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MC Lars (real name: Andrew Nielsen) began making hip-hop-based tapes while still a kid, but was sidetracked from rap by such traditionally important issues to teenagers as playing guitar in a punk band and getting accepted to a college. Nielsen went to Stanford, and then did an exchange stint at Oxford, but all the while he was fiddling with desktop productions and developing his quirky, pop culture-savvy style. Boisterous live gigs and word of mouth built buzz for Lars' home studio raps (influences: everything from Atom & His Package and Weird Al Yankovic to KRS-One and the Beastie Boys). Then London imprint Truck Records issued a Lars full-length called Radio Pet Fencing in 2003, and the MC followed that with U.S. and U.K. tour dates. While the entirety of Fencing was recorded on his computer, the summer 2004 Side Cho EP Laptop -- while still charmingly simplistic -- was a comparatively grander production, with samples of notable rockers (Piebald, Brand New) and a stronger melodic sense. Cuts like "iGeneration" and "Signing Emo" were hits with downloaders and mtvU viewers, and MC Lars did live dates with groups like Gym Class Heroes and Bowling for Soup through spring 2005. The full-length The Graduate -- as MC Lars could hence call himself a Stanford alum -- appeared in March 2006; a string of U.K. shows followed the next month. ~ Johnny Loftus