He was the first white rapper to be embraced by the hip-hop community, but no qualifier is necessary. Granted the Beastie Boys were doing something like hip-hop around the same time and rumor has it he was denied membership in their group. However, with 3rd Bass hits like “The Gas Face” and “Pop Goes The Weasel,” and the fact that he played a crucial role in launching Nasty Nas’ career, MC Serch is without a doubt, hip-hop royalty. This rapper-slash-actor-slash-music supervisor-slash-CEO-slash-writer recently added reality television star to his long list of slash-something(s).
“There is this sort of unwritten rule in the industry that there can only be one white MC at a major label at a time.”
Format: Why a white rapper show? Isn’t that the last thing television needs?
MC Serch: I think the white rapper show is exactly what we need. As far as hip-hop, as entertainment on television is concerned, it’s what is totally missing. The show is also a great opportunity to showcase talent that isn’t getting the opportunity to shine. There is this sort of unwritten rule in the industry that there can only be one white MC at a major label at a time. Many talented white rappers have been forced to go underground because they aren’t getting the respect they feel they deserve in the mainstream. I thought it was about to time to showcase these people on a larger scale.
Format: How did this show come about? Explain the timeline from inception of a pitch to being green lighted.
MC Serch: I can’t really talk about the pitch because that was Ego Trip’s doing, but I got the script summer of 2005. I read the pilot and loved it, but initially wasn’t able to do the show, because the shooting of the pilot was going to coincide with Yom Kippur and I don’t work during Yom Kippur. I explained that to the Ego Trip guys and they called back and said they’d push back the schedule. We all knew each other from growing up in Queens back in the day so it was all love. We shot a pilot with a different cast of characters, it went really well and we submitted it to VH1. About four months went by and we heard nothing. Then VH1 was saying they liked it but weren’t sure; they kept going back and forth. I knew the show was really good and people I showed it to all loved it. VH1 finally said yes and decided to pick up the show and it’s been one of the best experiences I’ve had in entertainment. The whole creative process has been very fulfilling.
Format: Do you really want to find the next white rapper or is this purely entertainment?
MC Serch: You know what, we received 10,000 submissions [and] there was a lot of reviewing and scrutinizing. We picked the group based on what they were doing and their potential; people who were putting out mixtapes and grinding on their own. I think this is a good showcase for the first time around of a talent pool. I’m not saying they are all equal, but we needed a range. Some of these people are now getting over 100,000 hits on MySpace and yeah, being on VH1 every week helps, but there seems to be a keen interest. Whether or not this is a hip-hop American Idol, I don’t think so. We didn’t start out thinking this would be an Idol-type show, but the response has been tremendous. I get e-mails from people telling me Persia is the truth and they only listen to her music now. Honestly, it was really just a show about white rappers and us testing them on how much they know. As the show has gone on, I have been seeing interest from major labels and some big name producers. I also get a ton of e-mail from people saying that the show is garbage and they want to show everyone what’s up. We have joked that if there is a season two, it’s going to be the revenge of the white rapper.
Format: So is there a season two?
MC Serch: We don’t know right now. We have found our audience and seen consistent growth in the audience, but no word as to whether or not there will be another season. I hope so!
Format: Some of the characters on your show seem extra-clownish, John Brown in particular. The first episode where he delved into the ins and outs of the ghetto revival is truly classic reality television. Were most of the people you auditioned for the show of his ilk or did you make sure you got the most ridiculous people?
MC Serch: All the people on the show are 100 percent real. Obviously we picked people who are characters, but we didn’t tell them to act a certain way. As we all know, hip-hop speaks to people on different levels; a rapper like 100 Proof â€“ Rakim speaks to him. Persia is someone more moved by Mobb Deep and more acclimated to an urban environment. John Brown is motivated by the entity of it. He doesn’t see Jay-Z as a rapper, but rather a business, however, John misses the point that you and I get, which is that Jay-Z had to be the best rapper to get where he is now. I must say, though, despite all of John’s antics, when it’s time for him to step up, he does. In the two challenges he’s done so far, he’s performed really well. When he had to memorize and recite, he came with heat. He has definitely shown himself to be worthy of being in the house. Don’t get me wrong, the whole ghetto revival shit is ridiculous. When Lord Jamar came on the show he called John out and was like, “What the fuck are you talking about?” But he has shown and proved which is what this show is all about.
Format: Do you find your career coming full circle with G-Child citing Vanilla Ice as her biggest influence? Fifteen years ago you dedicated an entire song and video to him.
MC Serch: I always knew based on his popularity that there were gonna be people down the road who were going to cite him as an influence and were heavily moved by him. When you have a history of success at any level in something that exists for the public to consume, you are gonna be engaged by at least someone. G- Child knew what the history was between me and old dude, and she chose to be like “That’s my peoples.” I respected her for that and I found it very endearing that she had such love for him.
“Don’t get me wrong, the whole ghetto revival shit is ridiculous. When Lord Jamar came on the show he called John out and was like, “What the fuck are you talking about?””
Format: Keeping with the full circle, does the current state of street-wear give you flashbacks to 1992?
MC Serch: Little known fact is that one of my earlier successes in my career was doing promotion for Ecko Unlimited, back when it was Echo. Phat Farm was starting around the same time and they were all about “Classic American Flavor,” but at the heart of it, they were an urban brand. Marc didn’t want to be an urban design house, but rather an American designer. He wanted a niche, but not to be pigeon-holed. When he brought me on to do marketing, I approached snowboarders, skateboarders, break-dancers, graffiti artists and rappers â€“ not just people who were creating hip-hop culture, but culture in general. We sponsored the X-Games very early on and got in with that whole community. It was a great brand to watch grow and have hand in it. I see fashions repeating themselves but also the emergence of brands with very little capital making waves in the industry. It seems like any small t-shirt line can blow up with a solid mantra and good character, and personality. If it’s quality and all those things line up, people will believe in it â€“LRG is a perfect example of a basic idea that was executed beautifully. They are a great brand with a great motto and look how far they have come in less than ten years.
Format: Explain your appearance Bamboozled and your participation in the movieâ€™s super group, Mau Maus. People underestimate the importance and prophetic nature of that movie.
MC Serch: I was very flattered when Spike asked me to be 1/16 black in the film. He understood that the character kind of represented who I was. I grew up around black people and their culture being from Queens and I think 1/16 black embodied that. It was a great experience to shoot the Mau Maus stuff. We became a cohesive group on set and on camera. Mos Def really took the reigns as the group leader and brought legitimacy to it all. Shit, when we did the song, we really believed we were a group. We even talked about doing an album for about two seconds before the movie came out. We said that if the movie really popped off that we would record an album and we even had a few writing sessions, but the movie never popped off.
“When he brought me on to do marketing, I approached snowboarders, skateboarders, break-dancers, graffiti artists and rappers â€“ not just people who were creating hip-hop culture, but culture in general.”
Format: With a career in hip-hop spanning three decades, how do you keep yourself relevant and respected in a youth oriented industry and culture? It seems you, KMD and Pete Nice are all still acknowledged in some capacity. What are you guys doing right?
I don’t know how relevant I was on January 7, 2007. I think I became relevant January 8th. However, in terms of Serchlite and my company, we’ve been relevant for a while and have been involved in bringing urban content to ESPN.com, doing work with the NFL Players Association and I manage these producers from Detroit called Sick Notes. I think that kind of stuff keeps me relevant. Also, doing radio in Detroit for a few years kept me relevant. Honesty, I don’t really care about being relevant as an artist or celebrity anymore. If the show makes it that way, so be it, but I am over it. A very dear friend of mine who passed away told me there are two types of people in this world: people who build boats and people who drive boats. I am a boat builder. Building Serchlite has been and continues to be a great labor of love for me. It’s not important for me to be a front man anymore. If the show gives me a voice for Serchlite or my blog, or allows me to showcase other artists, that to me is the greater goal. I also think people who have listened to me or 3rd Bass since the beginning are seeing that the things that we talked about in our music and interviews back in the day are coming to fruition. Ecko is major player in fashion. Nas is a legendary artist.
Format: What’s next for the multimedia mogul MC Serch?
MC Serch: I am putting out my unreleased masters from 1994 in March. This will give people an opportunity to hear what my second solo album would have sounded like.