Mega Ran Credit: Chas Wright

The weaponization of nerd culture has been a nightmare. From the outset, satirical representations like the Revenge of the Nerds series were riddled with toxic misogyny, but the modern-day real-life versions (GamerGate, Milo, 4chan) are so much worse. Under the stage name Mega Ran, rapper Raheem Jarbo defiantly counters all of that, lovingly extolling nerdy pursuits with the welcoming air of an older sibling handing down his Nintendo tips. His early Mega Man-centered work earned him a licensing deal with Capcom, and eventually a chance to meet Mega Man cocreator Keiji Inafune, who’d recently left the company to pursue other opportunities. Jarbo credits that interaction with inspiring him to quit his job as a middle school teacher to pursue rapping full-time. He’s also released albums inspired by Final Fantasy VII, his teaching job, the Notorious B.I.G., Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (a collaboration with similarly nerd-adjacent rapper Sammus), and, most recently, Stranger Things. Ran’s oeuvre is made up of to-the-point narratives over beats based on 16-bit soundtracks, wrestling themes, or nostalgia-drenched 80s synth worship pulled from the material (or Materia) at hand. He’s not just listing references for nerd cred, though—you don’t have to have memories of crying over Aerith’s death in Final Fantasy VII to recognize the loss in Ran’s voice when he raps, “There was something ’bout her aura / cuz I haven’t felt it since her.” He’s able to find the pathos in the pixels.   v