He's an über-creative, humor-spouting, rap phenom who drops more references than Wikipedia, and maintains a closer relationship with his fans than most have with their girlfriends.
Chris Ward IV, aka MC Chris, took a roundabout way into the music business, but now that he's here, he's hell-bent for success. Almost literally. MC Chris with Whole Wheat Bread and I Am the Dream will perform at 7 p.m. May 1 at The Conservatory, 8911 N. Western.
Ward got his start working for Cartoon Network's edgy, late-night programming block, Adult Swim, after impressing "Sealab 2021" creator Adam Reed one drunken night in New York. Ward was hired on the spot to do animation, and soon became the voice behind the toon's cross-dressing reactor operator Hesh Hepplewhite, later voiced the diaper-wearing spider rapper MC Pee Pants on "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," and contributed his talents to other Adult Swim hits like "The Brak Show" and "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast."
Ward began a budding rap career while working there, releasing his debut, "Life's a Bitch and I'm Her Pimp," in 2001. One of the tracks off that album, "Fett's Vette" " which casts the "Star Wars" character Boba Fett as a trash-talking bad-ass bounty hunting to pay off his Corvette's repairs " was featured in the background of "Sealab," offering a boost. In 2004, he left Adult Swim to pursue music full-time. Reaching No. 4 on the iTunes hip-hop chart, his last full-length, 2008's "MC Chris Is Dead," finds the alter-ego transformed into a rampaging zombie.
"(Things are) pretty good considering there is no label and no advertising. Just a bunch of kids telling each other to buy it, reading the blogs and the mass mailings," he said between tour stops.
His success stems from his accessibility. The musician tours frequently, blogs incessantly and hangs out to talk with his fans long after the show is over. He will perform 7 p.m. Friday at The Conservatory.
"The wall between artist and audience is removed, and it makes for an experience that might be more personal for the audience and a feeling like they're dealing with a friend instead of some kind of celebrity," he said.
He's sometimes pegged as a nerdcore rapper, thanks to rhymes that revolve around banging the "Super Mario Bros." princess, hard-pimping Japanese robot dogs and Harry Potter. But it's hardly a genre so much as a domain Ward has staked out, and his rap references actually run a much wider gamut than he gets credit for, from the Kenny Rogers film "Six Pack" to Corey Hart's hit song "Sunglasses at Night."
Ward is currently in the process of releasing a series of EPs staggered throughout the year. The idea, he said, is to make the records more like a magazine subscription. The first "episode," entitled "Part Six, Part One," has been released, and the second, "Part Six, Part Two," arrives in May. Picking up where the last disc left off, MC Chris has traveled from zombie to hell, where he's appearing on a game show with Satan.
Rap career aside, Ward said he's eager to return to film and animation.
"It's difficult to get these albums out like I'm doing and tour as much as I do and make cartoons at the same time," he said. "But I wouldn't be surprised if it happens sooner than later." "Chris Parker