MC Serch: Back to the Grill

Hip-Hop culture is definitely something Serch knows well. The Jewish MC released four albums in his career and executive produced Nas’ first album, the critically acclaimed Illmatic. But there’s more to Serch than just his past, there’s his future. Next month, he will release a new project, Many Young Lives Ago: The 1994 Sessions, which features never released tracks that he found in his basement. sat down with the legend to learn which contestants most resembled a young Serch, why he has no interest in working with Nas, and why an album recorded in the ‘90s still has relevance and resonance today. You are coming out with a new album yourself. Can you tell me about your project, Many Young Lives Ago: The 1994 Sessions?

MC Serch: I found these masters literally in a box in my basement last year. And I took them out and started remastering them really for my own head, to hear them. These weren’t necessarily songs that were per se going to be on my album as much as they were songs that I was recording for that album. I always recorded a bunch of songs and then cherry picked which songs I was going to do. After listening to them and mixing them down, and taking like eight or nine months to sit with them and chill with them, I felt like they were a pretty good representation of who I was back in ‘94 as a 25 year-old MC who was really about to go on a whole different level. You know I was executive producing Nas’ [Illmatic] album, working on O.C.’s Word...Life album, I was about to be dad for the first time, I was where I wanted to be in a lot of ways. It was interesting to listen to that guy, that MC from ‘94 and relate to who he is now. If it’s just the MC you were in ’94, is it still relevant now?

MC Serch: I think the only reason it’s relevant is if you miss ‘94. If you’re one of those guys that really love early East Coast Hip-Hop, then I think it has extreme relevance. I think if you’re a person that holds the flame a little bit for 3rd Bass or are a “bass head” that stays on, then I think it’s important for you. But is it important for a Yung Joc kid? No. Is it important for a fan who likes Jeezy? No. I don’t really expect them to get it or want to get it nor do I care if they get it. This is really an introspective record, something that Hip-Hop doesn’t do. Most of the album was recorded in ‘94, the same year as Illmatic and Word...Life, two classic projects you were heavily involved in. Can you put your album in the context of these two?

MC Serch: Not even in comparison. Illmatic was just brilliant. It was an MC who didn’t even know what his full potential was. O.C.’s album was just a guy who was trying to find himself and focus. I was in a different place. I didn’t feel like I had a lot to prove. I was in the lab because I loved being in the lab. I made the majority of my album in my studio in Long Beach, Long Island with my partners and friends. We would just bounce records and baselines and just flow and not really think about the implications of it. Nas and O.C. had a determination and drive to make an album. What are your thoughts on Hip Hop Is Dead? Will you and Nas ever work again amidst the “Where Are They Now” hype?

MC Serch: I love Hip Hop is Dead. And no, I don’t really see us working together anytime in the near future. He has a different agenda than mine. I have a different agenda. I don’t really see us collabing anytime soon. And I don't really have an interest to be honest with you...and it’s not a negative thing. But it’s not about making music for me anymore. If I feel the urge…like I did a mixtape in Detroit, I did another with Raw Collection. Every now and then I’ll pop my head up and do a 16 hear or a 16 there, but it’s not really about making records anymore. It’s about being raising my children, being a good father, a good husband. I have other priorities. It’s just not about making music but battling is a different story. I’ll take a dude’s head off to this day. When you look at the success of MF Doom, Non Phixion and others, what role do you think you personally played in laying the foundation for New York’s underground movement?

MC Serch: I think in terms of Non Phixion, I helped get them a studio, an opportunity for them to build their sound…give them a place where they could go every day to make music. I built the studio that they used up until five years ago with my bare hands. I structured their first deal so that they would have freedom to be their own artist because I knew early on that their path was going to paved by themselves. Nobody was going to come out of the box and say, “This is what Hip-Hop should be and this is the the next wave is.” They built their fan base. To me, they’re the Ramones of Hip-Hop. I don’t know if I had much to do with Doom. We haven’t talked in like 12 years. I don’t think I can take any possible role...that’s really him and his love for rhyming and making music and being an MC and just pushing the envelope. The only thing I can say is that I got him his first deal in 1989 and gave him the opportunity to be heard. In 2000, 3rd Bass briefly united, is that still in effect?

MC Serch: Yes, those songs are also on this album. What was that like after eight years of diss records and hiatus and all of that stuff?

MC Serch: It was good. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t really diss [Pete Nice] on my album, P had a couple of things to say about me on “Rat Bastard,” but I didn’t really care. I had already proven myself. Anything he said, I deflected. I deflected with my moves, whether doing marketing and promotion with Echo, and building that brand, the Serchlight brand and building Nas and O.C. and Non Phixion. So at that point I was like, “Come on man, let’s just get in the studio and make music. Let’s just have some fun and make some records.” And it wounded up really good. We had fun in the studio being at D&D [Studios] and recording. But unfortunately we were at a point in our careers and our lives where we couldn’t commit the time to making an album anymore. But it was definitely special for that month, month and a half that we were in the studio. But it just made us realize that unfortunately we were in a different place, we just could not make that record. Million dollar Question: Was “Back to the Grill Again” inspired by Main Source’s “Live at the BBQ”?

MC Serch: I honestly believe that any posse cut that came after “Live at the BBQ” was just trying to be “Live at the BBQ.” “Live at the BBQ,” with the exception of maybe [A Tribe Called Quest’s] “Scenario” and maybe one other record is probably the greatest posse cut in Hip-Hop history, period.