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MC Serch

MC Serch

Rap singer

Second Home at LQ

Home Run for 3rd Bass

Serch Alone

Selected discography

Sources

With his elaborate metaphors, copyrighted slang, taunting of other rappers and semiautomatic lip, Rob Tannenbaum of Rolling Stone wrote in 1992, MC Serch may have the biggest mouth in hip-hop. As a white rapper committed to hip-hop legitimacy, MC Serch has had to fight for his props, or respect, throughout his career. Hip-hop fans first encountered his short-haired, bespectacled visage when Serchs group 3rd Bass broke through in the late 1980s; described as the comedian of the group by Rolling Stone, he spent almost as much time justifying his presence as he did dropping clever, allusive rhymes. After a crossover hit single making fun of another high-profile white rapper, however, 3rd Bass split up and Serch released a solo album. It looked for a while as if he would have to begin making the case for himself all over againthis time as a legitimate solo rapperbut Serch revealed a confident persona. Indeed, even critics who were lukewarm about his solo debut asserted that Serch had been the strongest element of 3rd Bass. And he carried over from the group a passionate commitment not only to rap but to the community that supports it. If you really love the music, he told Errol Nazareth of the Toronto Sun, then you have to love hip-hop culture and black culture.

Before adopting his hip-hop sobriquet, MC Serch was Michael Serrin, born in the late 1960s and raised in New York City. He was a Jewish kid from the affluent side of the tracks who led what he called a double life, as he told Playthell Benjamin of the Village Voice: To the left of the railroad tracks was the Jewish orthodox neighborhood where my parents lived and to the right of the track was where all the brothers were. There was a place called the Latin Lounge. And I used to try to slip in when I was 13 years old. It was while hanging out in the hood and attending Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and the Arts that Serch developed his rap skills. As for his new name, he told Benjamin, Since they couldnt give me a righteous name, with me being white, my boys around the way, the Gods, started calling me Serch for knowledge, trying to understand the culture.

Second Home at LQ

Soon he was a staple on the citys club scene; his association with influential white rapper Tony Dwhose record at the time was Serchs favoriteled to an early single. I put a record out on Warlock called Melissa, which was probably the biggest Frisbee to ever be made, he noted derisively to The Bomb. But the thing that got me over was Id go to do shows and it wasnt the record getting me over; it was my dance steps and

For the Record

Born Michael serrin c. 1967 in New York, NY. Education: Attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and the Arts.

Joined group 3rd Bass, signed with Def Jam Records, and released debut, The Cactus Album, 1989; released solo album Return of the Product, Def Jam/Columbia, 1992; coordinated soundtrack for film Zebrahead, 1992; co-founded production company Serchlite Productions.

Awards: Gold Records for 3rd Bass albums The Cactus Album and Derelicts of Dialect and for single Pop Goes the Weasel.

Addresses: Record company Columbia Records, 666 Fifth Ave., P.O. Box 4455, New York, NY 10101-4455, Fan club MC Serch Fan Club, FDR Station, P.O. Box 685, New York, NY 10150-0685.

people seeing a white boy doing the Whop and being in the LQ [Latin Quarters]. As Serch told the Toronto Suns Nazareth, I never felt different in those clubs. I used to get chased out of Harlem World cause I was a little kid, but when I hung out at the LQ, man, that was home He and Tony D then decided to form a record label, Idlers. Although the new label released some of Serchs material and jams by fellow rap upstarts the Jungle Brothers, he wasnt happy there and decided to move on.

Serch was paired with rapper Peter Nasha cigar-chomping English major from Columbia University who rechristened himself Prime Minister Pete Niceby producer Sam Sever, with whom Serch had been working on a demo. With the addition of DJ Richie Rich, the only black member of the group, they became 3rd Bass and were signed by Def Jam records. The trio released their debut, The Cactus Album, in 1989 to enthusiastic reviews. Their use of samples from such diverse sources as Blood Sweat and Tears rock single Spinning Wheel and Abbott and Costello comedy routines struck both listeners and critics as fresh, and singles like Steppin to the A.M. and The Gas Face proved the groups dance floor credentials.

Home Run for 3rd Bass

Spins Joan Morgan admired the funky, fiery intensity of Cactus. Village Voice contributor Benjamin canonized Serch and Pete as the first serious white rappers, placing them alongside jazz clarinet master Benny Goodman and blues guitar legend Eric Clapton in the pantheon of Caucasian artists sincerely endeavoring to observe the performance values promulgated by black musicians. Of the album, Benjamin attested, Over 20 tracks, Serch and Nice spin out a panoply of imaginatively crafted images and ideassometimes witty, sometimes didactic, sometimes irreverent, sometimes narcissistic, all poignantly expressed in the rhythm and rhyme of the streets.

1990 saw the release of an album of remixes, The Cactus Revisited, and a spate of serious road time for 3rd Bass. Rolling Stones Michael Azerrad reported that at a show at Harlems Apollo Theaterthe venerable testing ground of black musical performance Serch and Nice had chanted If youre black and youre proud, throw a hand in the air and actually got the crowd to comply. For a white performer to do this, Azerrad asserted, takes a little chutzpah.

But it was in 1991 that 3rd Bass definitively crossed over to a mass audience, thanks to a single called Pop Goes the Weasel, from their album Derelicts of Dialect, another stew of rock, soul, and comedy samples, funky beats, and the inimitable, esoteric wordplay of Serch and Pete. Weaselincorporating samples from Peter Gabriels hit Sledgehammer, among other songsattacked white rappers who lack respect for the black tradition they appropriate. Although he isnt named in the song, the eponymous weaselas confirmed by the videois mall-rap idol Vanilla Ice. The issue was clearly a sore one for the rappers of 3rd Bass, who considered their legitimacy hard-won and viewed light-weight white pop-rap as a sort of violation of, not to mention a show of disrespect toward, the black community.

Derelicts didnt fare as well with critics as its predecessor had, despite its higher profile. Weasel helped the album go gold, but reviewers like Kim France of Rolling Stone found the sentiments voiced therein the flattest on the disc, which earned a three-star rating but evinced, according to France, a disturbingly self-conscious quality. This spare but insinuating follow-up to The Cactus Album is light on melodies (even by rap standards), heavy on beat, Peoples David Hiltbrand declared in a largely positive review. Echoing other tastemakers, though, Option dubbed Derelicts a slightly inferior sophomore effort.

Serch Alone

In 1992, after another tour, 3rd Bass announced their intention to split up. We just felt it was time to explore our own musical creativity, Serch told David Paul of The Bomb. Rumors abounded, however, about ill feelings between Serch and Nice; some insiders hazarded the opinion that Serch had left the group because of dissatisfaction with its drift toward pop in the wake of Weasel. But the rapper downplayed such speculation; I just wanted to make a solo record, he insisted to Al Pereira of Black Beat, but I got no beef with anybody. He also claimed that his relationship with Pete was still amicable. Depending on which late-1992 interview the groups fans read, they could have determined that 3rd Bass had either broken up, reformed, or merely taken an extended hiatus. If the case of 3rd Bass can teach us anything, The Source concluded dolefully, its that shotgun marriages dont last in the world of hip-hop.

Serch ended the guessing game when he released his solo debut1992s Return of the Product which showed him branching out stylistically. He told Steven Blush of Paper, I wanted to make an album that was live, that was funky, that was hardcore. But kinda alternative hardcore, finding a middle ground somewhere. Working with a variety of DJs and guest rappers like Chubb Rock, Serch offered more politics than jokes on his solo effort. He also underlined his Jewishness and remembered the early days of rap. The music included more live instrumentation than had appeared in any of his previous work. Reviews of Return of the Product were mixed. Entertainment Weekly found it strangely hollow, and Request worried that the rapper at times sounds like hes coasting. Vibe approved of the groove but found that as a commentary of hardcore street life, the record came up short. Option, meanwhile, opined, This disc proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Serch was the crucial half of 3rd Bass, and Reflex, along similar lines, deemed Product pure hardcore hip-hop that goes beyond anything put out by 3rd Bass.

In addition to the aggressive promotion of his album, Serch busied himself with his production company, Serchlite, and worked as the soundtrack coordinator for the interracial love story Zebrahead. He made it clear in Paper, however, that he had no plans to disappear into an office. Asked by Blush to define [his] relationship with the hip-hop community, he responded with characteristic vigor. My relationship is this: Im the baddest white boy out here, period, he declared. Thats always gonna be my relationship.

Selected discography

With 3rd Bass

The Cactus Album (includes Steppin to the A.M. and The Gas Face), Def Jam, 1989.

The Cactus Revisited, Def Jam, 1990.

Derelicts of Dialect (includes Pop Goes the Weasel), Del Jam, 1991.

Solo releases

Melissa, Warlock.

Hey BoyVGo White Boy, Idlers.

Return of the Product, Def Jam/Columbia, 1992.

Sources

Black Beat, December 1992.

Bomb, September 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, September 4, 1992.

Interview, April 1991.

Option, November 1992.

Paper, September 1992.

People, September 16, 1991.

Rap Masters, November 1992.

Reflex, November 10, 1992.

Request, September 1992.

Rolling Stone, January 11, 1990; August 8, 1991; October 3, 1991; October 1, 1992.

Seed, October 1992.

Source, September 1992; January 1993.

Spin, September 1991; October 1992.

Tafrija, November 1992.

Toronto Sun, October 23, 1992.

Vibe. Fall 1992.

Village Voice, January 9, 1990.

YSB, November 1992.

Simon Glickman

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