It's Not A Game People
Artist: MC Serch
Interviewer: Alexander Fruchter
In the opening episode of the VH1 series, The White Rapper Show, Prince Paul asks an aspiring white rapper about his knowledge of MC Serch. The contestant responds by swinging his arms in the way someone would swing a bat and referencing "Pop Goes The Weasel," arguably 3rd Bass' most famous song in which they debunk Vanilla Ice. While that is part of Serch's history, it is not all of Serch's history. There is a reason that the words Hip Hop Icon appear underneath his name each week on The White Rapper Show.
As a part of 3rd Bass, Serch released two albums, their 1989 debut The Cactus Album, and 1991's follow-up, Derelicts of Dialect.. As a solo artist, Serch released Return of the Product in 1992. In 1994, Serch went back into the studio and recorded some songs that he was hoping would lead to a larger project. Nothing really came of the sessions, and Serch focused his attention towards developing other artists such as Nas, and OC. He went on to start his own Serchlite Productions, as well as host a radio show in Detroit. Recently, Serch discovered that the masters from those 1994 sessions were still around, and on March 6th, Serch will release those sessions online via his production company. In this interview, Serch talks about the new release, M.any Y.oung L.ives A.go: The 1994 Sessions, The White Rapper Show, what was happening in New York during the time he formed 3rd Bass, as well as his small beef with the Beastie Boys. Check it out
SoundSlam: What was happening socially and culturing in New York's music scene when you created 3rd Bass and signed with Def Jam?
Serch: I think at the time in '89 what was going on culturally in Hip Hop and in the streets was there was a great movement of postivity. There was a great pro-Black movement. There was a great feeling of empowerment and that Hip Hop was going to enable this empowerment through its music and its movement. It was great to watch Chuck D speak on the level that he spoke, and the other rappers kind of come out and do their thing like Intelligent Hoodlum. It was just a great, great movement. I was very proud of the fact that Pete and I were coming out during that time cause I thought it was just a great moment to be involved in Hip Hop. But also, there was just some great music being made. D.O.C. was making his great records, NWA, EPMD, there was just so many great records coming out at that time including Native Tongues, De La, Tribe and Latifah, it was nice to be included in that mix of artists. I can't forget about Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap. There was just so much great Hip Hop coming out during that time.
SoundSlam: I was just on your Myspace page and checking out your blogs. You said something in one of the blogs that I really liked. You said,
'Those who choose not to follow the gossipers in the office or choose not to be in the click that is based on material items and things in school, or the ones that try to change the status quo by refusing to accept what is dealt, are the ones that sleep the best at night. (Or they toss and turn because they cannot make change happen fast enough).'
Where are you now? Are you sleeping well, or are you tossing and turning? And what advice do you have for people that are tossing and turning cause they can't make that change happen, and are getting kind of weak in their fight?
Serch: I sleep like a baby. In terms of what's going on for me socially and politically, I'm very involved in trying to end hunger. That is a big part of what I do with my philanthropic time. I got involved in a non-profit back in 1990 called Rock and Rap It Up. Basically when it was started we would go to the Jones Beach theater in Long Beach, Long Island, collect what was left over from the different shows, cause they used to have a huge amount of catering. We found a way that we could, with the public department of health's approval, be able to salvage that food and deliver it to homeless shelters. With connecting with the artists, the artists said, 'this is a great idea. Can you do this on every stop of our tour?' So then we would start getting volunteers in every city, that kind of thing. It just blossomed and blossomed and grew and grew. Last year we put 80 million plates of food on tables last year. We've started Rock and Rap It Up hunger programs in schools, with the NBA, Major League Baseball, with the NFL. Our goal is obviously to eradicate hunger. I feel that my involvement with Rock and Rap It Up gives me peace of mind that I am donating and dedicating a portion of my time as well as my money to a very worthwhile cause. I think that those that are having a hard time sleeping and tossing and turning because they're not seeing change happen fast enough is either A) they're really frustrated at the status quo, when that happens you need to be more proactive in changing it. Or they're frustrated cause they can't make it happen, and you just have to re-tool and kind of go back to scratch, to square one. Figure out what am I doing wrong? How can I make my change happen fast enough or make a change so that I'm happy with the circumstances? Sometimes you have to narrow your focus and act more locally. Instead of trying to change the world's problems, maybe try to change your neighbor's problems. Work with your neighbor then go to your block. Then go to the four corners of your block and work outwards.
SoundSlam: I like the [White Rapper] show. I think it's simultaneously funny, but funny in a clever way. It kind of feels like I'm watching a De La Soul album, or 3rd Bass, it's that Prince Paul, 3rd Bass feel. It's funny, serious, and also a sociology lesson about race and culture. How do you balance all those elements? Was that in your thinking when you signed on to do this show?
Serch: I think with the guys at Ego Trip, their history of being writers, of being archivers of the culture, I think if they were going to do a show-And I mean whether you've seen any of the Ego Trip specials, "TV's Illest Minority Moments," "Ego Trip's Race-o-rama," you kind of get the feeling, you kind of know that these guys are very tongue in cheek, they like to do things that are going to spur interest and be comic and be social. When I got the first script, the rough draft in the spring of 2005, my wife and I kind of looked at it and were like, 'this is either going to be really great, or going to be really whack!...' Depending on who pulls it off and depending on how...because the writing was brilliant. When I read it, it was brilliant. Everyone knows that the writing stage to the producing stage, and getting it on TV, that's like night and day. You always hear people complain, 'my vision got changed in the editing room, this and this happened..' I was very, very confident that what they had written on the page and knowing Elliot, and knowing Sacha, and knowing Brent, and Gabe, and knowing that they're really not guys that back down, that they were going to fight for the artistic integrity of the show. I was very comfortable in knowing that what we did and how we did it was going to be perceived how we wrote it. And for the most part, it really has been. With exception of things being edited for time reasons, all of the little cues, and social cues and all the little idiosyncrasies, Flaco's Deli and the things that are there, the Ice Ice Chamber, all of that just really it makes sense in Hip Hop. It makes a lot of sense. I was talking to a friend of mine who works for ESPN. He was talking about how he was in his house watching Affirmative-Reaction, when they were doing the question 'terms of endearment for Black women' he was in his drawers screaming 'wifey.' Like why isn't anybody saying wifey?' You get engaged with the game show, you get engaged with the show. That's the greatest part about it.
SoundSlam: On the first episode there was a blow up in the house between two of the rappers. Do you think that white rappers in general are more critical and harsh to each other than they are to non-white rappers, and non-white rappers are to white rappers?
Serch: Absolutely. White rappers hate other white rappers, period. PERIOD...PERIOD! White rappers hate other white rappers. I don't know why, it is what it is. The thing that I love about Ill Bill's new group, La Coka Nostra is that they've gotten to a point where they're like, 'let's stop fighting with each other and work together and form these super groups.' But white rappers hate each other. I think it's kind of like the top of the mountain mentality. They feel like it's a unique thing to be white rapper that they could be the only one. Meanwhile 80% of the music is purchased by white people, so there's bound to be a slew of white rappers. There's bound to be tons of white rappers. That's the point. We kind of knew going into this that having white rappers in the house, things are going to pop off cause white rappers don't like other white rappers. I don't know what that's about. Whether it's a credibility question, whether it's a skill question or doubting somebody's skill set. Whatever the case may be, there's definitely this lack of love between white rappers.
SoundSlam: When La Coka Nostra came in [to Tha Whitehouse] everyone was blown away and picked up a lot of info. When you were signed to Def Jam when you first started the only other group there of white rappers were the Beastie Boys. What was your relationship like with them? Did they ever serve as the type of group to guide you sort of the way La Coka Nostra did [on the show]? I know you guys seemed to have a little bit of problems? Are you cool now? What's that relationship like?
Serch: You know, again, the Beasties were off of Def Jam when we were signed. They were kind of finalizing their lawsuit and getting away from Def Jam. They were doing their deal with, I think, Capitol. It's funny, I went to Mike D for some guidance once. I went to his apartment, and he was great. He was great, gave me a lot of advice on how to deal with Russell, the type of person Russell was, and as I was leaving the house he starts throwing things at me and laughing like it was funny. I'm like, 'OK, he's just bugging.' And then I would read in a magazine months later, like 'what's your relationship with 3rd Bass?' And Mike D would be like, 'yeah he came to my house and I started throwing s**t at him.' That's really what kind of started the riff between 3rd Bass and the Beasties. That wasn't the case at all. The case was I really admired Mike D, and I knew that he had success dealing with Russell. I really went to him trying to get some advice on how to deal with him cause I was frustrated. And he flipped it for the sake of what was said in a magazine. That kind of started the riff between the Beasties and 3rd Bass. First of all we don't roll in the same circles. When I've seen Mike D I've been civil and he's been civil. When I've seen MCA, he's been civil and I've been civil. We've both had a very civil relationship. They're not my boys in anyway shape or form. I don't expect them to bail me out of jail. It's certainly a civil relationship.
SoundSlam: When I was checking out your background and your MySpace page it seems like you're very serious about using Hip Hop to educate others and using your involvement and place in music and culture to bring them in. Did you see yourself as part educator in this project, The White Rapper Show, and did that go into your thinking to put out the Lost Sessions that you're putting out now?
Serch: I don't know...I think teaching is a stretch term. I think we wanted to showcase to other people these different levels of white rappers. I think it's interesting. Unfortunately, on a national level, the record labels don't give the opportunities to these artists to be seen because I think there's a credibility question. It seems like there can only be one white rapper coming out on a major label system at one time, and a black person has to give the OK for that white rapper to come out. If you don't, then you're just not credible, and you're not perceived by the radio and you're not received by anyone else. Eminem put out records on Scam, put out records with Royce, and everything. But it wasn't till Dre gave him the stamp that things started to pop off for him. The same way that Russell, that Chuck D and Public Enemy gave 3rd Bass their stamp. The same way Ice-T gave Everlast his stamp. I don't try- if you ask me a question I'm going to do my best to answer it. If it comes out that my answer's educational, that's based on experience. I don't really try to teach per say, I just try to give the best answer that I can. Hopefully the answer has relevance, and it gives credence to what you're trying to find out. With the 94 sessions and putting out M.Y.L.A and putting out that album, that' really about letting people hear some music that I feel I want them to hear. These are some lost masters that for all intents and purposes, I didn't even realize existed anymore. I wanted people to have the opportunity to listen to them, and just check it out and see what kind of emcee I was during the time of Nas making Illmatic with Serchlite, OC working on his demo Wordlife, and working on that album. This is what I was working on. This is kind of where we were at.
SoundSlam: I've been listening to it. I really like that song "Get Up Get Down." What was happening in your life when you put these songs together? When you listen to these lost masters now does it take you back in time as well?
Serch: Yeah. That's the great [part]. Can I just tell you that's the best part of listening to them. Whenever I listen to them I go back to 94. I go back to 93. I go back to being in the studio at S2W studios with my man Petey Nicks, and DJ Whiz, and DJ Eclipse and us just laughing and having a good time making music. And E being in the studio and every now and then Danny Clench would come and take pictures and it was fun. I was having a great time. My partner Mark Pearson, my man Shake was overseeing Nas' record and making sure Illmatic was coming out great. I was working with OC on his demo and getting ready to shop his demo. It was just a great time for me. Those songs were really fun to make. People always ask me, 'is this a lost album?' No. I didn't call it the 1994 album, that's why it's called the 1994 session. That's all it was. It was a bunch of sessions with me and E and Whiz just going in and making some songs that we were going to present to Russell and hopefully he was going to say, 'wow, that's a great start. Here's a budget, go make an album.' Those are what came out of these sessions.
M.any Y.oung L.ives A.go: The 1994 Sessions will be released March 6th via Serchlite Productions.