In this edition of The Poundcake we have two hip hop icons who will go down in the annals of hip hop history as innovators of the 90s. They are MC Serch, hall of fame MC (3rd Bass), visionary behind the discovery of Nas, host of Ego Trip’s White Rapper Show on VH-1, and CEO of Serchlite Music, who along with Co-Owner and President Carrie Carnie, have taken the marketing/promotional game by storm, hosting successive NFL and NBA draft parties sponsored by ESPN The Magazine and HUMMER vehicles.
In the opposite corner there is G-Bo The Pro: one of the originators of the mix tape/CD game that took off in the early 90s. G-Bo the Pro is one of hip hop's greatest DJs to emerge after the first wave; after Grandmaster Flash, grand Wizard Theodore, Charlie Chase, Disco Wiz, Kool DJ AJ and others. G-bo is in line with “THE World Famous DJ Kid Caaapriii” of Def Comedy Jam, Brucie B, Starchild, Hollywood, S&S, Silver Surfer, Ron-G, Tony Touch, Enuff, Funkmaster Flex, all of whom had a hand in the evolution of the mix tape/CD game to what it is today.
G-Bo and MC Serch made their mark in the early 90s by living outside of the box. Case in point: if there was no Serch, we probably would not have heard of Nas, or at least not until much later, and minus the debut success of Illmatic,. Serch was a regular performer at Bronx's The Latin Quarters, which housed celebrities like Kid & Play, Salt-N-Pepa, Ultramagnetic MC’s, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, Melle Mel and basically anybody famous in the late 80s. If G-Bo hadn't played the mix tape game, we wouldn't have been introduced to his “patented” 4-track intros, segways, featured MC's (like CED The Don-“Trinidadian Girl”, Agent 106), blends, and tape outros, and his signature method of not talking too much. G-Bo had Harlem cars and radios blaring his carefully tracked and edited mixes. His tapes lived by a mantra that was introduced in the early 80’s by the immensely popular radio Dj’s-The Latin Rascals. The Latin Rascals were editing, tracking, chopping and screwing mixes, if you want to call it that, back in 1983-84 on WRKS-FM. A Rascals recording was a serious commodity in the tri-state area and beyond. Today, you can still find their mixes archived on deephousepage.com to bear witness. A G-Bo mixed tape brought back memories of the Latin Rascals, but with a new twist. G-Bo influenced the game further by pushing that same particular envelope, which ironically, DJ Green Lantern follows in his own innovative lane.
So, we gathered SERCH and G-BO for one of hip hop history's greatest interviews thus far for The Poundcake: The Face-OFF: Icons Edition.
Dimelo-Holla, You know what it is!
Aww man, we got History here Baby Pa! G-Bo the pro and MC the Serch!!! That’s what I’m talking about baby… How you living?
G-Bo: LOL. I'm good!
Serch: Me twice!
When it’s all said and done, you’re both part of hip hop history. G-Bo, actually you made history when you were making mixed tapes, when it all began… before the Clues… before the DJ Dramas. How do you feel about that?
G-Bo: Obviously I didn't look at it that way at the time. Now that I have some distance from it, I appreciate the accomplishment and acknowledge that Double R and I did put a dent in the game.
And Serch, I saw the Wax Poetics look they gave you in the current issue, which features the story and photos of the legendary NY Latin Quarters nightclub. How did you get the opportunity to participate in the story?
Serch: The writer called me and was told of how I was a fixture at the club. It was great to recollect those memories and read about Paradise, Rec and the guys at the club, and their experiences.
On the Funkmaster Flex radio show, he said you were honorary in that you were one of the first white persons to be accepted in hip hop, from hanging out at the LQ? What was it like the first few times you attended?
Serch: Well it was more then a few times, LOL, I was there Thursday, Friday, Saturday every week for three years. It gave me credibility and I was allowed by Paradise to perform there. I got to cut my teeth there. I got to network there. It was the best experience for a young MC to go through. All the hustle and hard work paid off.
G-Bo, how does it feel to be considered in the same company as Kid Capri, S&S, Brucie B and some of the other pioneer DJs?
G-Bo: It is an honor to be mentioned with those dudes. I like that all of us had our own angle and were good at what we did.
What year exactly did this mix tape stuff begin? If I’m correct, it was Brucie B doing it first, then Kid Capri?
G-Bo: The mix tape thing as we know it probably popped off during the “Alpo” era in Harlem. My understanding is that Brucie used to make custom tapes for “Po” and would shout him out throughout. Brucie, Starchild, Hollywood, Triple C and a few others were names I used to hear about uptown before I (we) got started. Capri was after, but very soon after.
Why did people decide to make mix tapes in the first place?
G-Bo: Well you have to remember that at the time this was all poppin off when there was no “hip hop” radio station in New York. I think that it happened as people were installing booming systems in their rides and also, there was no place to hear the hot new joints unless you went to clubs.
Did the public catch on at first, or did it take a while from your experience?
G-Bo: Because Double R had a following with his freestyle (Judy Torres, T.K.A. kinda freestyle… not rap), house and reggae tapes people were curious about how it would translate when he became involved in hip hop. That buzz was VERY local at first. We got compared to the Latin Rascals who are also DJ / Producers from Spanish Harlem and were big in freestyle music but also DJed on the radio on KISS FM back in the days days. They didn't make mixed tapes as far as I know. Like anything, as more and more people got up on the movement, people began to anticipate the next tape.
Ok, I get into some arguments over this stuff. Heated, almost blows too! LOL. South cats think they started it but never heard of Kid Capri. This mix tape stuff started uptown: Harlem & Bronx. Some people say it was Broooklyn with the E-Brothers. All I know is that the shout outs with the echo effect was S&S, Brucie B etc.
G-Bo: I'm not a historian or anything but the first dudes I was up on was the Brucies, Capris, Starchild, etc. Maybe dudes like Hot Day were making tapes locally too but it wasn't common for them to be in the stores in Harlem till later on. Usually stuff like that evolves in more than one place at more or less the same time so it wouldn't shock me that dudes were doing it down south but it wasn't popping off in NY for them.
And… I know CJ’s Music City on 125th was selling tapes like Brucie B, Starchild for $20-30 I knew the cats that worked in there SHOUT OUT to Rock & Will! They sold them at Harlem Music Hut and even Stereo Palace in the Bronx 3rd Ave & 141st. You remember them spots?
G-Bo: Hells yeah! Those are the stores that established the mixed tape market. They were the cornerstone of the business as we know it.
I noticed you had tapes in the Village at 555 Soul and House of Nubian. What made you decide to go downtown with your tapes?
G-Bo: I used to hang with a lot of downtown heads at the time and I got introduced to Camella through my man Joe who worked at a famous store in the vill' called “Union”… I liked her vibe and she involved me in her movement and as a result I got to play at lot of different spots reppin 555 Soul. Also, the way Rei and I did business was that we had our “own” stores…so the 125th street spots were mostly “his” and the downtown spots were “mine”. We would split the out of town paper in half.
Serch, you’re in Detroit, Michigan? From NYC to the “D”. What happened…? LOL.
Serch: I was given an opportunity to host one of the most legendary urban radio stations in the country, FM98 WJLB and could not pass it up. I was the first non-African American to host the morning show in their 70-year history. I had a great run for four years and decided to stay in the area. My kids have made some great friends, I have a beautiful home and it’s cool out here. People sleep on the “D”, and it is hot out here. Summers are beautiful and I am a winter person anyway, LOL
Is Detroit a good look for your career? You’re away from NY?
Serch: I don't need a location at this point to define my career. I have an airport nearby and can fly to where I need to be, most of my work is done on the phone or via email so that is a non-issue. I wish I was closer to my parents, that is the only thing. They are up there in age and my kids want their grandparents, but my parents love to fly so that is cool as well. My career is not defined by location, unless I go to work at another radio station.
What’s the hip hop scene really like in Detroit?, We want to go beyond the veil of 8 Mile.
Serch: They have some great open mics, like lush lounge on Mondays and the Silver Mic Sessions, There is DJ Dez at Northern Lights on Tuesdays, Icons on Saturdays, and the indie scene is poppin. Stretch Money, Mr Wrong, Raw Collection, The Cardi Boys, Phat Kat, Mae Day, just to name a few. I love local hip hop and I have seen that the radio stations have been starting to play more of it lately. It is all kosher baby in the “D”, LOL!
Coming back to you again G-Bo, what year did you come in the game with your first mixed tape? What tapes were around when you came out?
G-Bo: 1991 was when we dropped #9. We started with #9 cuz Rei (Double R) had dropped other tapes before we got together, but not hip hop. Don't really recall who was out at the time but there weren't a whole lotta cats.
How long did it take to make your first tape?
G-Bo: I think it took a couple of weeks. Remember we were kinda re-inventing the wheel in a way cuz we were the first to make a mixed tape on a 4-track. So once we finished the tape we had to mix it down too. We were very proud of that first joint cuz some of the mixes sounded like we had three or four turntables… and more importantly… NO mistakes! That was a very big deal at the time. When you make a 90-minute tape with just two turntables you are likely to make some mistakes no matter how good you are.
Your tapes were different. Ron G had blends, Doo-Wop was entertaining, S&S was screaming but yours had the ill 4-track intros with crazy shit going on. Your tapes sounded like a pre-planned masterpiece! Mixes were on time and perfect. How did you develop your style?
G-Bo: Like hip hop itself, our style came from not wanting to sound like what was already out there. We wanted to impress people! Even DJs! Oh my God did they hate on us. Mad jealous. That shit was funny as hell. Of course they ALL tried to bite the style with mixed results.
When I used to go to Stereo Palace in the Bronx, the manager Steve and his brother Jeff said, “try this G-Bo the Pro & Double R. Not a lot of screaming and yadda-yadda. People like this because of the mixes and no talking.” LOL. I fell out because they were really serious. Were they accurate about your tapes?
G-Bo: Yup. We really felt that the talking on the tape style belonged to Kid Capri. To us, whoever did the same shit as him and not as good was MAD corny. They were not as good as him at his style. He had a lot of personality, dope skills and could rhyme. He was dope. We looked up to him but would never bite… and never did. We hated dudes talkin on their tapes. To us they made it about THEM… for us it was all about the music.
Serch, that Funkmaster Flex interview on You Tube Parts I–II is one of the funniest interviews I have heard in a long time. You two spared no punches, plus I’ve never seen Flex lose it like that! If I were to describe to someone how it was like, I would say it’s the closest experience of what its like to sit on a stoop in the Bronx drinking a 40! The Poundcake is calling it a classic! Have you caught any flack from the show?
Serch: NO, but I have heard that many people loved the interview. I had a great time with Flex and we have had some rough patches in the past but all gets fixed when you have a hit TV show. I really missed being on the air in NY and to air it out was very freeing. I loved it and would do it again in a heart beat.
What's the status of White Rapper Show? I believe Shamrock's the winner?
Serch: I believe the Sham is working on his album and is hopefully coming with something heavy soon. He has over one million plays on his my space page and should be signed to a label, as far as I am concerned.
If they had a “White Rapper” show when you were coming up would you have participated?
Serch: Yes I would, and would be $100,000 richer. I know the stigma that many people feel it puts you under, but at the end of the day you get a look that not even major label artists get. If you got your head on right, you can really succeed in the game with that kind of exposure. It is a great look, and the Ego Trip guys did a great job in bringing that show to light.
What did your parents think about the whole rap thing and going to Latin Quarters?
Serch: My parents love that I was at the LQ. My mom used to go there in the 50s, so she thought it was hot that I was there. I know that the LQ helped in me getting noticed and putting out indie records and performing. I had a great time there. I really secured a deal when Dave Funkenklein (G-d Bless the dead) invited me to be in the MC battle at the New Music Seminar. When I was battling, Russel came over and told me to tell anyone who asked that I was signed to Def Jam. That is how I got put on. But the LQ made me a performer!
G-Bo, how many units were you selling per week back then? How much did you sell them for?
G-Bo: What are you, a fed? Heh, we sold for 5 and the stores sold for 10.
LOL @ the fed. Ha! Anyways, how did you collect your money since they had your tapes everywhere. Did you have any problems with people short-changing you since it was new back then?
G-Bo: We would go and collect dough ourselves. Dudes usually came correct with the money cuz they knew that if they didn't we could blow them up on a tape and nobody would buy from them again. Also, we had a lot of love from the grimiest dudes in the hood so it was easy to point a finger and make things happen. I glad that never happened but it could have.
What was the first mix tape you heard and what made you decide to get in the game?
G-BO: I think the first might have been a Kid Capri joint. I know it wasn't 52 beats though.
Ho! Not the Kid Capri 52 Break Beat joint. That was a classic back then. Everybody talked about that tape. G, Tell them about Kid Capri’s 52 break beats!
G-Bo: Oh my God. Sigh… 52 beats is the best LIVE mixed tape that I have ever heard. Kid might've made two 'mistakes' throughout the entire tape. He DESTROYED all the break beats. He really killed that shit. That is the White Album of mixed tapes… WORD.
How about some other classic mixed tapes: Tony Touch 50 MC’s. Doo-Wop & The Bounce Squad, DJ Romeo aka Rome-Killa from The Rooftop?
G-Bo: They are All worthy of mention, but came later when the game evolved into something else. Each of those are classics too.
Serch, I gotta take you on memory lane too. I remember that Zebrahead soundtrack. As a matter of fact, I reviewed it in Rapsheet Magazine. I think Bobbito sent it to me when he was head of promotions at Def Jam and I think you were A&R for the project. On that soundtrack, all I remember was Nas’ “Halftime”, after which he exploded over night. How did you ever hear of NAS?
Serch: I heard Nas on the Main Source track “Live at the BBQ” and knew he was the truth. I am glad Nas came into my life. It was a pleasure working with him. Illmatic is a classic and something I am very proud of.
Speaking of Serchlite Music, what was really going on at the infamous Wild Pitch records since you were the VP? I know that everybody from Diamond D to Brand Nubian were really leaning hard on Wild Pitch?
Serch: It was a tough time for me. I really wanted Wild Pitch to happen but I was too green for the job and did not get the right footing. I was glad that I got OC signed and worked on his classic Word…Life. I got to work with the Coup and their record Genocide and Juice. Stu Fine has a great ear for music, but did not have the relationship with the artists. He had some rough run in with them and needed me to come in and be the figure head. I did the best I could but I was not prepared.
Let’s fast forward to 2007 and talk about this “hip hop is dead” thing. The other day, I counted 23 rap acts from the south that went either gold or platinum with singles and or LP’s since 1997. The acts ranged from Master P to Outkast and Cash Money, and ends today at Rich Boy, for now. New York, on the other hand, has had only four artists, Jay-Z, DMX, Ja-Rule and 50 Cent. And now only three artists are making noise: Jim Jones, MIMS and Swizz Beats. All they have are singles really. My question is this. If hip hop is dead, then I see some problems in NYC. I say it’s the whole “La Costra Nostra” stuff which was about “shutting it down” and “locking the game up”. And it did, because producers and industry people got left out if they weren’t in certain circles. Magazines taking money under the table. My god, look at what happened to The Source! What do you think?
Serch: I think that hip hop is very much alive thanks to the underground. If you look at artists like El-P, or La Cocka Nostra, or Non- Phixion, or Phat Kat, or Mad Lib, or Jay Dilla, or Black Milk, these are artists that are making a career at being underground. And because of MySpace and Facebook to name a few, and we cant forget about YouTube, you no longer need traditional networks to provide you coverage. You can build a following on your own. I look at Slum Village, who own homes and have gone around the world a bunch of time and yet most regular joes don't know them. You have to look beyond the mainstream now. Major lables are in the singles business. They want to sell ring tones. There are more singles deals for guys who want to give away their rights. Get on your local radio station and get some real airplay, like 40, 50 times a wee, and you can get a label deal. You won't own your master and you won't own your digital rights, but you will have some change in your pocket and the cache of saying I am signed to a major label. But if your smart and can make it happen on your own, you can have all that if you just have some patience. I give a shout out to Singles Klub, a label in Detroit and their artist, Mr. Wrong. He got a banger out right now called “I'm Gone” poppin in the D and in strip clubs in ATL and the Carolinas. Radio is just starting to get a whiff of him. He travels all over the country in a van and does shows. He is just getting ready to shoot his video for his record. He owns his masters. He is control of his destiny. That's how you do it. Hip hop is not dead, just to the majors it is.
The south is not free from criticism since the perception is everything comes out of the ATL and nowhere else. Have you heard any backlash from other parts of the south that are not being represented?
Serch: Now that Rich Boy who is from Alabama is on, the scene is wide open. Get on your local radio station and have a hit and the labels will come running.
What about you G-Bo. The mixed CD game is CRAZY now. It’s over saturated. A lot of these guys aren’t DJs. They just have exclusives and guest stars. Looking back from when you started, what’s good and bad about the game now?
G-Bo: The game now is different. You're right. Relationships are now more important than actual skills. Everything changes so it was good while it lasted.
When you made tapes you had to have skills. How many of these DJs would have lasted back then?
G-Bo: Sigh… No comment.
The only mixed CDs I am feeling are Green Lantern, Cut Master C’ for some hood stuff and Kay Slay. That’s about it. What do you like?
G-Bo: I fucks with Kay and Green too. In addition to bringing out new joints they expose new talent and we were about that too.
You left a mark on the game with your style. When I hear a Green Lantern CD, I think of your stuff. Not to say he’s copying you or comparing you, but that same energy! Your intros were what people were waiting for on the next tape. That mix with Hector Lavoe and Jeru the Damaja has to be the craziest… Salsa with hip hop! What do think?
G-Bo: Green Lantern is the one who reminds me of what we were doing at that time. He's a skilled DJ, producer, and personality. He's one of my faves.
OK Serch. Here we go: Another Day, Another Murder. Two high profile incidents in 60 days. I wonder what’s next: like what will you get shot listening to? It’s that serious now. Matter of fact, I got “Peachfuzz” playing in my whip now… Shout out to Subroc! KMD, like you said, were in the Batcave! With this nonsense going on, the Don Imus repercussions, and the clean up rap campaign which is basically WE BELIEVE IN CENSORSHIP, what'll change at Serchlite, if anything, since you’re hired by record labels to call radio stations and DJs to make sure records are being played and in rotation?
Serch: It does not effect us at all. It is still a hit record get on and if its not then work your ass off to get it on. I hear about the backlash Russel is getting for asking radio to censor the big three (Bitch, Hoe, Ni%%a) but they do that anyway most of the time. Serchlite will still try to get the best records on the air. We will still work with those artists who we believe best represent the culture
Can you tell us a little more on what you do and what artists/records you’ve worked so far?
Serch: We basically work almost 30% of all records that come out of the majors. A lot of records, LOL.
What projects are you working on now?
Serch: We have two syndicated radio shows we are launching, a TV show in development, a film we are in the process of buying, we are working the Rich Boy Good Things record through our relationship with Polow the Don, we are working the new David Banner record featuring Akon and Lil Wayne, as well as working with Organic music to digitize Nina Simone's catalog
What’s the industry buzz on Serchlite now? Are the checks Major?
Serch: LOL, they are always enough to keep the lights on. We have alot going on. We have spent a lot of time building serchlitemusic.com. We have spent a lot of time building the media division. We have spent years building the marketing arm. I think we are minutely small. We have a lot of growth to do. We need more people but finding them is difficult. So me and CC keep chugging along. She is my rock and without her, I don't know where the company would be.
G-Bo, what projects are you working on?
G-Bo: I'm working on a project involving the dude that made 'Trinidadian Girl', CED. I know people hype shit up all the time, but I'm a pretty sincere kinda dude. CED is in the top 5 MC's I have EVER heard in my life. I know I know… but it's true… and I've heard a lot of dudes. I think the world is ready now for CED. My new company is called Hand Over Fist. Check me out on MySpace, and my man CED. You be the judge.