Video games inspire 3rd installment of KadeshFlow’s ‘NerdCrunk’

Francie Johnson

Some of today’s popular rap music centers around controversial topics including sex and drugs, but Ryan Davis writes about a different subject: video games.

“That’s actually hilarious, because people will jam and dance and not know that I’m talking about something as ridiculous as ‘Tomb Raider,’” Davis said.

Davis, a second-year MBA student, started rapping and playing trombone when he was 11 years old. At the age of 14, he started working on solo projects, and in 2009, he formed Kadesh and the Perfect Strangers.

“The band actually started because I wanted a more interactive way to perform,” Davis said. “I didn’t just want to be another rapper with a DJ.”

Davis has been working on Kadesh and the Perfect Strangers, or K+PS for short, for over three years, but the band has a completely different lineup from the one it started out with. Last summer, Davis had to recreate the entire band after all of his bandmates graduated.

During this change in the band’s lineup, Alex Garrett, a junior majoring in jazz studies, joined Kadesh and the Perfect Strangers on saxophone.

“Ryan is an immensely talented and creative guy, and he put together an excellent group of musicians to play some unique music you don’t hear often in this area,” Garrett said. “I really have a lot of fun working with him and the rest of the guys in the band.”

Davis, in addition to working with Kadesh and the Perfect Strangers, releases his own mix tapes under the name KadeshFlow. His fourth solo project, a mixtape titled “NerdCrunk Vol. 3,” dropped on April 18.

The three-part NerdCrunk series contains music and lyrics inspired by various video games, including “Tomb Raider,” “Legend of Zelda,” “Skyrim” and many more.

“Conceptually, I’m just being honest about things I care about,” Davis said. “I do one of two things: I either rap in character, coming from the perspective of the protagonist or antagonist, or I talk about things that I’m dealing with or thinking about and use the game or anime themes as reference points or punchlines.”

Even though Davis refers to his solo projects as “nerdcore,” he said everyone could enjoy his music, not just self-proclaimed “nerds.”

“I think to really get all of the references, you definitely need to be into that particular game or anime,” Davis said. “However, someone can just listen to the lyrics and production and think it’s good. It’s good music either way.”

Davis said Kadesh and the Perfect Strangers is an extension of his solo work in some ways.

“The difference is really just the musical arrangement,” Davis said. “The performance is way better with live instruments and more of a funk and jazz flavor. However, up to this point, I still write everything. A lot of our songs are just band arrangements of originals that I already have.”

Garrett said when compared to KadeshFlow’s mixtape, Kadesh and the Perfect Strangers’ live performances give the band members more chances to improvise, better exemplifying the band’s chemistry.

“The most exciting thing for me about playing in Kadesh and the Perfect Strangers is the communication and unpredictability the group displays,” Garrett said. “We really thrive off of listening to each other and creating spontaneously. When we made the mix tape, we were not afforded the opportunity to interact musically because we recorded each instrument on separate tracks at different times.”

While he plans on continuing to create “nerdy” music, Davis said he looks forward to branching out beyond the subject of video games.

“This definitely is not solely what I want to do,” Davis said. “‘NerdCrunk Vol. 3’ is the last purely gaming and anime compilation I do before I go more into songs that I write that are more conceptually driven by me. This has been a somewhat unintentional way of building a strong following that will dig those songs when I release them.”

Davis said his music has had much more influence on his life, and possibly his future, than he ever thought it would.

“I’m talking to some major television outlets about producing theme music for their shows now, and I never thought this thing could actually become a stream of income,” Davis said. “I didn’t really expect to build any kind of following like this when I wasn’t making actual videos consistently.”