Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN link up with the self-proclaimed “Forrest Gump of Hip Hop,” MC Serch. A product of Far Rockaway, Queens, the rapper was a founding member of the group 3rd Bass, which included Pete Nice and DJ Richie Rich. They released their debut album, The Cactus Album, in 1989. Featuring production from Sam Sever, Prince Paul, and Public Enemy’s production unit, the Bomb Squad; the project was a success, reaching gold certification and spawning the classic rap hit “The Gas Face.”
Since then, Serch has become a media and entertainment maven who’s worked with various brands. A trailblazer highly regarded for his contributions, he is a living legend who continues to wear his love for the culture on his sleeve.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the MC Serch “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.
1. On Attending The Same High School As Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh and Dana Dane
An avid rap fan as a teenager, MC Serch got a crash course in the art of live performance while attending Manhattan’s High School of Music & Art with a star-studded list of classmates who includes legends Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, and Dana Dane. “My favorite group that I heard in the street on those cassette tapes was a group called The Kangol Crew,” he says. “It was four emcees. They had little skits they would do around Uptown and all of that ‘Hillbilly Girl,’ ‘Indian Girl,’ like, funny shit. And I went to my first day at high school and I went to the lunchroom, and I see this cypher, and I see these dudes rhyming around a lunch table. So, I go stand on the lunch table and I see these four dudes and they’re doing the routine and they got the matching color Kangols — they got the Le Tigre shirts. And the dude that was next to me, my man Steve Bosco — may he rest in peace — I turned to him and I said, ‘Yo, they’re doing the Kangol Crew,’ and he said, ‘Motherfucker, that is the Kangol Crew.’ I’d never seen them in person, I just knew their names. And it was a guy named Ricky D, who became Slick Rick; it was Dana Dane, who became Cinderfella Dana Dana; and their homeboys Lance Romance and Omega. And then, they stopped doing that and then all of a sudden, this dude beatboxes and his name is Doug E. Fresh and they start doing this record called ‘Ladi Dadi’ that I had never heard before.”
2. On His Beginnings As A Battle Rapper And The Pressure Of Being A White Rapper
Initially discouraged from pursuing a career as a recording artist due to his race, Serch gained notoriety as a battle rapper. “One of the things I learned early on was when people started battle-rhyming, they had pre-prepared rhymes,” he reveals. “Nobody was rhyming off the top of their head, so I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s gonna be my thing. I’ma freestyle, I’ma come off the top of my head and be better.’ Fuck good, better ‘cause I had to be better. I had to be ten times better cause I’m the only fucking white boy out [at the time]. The only other white people you saw at the park jam was the police.”
3. On His Relationship With Eminem
As one of the first white rap artists to gain respect within the hip hop community, Serch is credited with helping open doors for the likes of Eminem, whom he says has repaid the favor, repeatedly, over the years. “Em really showed me a lot of love because at the time, him and the station I was working at, JLB, didn’t see eye to eye,” he explains. “But when 50 came into Detroit, during the G-Unit era, we did a five-day special with 50. When Em would drop something, he would come to me first. Like, when Em had the Benzino beef, he came to me first. He really showed me a lot of love.”
4. On Signing Nas
Aside from his time with 3rd Bass, the legend is widely known for his association with Nas, whom he signed to his production company, Serchlite Publishing. Serch also helped broker the record deal that spawned the release of Illmatic. “Nas tells me he’s got this deal that he don’t feel right about,” he says. “And he wants me to take a look at it and I said, ‘I can’t. Legally, I can’t do it, but if you sign to Serchlite [Publishing], I can help you.’ And he goes, ‘Well, what does that mean? I said, ‘It’s simple: It’s a one-page agreement, you sign to Serchlite, I’ll furnish the album.’ I said, ‘I won’t take any money, I won’t take any advance, I’ll make sure you get the best deal in the world and then on your publishing, I won’t take any publishing, I’ll take a 5% admin fee, which means I’ll help the publisher administer your publishing to make sure people don’t use your shit in a wrong way. So, you’re taken care of and you’ll keep all your shit.’”
5. On Helping Make Nas A Millionaire
Serch credits Nas and the production lineup with conceptualizing Illmatic, but takes his fair of the praise when it comes to navigating the red tape of its release. From handling sample clearances to negotiating a deal where the Queens rapper received the same album points as Billy Joel, Serch explains the role he played in Illmatic’s success. “I wanted to make sure all the samples were cleared so any time Primo did a record or any time any of the other producers did a record, I said, ‘Give me all of the sample clearance information.’ Cleared all the samples, all done, all under budget. Everything was done. When the album came out April 23, that first week we did 165,000 albums... Nas was a millionaire week one. He’s never had an unrecouped [first] week in his fucking career, ever.”
6. On Working With Marc Ecko
Few streetwear designers that emerged during the ‘90s have mirrored the success of Mark Ecko’s Ecko Unltd, a venture which helped spawn Complex Media and various other holdings. Serch speaks on his relationship with the businessman. “Soon as [Wild Pitch] folded, I met Mark Ecko and I started building Ecko Unltd with Mark,” he says. “I did all the marketing and promotion for Ecko Unltd at the beginning. When I met Mark, Mark was doing shirts on Broadway. It was Ill Bill, we later did Non Phixion together who said to me, ‘Yo, it’s this dude, he does shirts, you should check him out.’ So we went from ‘95 doing a couple hundred thousand [dollars] a year to when when I left in ‘98 - ‘99, we were at 957 million [dollars] a year.”
7. On Nas Owning A Piece Of JAY-Z’s Catalogue
One of the major talking points that came out of JAY-Z’s “Takeover” verse directed at Nas was when Hov sampled his former adversary’s vocals from “The World Is Yours” on his own 1996 single “Dead Presidents,” Nas didn’t benefit monetarily because Serch and Serchlite Publishing received the proceeds instead. However, Serch debunks that theory by arguing that if anything, Nas actually owns a piece of JAY-Z’s catalogue. “The true story about that that’s really crazy [is] I’m the head of CHR at Def Jam and they’re about to put out Reasonable Doubt,” he explains. “And it was either Kareem, Dame and JAY — or Dame and JAY — [they] come to my office and say, ‘Hey, you gotta clear this ‘Dead Presidents’ sample.’ I said, ‘OK, no problem, just give me $2,500. But, just know we’re gonna have 25% of your record on the publishing’ and he was like, ‘Alright, cool,’ and that was it. He gave me a check for $2,500. I delivered it to Zomba. But, if you look at the liner notes on ‘Dead Presidents,’ Nas is one of the publishers. So, I said yeah, that line can live as much as it lives, but JAY don’t own a piece of Nas’ catalogue, but Nas owns a piece of JAY’s catalogue. And that’s a fact, though.”
8. On His Approach To Doing Business With Black Artists
For years, there have been assumptions about the terms of Nas’ agreement with MC Serch that claim the Queens rapper didn’t own at least a portion of his publishing. However, Serch maintains that all of his business dealings are mutually beneficial and that he has no desire to cheat anyone, especially a Black artist in hip hop. “For me, when I think about being a production company, I think there’s two trains of thought. Train one is the artist ain’t shit and the production company makes all the money. Or the second train is the artist ain’t shit and I’ma figure out how to jerk the artist. That’s most of how hip hop has run their production companies. I had a third train of thought, which was I wasn’t gonna be the Jew to take advantage of a Black man, so I don’t need to get wealthy off Nas, and I don’t. My checks are very humble and I’m okay with that cause they’re gonna go for the rest of my life. When you think about streaming and you think about Illmatic, Illmatic streams 400 million [times] a year to this day. I get my fair share. I don’t get more than I deserve, I don’t get less than I deserve. I get exactly what the contract says.”
9. On Dissing MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice
Serch and his group 3rd Bass got themselves into hot water during the early ‘90s with MC Hammer allegedly putting out a hit on him in response to a perceived slight against Hammer’s mother by one of Serch’s groupmates Pete Nice. Serch speaks on the inspiration behind their diss record “Pop Goes The Wiesel” and the root of his disgruntlement with Hammer and fellow crossover sensation Vanilla Ice. “The music wasn’t where we were in our hearts and in our minds, and it pissed me off,” he says. “I would listen to New York radio and not hear De La and not hear Tribe, but I’d hear MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice...That’s why we made ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’ because it’s fucking crazy.”