After School Special #1: MC Serch

After School Special #1: MC Serch

‘After School Special’ is a new ongoing series of articles featuring important artists, events, labels, magazines and more that helped shape the progression of hip hop music.

The first article will focus on MC Serch, who on top of his solo music and work with 3rd Bass, has played a vital role in the development of some of the most important and influential rappers of all time. 

Michael Berrin a.k.a. MC Serch grew up in Queens, NYC during the era when hip hop was born, took its first steps, and began to speak to the world. In the mid 80s Serch could be found rocking parties and clubs around the city which lead to him releasing a few 12″ singles and eventually linking up with DJ Richie Rich and Pete Nice to form the group 3rd Bass. In 1989, 3rd Bass released their debut record, The Cactus Album, a certified hip hop classic that established the group as one of the first successful interracial hip hop acts and made Pete Nice and MC Serch some of the only respected white rappers alongside the Beastie Boys.

My main reason for writing about MC Serch is not because of the music he made, but because of the young artists he mentored and through his connections and promotions company, Serchlite Music, helped youngsters get their first break in the music industry. The first instance of this is found on The Cactus Album with the track “The Gas Face”, a song that features a young rapper named Daniel Dumile performing as Zev Love X from the group KMD. After much turmoil and personal battles, Dumile would emerge in the late 90s as MF DOOM, the masked rapper and producer that is widely recognized as one of the most unique and influential artists in hip hop. His feature on “The Gas Face” was noticed by A&R Dante Ross of Elektra Records and the group KMD were subsequently signed by the label, and so began the illustrious musical career of the mysterious metal-faced villain.

Serch went on to record two more albums with 3rd Bass before embarking on a solo career. His first solo album, 1992’s Return Of The Product, is again notable for an early appearance of future superstar Nasir Jones a.k.a. Nas on the single “Back to the Grill”.

Serch had first heard Nas featured on the song “Live at the Barbecue” by Main Source in 1991, and quickly recognized the young wordsmith as a lyrical prodigy. He became Nas’ manager and attracted the attention of Columbia Records, who would in 1994 release the legendary classic album Illmatic, for which MC Serch was the executive producer. I don’t need to say much about Illmatic, that shit is insanely dope. Production from Large Professor, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and Q-Tip… I mean… that album is legendary. Who knows if Nas’ debut album would have turned out as well as it did without MC Serch behind the scenes. After Illmatic, pressured by Columbia to produce more mainstream and commercial music, Nas switched managers. His next album, It Was Written,  had some good stuff for sure… but it was no Illmatic. So credits go to Serch for another crucial contribution to the history of hip hop.

But wait… Serch wasn’t done yet. Rapper O.C. was featured on the “Back to the Grill” 12″ single, providing one of his earliest recorded verses. Serch had heard him on the track “Fudge Pudge” by Organized Confusion and again displayed his keen eye for talent by taking O.C. under his wing and helping him sign to Wild Pitch Records. O.C. went on to release the classic album Word Life in 1994. Good grief Serch! Yet another artist and classic album that he had a hand in developing.

Still not finished, Serch formed Non Phixion in late ’94, putting together Sabac, Ill Bill, and DJ Eclipse and shortly afterwards, Goretex. Under his direction, the group released a whole slew of singles that garnered much praise from the underground hip hop world. He secured them a deal with Geffen Records, which although it ultimately fell through, helped establish Non Phixion and its members. Ill Bill’s younger brother Necro even provided production for the group, and in fact his first successful record was Non Phixion’s No Tomorrow, distributed through Serchlite Music. Thus, yet again Serch was instrumental in the early careers of still more hip hop master in Non Phixion and even Necro.

On top of all his work with developing artists, Serch has been involved in Rock and Wrap It Up since 1990, a non-profit organization focused on combating poverty and hunger, and also made many television, film, and radio appearances. All in all, the dude is a hip hop icon, and his contributions to the art form are absolutely legendary. Without his influence, who knows how the careers of DOOM, Nas, O.C., and Non Phixion would have progressed. For these reasons, I salute MC Serch for his work in providing the world with some of the greatest hip hop of all time

Kamir Hiam (USA) has been obsessed with hip hop culture since discovering rap as a child in the mid 90s. As curator of The Find's Stay Thirsty podcast, he is an obsessive crate digger, always looking for more dope music. Other hobbies include travel, reading, fitness, and science.