A couple days ago while lampin’ and loungin’ on vacation I was doing my usual early morning boob-tube perusing. Couch surfing through a sea of Maury, Everest, online College, and injury lawyer ads I saw a familiar face and name flash across the screen. It had been some time since I willingly ingested the fodder commonly known as “daytime talk” so needless to say I was surprised to see hip hop alum, and pillar of 3rd Bass MC Serch next up to join the ranks. For those that may not be familiar with MC Serch here’s a brief overview.
Serch, born and raised in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, found that his experiences growing up would help to create the person we see today as well as provide the inspiration for him taking on daytime TV. Being from the Orthodox Jewish side of the fence Serch would learn the importance of family and sacrifice, while his experience and the friends he made in the nearby Redfern Housing Projects would teach him about the tenets of survival, hardship, love, community and strength. After immersing himself in hip hop Serch would later go on to become one of the members of rap group 3rd Bass which would subsequently lead to him being the executive producer on Nas’ Illmatic, It Was Written in addition to doing the same for a number of other projects.
After coming across the ads and checking out the first episode of the show I thought it only right to get the word from the man himself. Usually these daytime shows are sensationalist arenas of chaos, with guests resorting to assaulting or berating each other for what ultimately seems no reason at all – most shows end up in a whirlwind like that one watering hole scene in Mean Girls – but I noticed something about the way Serch ran his show. Unlike the defunct ringmasters of the daytime circus we all know too well Serch was making an honest effort to help guests find resolve and solutions to the issues expressed on the show. Watching the show I’d witness him reign things in. Whether that be his “BS- Meter”, kicking G.A.M.E.(Grown Ass Man Education) or hitting the tumultuous guests with a Buddhist proverb to circumvent the madness. Granted this was the first episode and considering that audiences have been left jaded by years of what has become conventional daytime TV madness we got in touch with Serch to find out what was really good with his new show and how his past in television and radio played a role in its development and execution.
MA: I know you don’t have a lot of time so I’m just gonna sort of get into things about the show. Once again its great to see you back on TV, it was a trip to see the previews for the show.
MC Serch: Oh, thank you man, it’s good to be back and doing something that’s hopefully helpful and puts hip hop into a different kind of light.
MA: How did the show came about? Because I know you have a history in radio and TV and I’ve heard you mention a few times that this is just another extension of that.
MC Serch: Yeah, [the radio show in] Detroit started out being me and two comedians, and then 30 days into our show, this dude called in saying that he was going to kill himself. Basically, we talked to him for three and a half hours live on the air, didn’t cut to commercials, didn’t do anything, talked to him, had other people call in and it really became a whole movement in the city this one day and the news picked it up and we finally got the guy to agree to put down the gun.
Right after we did that like all of a sudden we became this counseling show for Detroit. We started having to do marriage counseling, and couple counseling, and it became this extension of our comedy bits and all of that. And then when “The White Rapper Show” came on, Steve Wall who now is my agent, saw it and was like ‘Yo, this guy is giving out advice to these white rappers, like, he should probably have a talk show. Like he would be great to do a daytime talk show.’ He went back and he listened to the radio demos that I sent him because I had really very little on TV experience except for “Bamboozled” and some other acting that I’d done. He was like, ‘No, what you’re doing on radio could be an extension of what you do on TV.’ It started like in ’07 and this process has been six years to get it to this point.
MA: Oh wow, that’s amazing. From what I’ve seen on the show, being the presence that you are and the figure that you are in the hip hop community, I feel like that allows people to trust you more and sort of let you into their lives.
MC Serch: What I learned is there were three people that came on the show: the people that knew who I was from 3rd Bass, then there were people who knew me from VH1, and then there were people that just knew who I was because we had an amazing field producing and segment producing crew who was like ‘Yo, this guy wants to help fix relationships, do you want to be on TV?’ The people that didn’t know who I was were really like floored after they came on the show and heard what I had to say and would tweet back to me like, ‘I didn’t know rappers were so deep!’ [Laughs]
MA: Yeah, word! Exactly right?
MC Serch: Y’know what I’m sayin? Dudes who knew I was in 3rd Bass knew I had knowledge of self and knew I was a smart guy and people that watched the VH1 show knew I could talk straight and talk to them about themselves and really not sugarcoat shit.
MA: The dynamic that I peeped on the show is that you’re just being real and forward. In one of the episodes there was a lot of chaos going on with the guests and you made sure that you stopped them and said, ‘This isn’t a trivial show meant to demean anyone, we’re looking for resolve.’ That’s something in that realm of daytime talk shows you don’t really see someone really stopping the chaos or stopping everything and slowing everyone down and taking time to be like, ‘This is not some sort of sensationalist show, this is something where I’m really looking for change in these people’s lives.’
MC Serch: Yeah, listen, let’s just keep it 100 because it is what it is. We’re gonna have sensationalism, there’s gonna be conflict, and there’s gonna be arguments. People are coming on the show because they have beef with each other and in some instances, with our teens, they have beef with the world, they’re just angry at everybody.
MA: Yeah… very true.
MC Serch: So, we’re gonna have conflict but I will not do a show where people call each other names, I will not do a show where people are physically abusive to each other; that’s not what I signed up for. I want to have people who have conflicts, have interesting stories but they’re asked beforehand, ‘What do you want to see happen here?’ like, ‘What is your end-game?’ Sometimes even in between commercial breaks I have to say to them like, ‘You’re going a little left here, what do you want to see happen?’
MA: You gotta remind them…
MC Serch: Talk to me about it. We’ve been really fortunate that the people that came on were like, ‘Look, I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t know what to do.’ That’s when our staff comes in beforehand and after to help them try to find counseling and help them try to find therapy in their markets and try to kind of continue the communication and the conversation beyond the hour that they’re on TV.
MA: Ok, yeah. That was the next thing I was going to ask. How are you and the show’s staff, going forward, making sure that the change is lasting in these people’s lives and making sure that they stay on the right track.
MC Serch: Well listen, I can only do but so much, because again, I’m not a therapist, I’m not a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist or psychotherapist. I’m just a guy who had a lot of therapy. [Laughs]
MA: Word ok, I feel you.
MC Serch: But what I can do and what we tried to do, the best we could, is to connect people. Our producers would say, ‘Do you want a list of therapists in your community’ or barter, we try to barter with therapists. We did the best we could to connect these guys. Like we had two sisters on who didn’t know how to communicate with each other, who could only get violent, so we put them on a train of thought of saying, ‘Focus on what’s good in your relationship, focus on what you want to see happen in your relationship, and then take the negative out.’ Well that train of thought, that’s like a goal for therapy. So what we try to do is continue that outside the spectrum of our show.
MA: So what do you look to accomplish with the show?
MC Serch: Again, I’m just going to keep it official with you. In my heart of hearts I feel [accomplished] already when people who watched the show live stop me on the street and just hugged me, and told me, ‘You changed the way I speak to my husband.’ Or people tweet me now, and hit me on social media going, ‘You changed the way I look at and talk to my son and daughter,’ or ‘You changed the way that I am now approaching speaking to my kids.’
MA: Yeah, that’s definitely something that’s needed. In the hip hop community, in the urban community, a lot of talking doesn’t go on, so it’s great that now, even if it is just for an hour during the day that people have this outlet where they can see that reflected and implement in their lives. I think that’s something amazing that you’re doing with this.
MC Serch: Well that was the whole point of doing it. When this came to me and I sat down with the people at CBS Television Distribution and I sat down with our media partner Tribune, Matt Cherniss – who is the president of Tribune – and he goes, ‘What’s your mission statement? Why do you want to do the show?’ I’m gonna keep it official, I didn’t really think about it, I knew I wanted to do a show but it caught me off guard, like what my mission statement really was and I was told, ‘Well think about it.’ I’m a guy who’s really good off the top of the head. What I said to him was, ‘What I saw in Far Rockaway, coming up, was a lot of people on their hustle. You get so worried about feeding the babies and just having the lights stay on and the heat in the winter that we lose our moral compass because what becomes the most important thing is how to get bread.”
MA: True, true…
MC Serch: So what I hope for is an hour everyday that you can get out of that hustle-mode and that grind-mode and go, ‘God, you know I never thought of it that way.” And try to put a new perspective on your life and try to just change the way you think, even if it’s for an hour and try to implement it in to your daily life with how you communicate with people. In a lot of ways I’ve accomplished that. It’s like when Russell [Simmons] asked me, ‘What do you hope, what is a goal for you for 3rd Bass?” and I said, “If we sell 1,000 records in New York I’ll be the happiest guy on the planet Earth.” You know what I mean? We went on to have an amazing career. It’s very similar to this now, I hope the most high has a plan for me for this to go on further and longer and this be the next thing that I do in my career. I think I was really meant to do this, but if not, these 20 episodes, these three weeks that we’re gonna be on the air, these four weeks that we’re gonna be on the air, I’ve done what I was supposed to do.
MA: There is just one question that I wanted to throw out there. It Was Written or Illmatic, for you personally?
MC Serch: [Laughs] This seems to be a growing question that I’ve been asked. Even from like the guys on the Insider and Eye Opener TV. It’s become a kind of ‘pop-genre’ question. My answer is this; Illmatic was amazing to be a part of. To be a part of listening to those songs as they got demoed, as they got mixed, and as they got mastered. Besides I’m A Villain and another demo, Nas made ten songs that you hear on the album, he delivered ten songs. It Was Written to me is so vastly different from Illmatic because in a period of a year, Nas grew tenfold. Like, Nas couldn’t have written “I Gave You Power” on Illmatic, you know what I mean? “I Gave You Power” is one of the most powerful, well-written records I say, arguably, in hip hop history. From the viewpoint of a dirty pistol… So it’s tough to choose between the two, but because I was so internally close, I’m gonna say Illmatic for me. On a separate note thank you for Boldy James and My First Chemistry Set. I’m a big Boldy fan and I love Boldy. I actually signed him to Serchlight Publishing, that’s how much I loved him.
Serch is produced by CBS Television Distribution and Tribune Studios and is currently airing on Tribune stations in eight markets. Follow @MCSerch on twitter and hit up www.mcserch.com for updates and more info.