Michael “MC Serch” Berrin, who blazed through the early ’90s in white rap pack 3rd Bass, is currently is steppin’ to the a.m. on his own syndicated daytime talk show. CBS Television Distribution and Tribune Studios’ Serch is currently enjoying a test run in eight markets, where the former gas-face-giver and weasel-popper goes full Maury, helping solve relationship struggles and family feuds — or, as he says in the first episode, “I wanna help people sort out through their conflicts, and get back on their grind in a better state of mind, you feel me?”
The Serch talk show evolved from his last dalliance in television, his 2007 hosting gig on VH1 honky-sploitation reality program ego trip’s The (White) Rapper Show. “A lot of people started calling me with their problems,” Serch says after people saw his mediation skills. “Like a lot of people would hit me on social media like, ‘Yo I like how you handled [contestant] G-Child, I have the same problem.” After running a Dear Abby-style column on his Myspace page, he began the six-year odyssey to starting Serch, even making a pilot for another network. “In fact,” says Serch, “the week before they made the decision not to put us on, they picked up Dr. Oz instead.”
As a host, Serch is a dry, stern, calm presence (“Why didn’t you wear a rubber, B?”) who might lapse into rap lyrics (giving an example of laughter, he launched into the opening lines of Biz Markie’s 1988 album cut “The Biz is Goin’ Off”). A regulator preaching forgiveness, telling people to “fall back,” and only occasionally raising his voice, he’s come a long way from the days of starting Beastie beef and taking baseball bats to Vanilla Ice in music videos. Rolling Stone catches up with TV’s newest peacemaker.
When you did your radio show in Detroit, Serch in the AM, would you ever have to solve people’s problems?
In Detroit, a guy called and wanted to commit suicide live on the air. And we had to talk him through it for three and a half hours straight to convince him that his life was worth living. His girl had left him, he didn’t have a job, he felt like he was gonna get evicted. He didn’t see a future. And we literally talked him off the ledge. Detroit police went in with us. He would only turn the gun over to me and my co-host. And since that moment, people were calling us for marriage advice, for relationship advice.
Did you ever find a problem you couldn’t solve?
See, here’s the thing. I’m an eternal optimist. I honestly believe that any relationship can be saved. If you can put the past in the past, and you’re able to allow yourself to heal and forgive and grow, then I think any relationship can be saved. However I also believe that some people just shouldn’t be together.
Things get really intense on the Serch stage, but there’s no figure like Jerry Springer’s security man Steve Wilkos in case a punch gets thrown…
Well, first of all, we’re not having that. I have a couple of things that I will not tolerate. I will not tolerate people calling out [of] each others’ name. Won’t tolerate it. You’re not going to hear anybody say anything derogatory to another human being. There’s not gonna be fighting. There’ll be conflicts, there’ll be entertaining conflicts, but we’re also gonna get to resolution really fast and find a way that we can give you tools that can help you once you leave the stage. That, to me, is the most important part.
What are you doing to ensure there’s no fighting on your show?
We let them know, if you get up and think about fighting, it’s a wrap. You are outta here. We’ve had episodes where people got up and got in others’ faces and I was like, Yo, sit your ass down, gritting my teeth. Our producers also let them know: This is not that show. I don’t wanna be Ratchet TV. Ebro from Hot 97 said something so amazing: We go from ratchetness to righteousness in 60 minutes.
What was the most unexpected thing about your second life on television?
I think after the (White) Rapper Show, I think what I didn’t expect was that other white rappers would want to do a season two. To me, it was obvious that ego trip was doing a social experiment. It was obvious to me, and I thought it was obvious to the audience. Here’s a show that is being shot in the South Bronx; we’re visiting 520 Sedgwick, which is arguably the birthplace of hip-hop; and we’re doing a name-that-tune segment where the rappers don’t know “Run’s House.” They can’t name an Eric B and Rakim record. You know what I’m saying? So removed from the culture. And I would get people on social media being like “Yo, fuck those dudes. When season two comes around you better remember my name. Here’s my demo.” And we were never planning on doing a season two. It was never gonna happen.
When was the last time you heard from (White) Rapper Show finalist John Brown?
John Brown hit me on Twitter about a month ago, just to check in. I had hit him prior to that when he did that record [“Sarah Palin (I Wanna Lay Pipe)”], that political record that he did that I thought was really cute. I talk to [other finalist] $hamrock all the time. $hamrock lives in Orlando, where I live. He hits me on Twitter all the time.
You’re proud of helping bring Nas and O.C. into the world. How do you feel about bringing John Brown into the world?
[Laughs] I don’t think I can take credit for bringing John Brown into the world. I think the ego trip guys have to take credit for that. I think he existed before me, and I think he will exist after me [Laughs.] You know what, you can’t be mad at that kid’s hustle. My favorite thing is that he goers to see Juelz Santana and makes a business card out of a cardboard box. His grind was so, so special
What’s the strangest place you’ve heard the words “Gas Face” in the last 25 years?
[Laughs] Can I do the most recent? On Fox, Atlanta Falcons were playing a game and Matt Ryan, the quarterback, threw an interception. And John Lynch, Super Bowl safety from the Buccaneers who’s now a commentator says, “Matt Ryan gets the gas face for that interception.” It’s bizarre. I think it would be presumptuous for me to say “American lexicon,” but it’s certainly become a part of sports lexicon.
When was the last time you talked to “Gas Face”‘s third verse rapper MF Doom?
Woooow. Wow. It’s been years. It’s been a long time. The last time I heard from his manager, Doom was having a problem getting back into the U.S. Like he’s stuck in England with a visa issue. It’s been years. We just did a record together with Kurious Jorge and we didn’t even get to speak on the [shoot]. We shot it in three seperate segments, and I didn’t even get to see him during that! It’s been a long time.
When was the last time you were in a room together?
For [Doom’s brother and KMD bandmate] Subroc’s funeral. Twenty years? And I love Doom, I’ve known Doom since he was 16 years old. His brother Subroc would cut my hair, God bless the dead.
There’s a lot of older women the Serch audience — the daytime talk show demographic. Do they know who you are?
They definitely have no fucking clue who I am. They have no clue. I got a great email from a grandmother in San Diego, Grandma Nelly, 61 years old. Who had no clue who I was but was so moved by the show that she Googled me for an hour and a half. A lot of these women are there because they’re on a list to get into a daytime talk show. But they walk away tweeting me and emailing me. I had a woman stop me on the street who was walking her dog, who hugged me and cried and said that I had changed the way she talked to her husband. It’s remarkable. I don’t think they need to know who I am in the beginning as much as they need to know what I’m about.
When you reconciled with Pete Nice and Daddy Rich of 3rd Bass, that must have needed similar life-coaching like you’re preaching
Yeah. With Pete and Rich it was a lot of forgetting. Forgetting what we did as kids and trying to move forward. We had some great shows this summer. I’m not sure how much more we’re gonna be doing of that, but it was great to get to that point again where we could be on stage together.
The first 3rd Bass reunion featured a show at Woodstock ’99 of all places…. What was that like?
It was amazing. This is a great story. My mentor, Johnny Podell, who is the booking agent for Woodstock, knew that I wanted to do Woodstock. He knew I wanted to do it really bad. And the promoters of Woodstock had no idea who 3rd Bass was. No idea. But he gets us on the opening day. We’re one of the first acts. And we have to schlep into Woodstock in the dirt, sitting in a mobile home that’s like a half-assed dressing room, and they’re being a little pushy with us. “Look, you gotta get in and out, we need this room for like Oasis or some shit.” No problem. There was a performance on the main stage. We were on the second stage. It really felt like it was like a half a mile apart from each other. And there was some really hot band performing. The early crowd was maybe about 10,000 people. In the middle of their set or just towards the end of their set, they announce, “Yo, hitting the second stage right now is 3rd Bass.” And all we see is this mountain of people running towards us. [Laughs]. And we really weren’t prepared for a Woodstock show. They were telling us, “You got 30 minutes, get on, get off.” … There’s 10,000 people now like “3rd Bass! 3rd Bass!” And we start going through the show, and girls are talking off their tops and my wife is there. It’s just bizarre. We do our 30 minutes, they’re like, “No, no, no, can you go out and do another 30?” Sure, not a problem. We wound up doing an hour. We’re about to leave, and Johnny Podell calls me and he goes, “Listen they want you for main stage on Sunday, can you stay?” No we can’t stay! No. They should have thought of that beforehand, they should have had the foresight to look into us and know that we have a following. “Well, they’ll put you up in one of the mobile homes.” I’m not gonna camp out in a mobile home to perform on Sunday with no bathroom and no shower… I still have my check, I refuse to cash it. My check to get paid at Woodstock was $300. And I kept it because it says “Woodstock Inc.”