceptance for black nerds. In his own rights, he has earned this celebrity status that few even obtain in their lifetime and he has done a lot of good with it.
Each legend has their starts though, this one starting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around the start of the new decade. Before he was Mega Ran, he was a conscious rapper named Random influenced by the Rawkus Records line of music, specifically Talib Kweli; he also maintained a job as a teacher in an middle school. His career in the early days was a challenge as he struggled to get performances under his belt and recognition despite his skill. He released an album titled The Call which showcased his skills and featured some notable guests but didn’t get much traction; a year later, he would release an album called Mega Ran which was a significant departure in itself in that it was a rap album that sampled Mega Man. The album itself was found by the nerdcore audience who ate it up as if it were cotton candy and he found himself subsequently the first ever rapper sponsored by Capcom. Most people would give their very lives for a chance to be recognized by the creators of anything media related for your creative artistic contributions to the media product in general, but somehow, against all odds… Mega Ran got his first taste of recognition.
Throughout the first two years of the decade, he released several projects from “Forever Famicon” to “Black Materia: Final Fantasy VII“, both of which represented true classics of the nerdcore genre. While those albums resulted in him resigning from his middle school teaching job due to increased tour work and also gained him a certain previously thought unobtainable credence in nerdcore, he was still unrecognizable in the mainstream eye until viral lightning struck in the form of a song about Jeremy Lin, an NBA basketball player for the New York Knicks at the time.
In Mega Ran’s own words on Instagram. “I went to sleep, and woke up the next morning to an email from ESPN wanting to use the song. The record went on to get 500,000 streams online.” The song got the kind of respect and admiration usually reserved for artists in the major label circuit, while the mainstream treated the rap as a novelty song, there were hints of greatness that would come to shape Mega Ran’s career.
In 2014, he would hit another stride with an inclusion on a list made by LA Weekly about the Top 10 rappers who would blow up that year. A year later, he’d find further success on the Billboard charts no less with “RNDM“; thanks to all the exposure he had gotten. The turning moment came when he appeared on the WWE with Wale in 2017, giving him a gateway to a wide variety of hip-hop outlets and WWE fans alike which then gave him a pathway to earn a spot in the Guinness World Records book and much more publicity than any nerdcore artist can ever receive, leading him to become the legend mentioned in the start of the article.
Many might wonder how Mega Ran pulled off making it into the mainstream in a long lasting and impactful way. Was it a calculated effort? Was it sheer dumb luck? No, it was all planned. Going back to the early days of history, before twitch.tv made it cool to be a nerd, nerdcore was an opt-in niche genre. The sounds were free to appeal to their inner nerd, the rhymes were as technical as you can get and not many people were aware of it’s existance. While acts like Dual Core were experimenting with making their music presentable to a mass audience, it wasn’t until Mega Ran (who has had experience with the professional music business) that the nerdcore genre started to get recognition within the public.
He built up Mega Ran from the image of Random and added some elements of himself in there that both related to nerdcore and made him stand out from the crowd and over the years, he slowly built up the tale of sorts making him look like the master of video games and with that, he developed on his warm and inviting personality. (which is rare these days) He embraced platforms as early as possible and capitalized on his fanbase in ways that didn’t seem exploitative, if you were a fan of Mega Ran then you were completely interested in every aspect of his life from his opinions to his small tweets on Twitter; it wasn’t like you followed their social media and that was it, no it was more than that.
There is never a time where Mega Ran doesn’t like what he’s doing or knows what he’s doing… He’s the first rapper endorsed by a video company, the first nerdcore album to be mentioned consistently on HipHopDX and one of the first to have management behind him to take care of the big stuff. His hard work and sacrifice will forever be a blessing to nerdcore for his work allowed the genre to experience a form of legitimacy never before experienced in its lifetime and that is an impressive break for a genre that found it’s start through internet forums and niche intentions.
Without Mega Ran, we wouldn’t have the nerdcore rappers currently making their names known and stretching the genre to new heights both popularity wise and music wise and nerdcore wouldn’t have the type of representation it has today. It wouldn’t be mentioned on Jeopardy, nerdcore artists wouldn’t be able to perform with regular rap artists, Dual Core wouldn’t be number one on Bandcamp and the genre would have died a horrible slow death if it weren’t for Mega Ran. His importance in the genre cannot be understated.
So when you see a nerdcore rapper at your favorite hip-hop showcase show, remember that Mega Ran made it possible for your favorite nerdcore rapper to be taken seriously. If there wasn’t a Mega Ran, who’d know where’d we be right now and wherever the road might lead for Random, nobody knows but everybody can be safely assured that he’ll be well equipped to handle it; he is a legend after all.