Rapper MC Chris has a significant and sometimes intensely personal relationship with his fans.
How personal? He's been known to crash fans' house parties or just stop by to play video games. He includes them in T-shirt design and remix competitions on his Web site. He reaches out to them to help fund research against a debilitating disease. They've been his lifeblood over a nearly ten-year music career.
Houston fans have two chances to catch him this week. He's hosting a screening of How To Train Your Dragon 2 tonight at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park and tomorrow he'll be one of dozens of acts braving the heat at Houston's Vans Warped Tour stop.
He said he's hosted more than a half-dozen similar screenings at Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. Tonight's selection suits him particularly well, since he is also a talented animator who has written and done voice work for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
"I say a couple of words beforehand explaining why we're all here, what we're all doing, why we're watching this movie and then we just have a good time," he says, while highly endorsing the Drafthouse's food and popcorn.
"It's a great way to say hi to fans," he continues. "It'll get me in the right frame of mind for a very long tour this summer on Warped Tour. It just gives me a chance to hang out with fans, which is something I like to do."
He's equally excited about Warped, which starts here tomorrow and runs into August. He's done the tour before, in 2008, and is looking forward to sharing the bill this year with acts like K. Flay, Less Than Jake, Teenage Bottlerocket and Watsky.
"The last time I did Warped Tour I discovered bands like The Gaslight Anthem and Against Me! and a lot of bands I'd never heard of," Chris says. "That's what Warped Tour is about. You go there not really knowing what you're going to find and you discover some things."
This year, MC Chris is touring to support his latest release, the double album MC Chris Foreverrr. Fans can expect a healthy dose of new songs, along with favorites like "Fett's Vette," "Hoodie Ninja," and "MC Chris is Dead." As always, the songs are geeked out with references to Star Wars, Super Mario Bros. and the like. This time out, there are specific references to Stephen Hawking and Stephen King, Ghostbusters and The Addams Family.
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Fans know the drill, but what they may not know is how every song in his discography is a personal, sometimes cathartic, expression about real things happening in his life.
"This was my first album that I'd ever made sober. I'd been smoking weed every day, all day long, for like 18 years, and then I went to therapy and sobered up," he says. "It was all just kind of fallout from my father's death; so, I wanted to make an album talking about ghosts and death and my dad."
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One track, "Wednesday," plays like a camp kid's crush on Wednesday Addams, but is also about "falling in love with my wife and falling in love with someone people don't understand. She gets called Wednesday Addams at work and she gets made fun of and stuff, and it's about what it's like to fall in love with someone like that."
"It's all very personal music and it might not seem that way, but it is," he says. "Making music is a very private thing and I'm always just trying to make songs that make me happy, that I'm interested in, and if it falls in that column where both of us would be interested in it then I definitely think it's something I'd like to share with them."
How do songs about Boba Fett and Mario and Luigi play in Syrup City? Pretty well, according to MC Chris.
"I love Houston. I love Texas," he says. "My merch is made in Houston, and we have great shows here. I love coming into Texas, they're some of the best shows we have on tour. Something about the kids there, they're ready for a show. They're very receptive. There are nerds everywhere, especially in Texas, so there's always a great vibe in Houston."
Those great vibes are shared by the fans who've become involved in MC Chris' efforts to fund cystic-fibrosis research. From fans who buy MC Chris items from eBay to those who drop change in marked buckets at shows, together they've raised about $135,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He got involved when his six-year-old nephew was diagnosed.
"He's a very important guy to me and the cause is very important to me," Chris says. "It's just also good to do something good and it's nice to involve the fans in some way."
With so much talk about the fans, I asked if he'd entertain a question from one, a Rocks Off reader named Gamaliel Torres. The question: if he could pick just one rap name for the rest of his career from MC Chris or MC Pee Pants, Sir Loin or Little Brittle (all names of characters he's voiced for Aqua Teen Hunger Force), which would he choose? He said he'd stick with MC Chris, since the others are licensed to Time Warner and this is the name that he started with, back when there were no albums or fans.
"I definitely went through the process of meeting with a bunch of corporate people when I started and they thought I was pretty weird and not very marketable," Chris says. "Because I was denied that opportunity, it just made me independent. We're not millionaires or anything like that, but we definitely don't have to get a day job and we can keep on doing what we've wanted to do."
"We're just ready to get out there, get on the road and get under the stars and see the fans and sweat it out," he said. "We're gonna have a great summer and we hope you can join us."
MC Chris hosts the How to Train Your Dragon 2 screening at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park, 114 Vintage Park Blvd., tonight at 8 p.m. He performs at Vans Warped Tour tomorrow at NRG Park's Yellow Lot; gates open at 11 a.m.
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