March 22, 2005 > Fremont's Own Rapper's Delight
Fremont's Own Rapper's Delight
by Tony C. Yang
Look out Eminem and 50-Cent, it's Rajeev Bajaj, the 'Geekster Rapper,' and his prospects for a career in the record business is certainly flashier than his day job as a Silicon Valley engineer.
"The premise is simple, to introduce the geek world to non-geeks," Bajaj says in his record label's website, RLPKrecords.com. "And inject the technical matter with some levity that it deserves." Bajaj formed RLPK Records himself, and has funded most of company's efforts in producing and distributing "Geek Rhythms," a self-described "new way to get civilization excited about engineering."
These days, popular rappers get their start with a song, a music video, and if they're lucky, their video in heavy rotation on MTV. For now, Bajaj is starting with the first two musical must-haves, and is working hard to break into the business with a 30-second demo.
Along with Neil Strudwick, a multimedia instructor at Ohlone College, and some fellow musically inclined self-proclaimed 'geeks,' a 3D animated video was created for Bajaj's song "Geek Dreams," from his debut album "Geek Rhythms."
Strudwick, no stranger to creating hits, thought Bajaj had a hit on his hands, and took him for a dedicated musician. "I think it's a cool idea, I listened to the music and thought it was cool," Strudwick said. "He is very open minded, takes suggestions well." Strudwick, for his part, was the designer of the video game "Pac Man 3-D" and redesigned the Pac Man logo. He has extensive experience in the video game industry, and evidently, it has transferred well to the music industry.
When Strudwick first heard about this offbeat project, he responded quickly, said Bajaj. "Having an academic environment is more conducive to the process." This meant melding high-tech image creation and high-fidelity rhyme-making, and Bajaj and his team delved into music production with a technological approach- mixing different types of musical genres, including techno and rap.
A tech-savvy 39-year-old Fremont citizen, Bajaj earned a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and has been working in the Bay Area's high-tech industry for a decade. He is currently the chief executive of SemiQuest, a Fremont start-up that is designing a new way to polish semiconductor wafers. Now he's polishing his expertise in two other Bay Area specialties; music and entrepreneurship.
Using never-before-rapped words like "transistor" and "modem" and that dreaded parental advisory explicit word: "CPU," Bajaj is charting unmapped "techno-poetry" territory. Even his record label's website states: "Caution: Extreme Technical Content."
His academic background is secure, but his musical credibility is a different matter.
"I started to deal with the fact that my kids were going to go to school here," said Bajaj, the proud parent of two daughters. "I want their ambition or their desire to not get filtered by the high school experience of what the biases are. I would like them to feel cool about whatever they're doing."
Bajaj wants to show more than just his children that "geeks do know how to have fun." His passion for converting the technologically uninitiated has spurred a CD featuring eight tracks, complete with cameos by popular artists (in India, that is) and postproduction engineered right here in the happenin' area code of "510." The songs range from the electronic beats of "Free Energy" to the title hit "Geek Dreams."
Released last October, "Geek Rhythms" has climbed the charts on Amazon.com, and has become something of a cult hit. "Outstanding-- nirvana for geeks," said one fan on Amazon.com, "Finally, someone has created waves for us geeks."
Non-geeks are grudgingly accepting of Bajaj's efforts.
Clyde Smith, Ph.D., a music industry blogger at prohiphop.com, says in a February entry, "I had avoided this item because I find academics writing rap lyrics a bit annoying." But after watching it hit a high of #460 in sales rank on Amazon.com music, he changed his tune, adding rapping engineers to his list of antagonists. "That means, not only do I have to pay attention to criminals but, even worse, I still can't escape the academics." Not one to ignore the numbers, however, Smith ends his blog with a classic hip-hop gesture of respect: "Big ups to Rajeev and his crew."
In the end, it is unlikely that Bajaj's new video or his CD will ever be on MTV, feature Beyonce or go platinum. But it has already sparked interest across the country and even gained some converts in the hip-hop world. Most importantly, Bajaj said, is that people understand that "science and technology cater to people's thoughts and intellect," just like music.
Bajaj teaches as he raps, and whenever someone spins a track from "Geek Rhythms," they'll be able to learn that "Sit back enjoy the ride/ Computer geeks have arrived."