Tag Archives: The Cactus Album

The Ed Lover Show – MC Serch

3rd Bass’s MC Serch reminisces with Ed Lover on the group’s late-80s beef with MC Hammer.

Old To The New Q&A – Prime Minister Pete Nice (Part Three)

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In this third part of my in-depth interview with Pete Nice, the former 3rd Bass member discusses recording the group’s two classic albums, beef with MC Hammer and almost starring in one of Spike Lee’s most iconic movies – check Part One and Part Two.

How did it feel to see “The Cactus Album” go gold approximately just six months after it was released in 1989?

“It definitely felt like we’d accomplished everything we wanted to when we went into the studio and even way beyond that. We were just hoping that someone would pay us to let us make music, so to go gold was a massive achievement. I mean, to put it in perspective, when Slick Rick’s first album came out in 1988 there would be promo copies up at Def Jam, and Serch and I used to steal those and sell them on the corner for ten bucks so we could buy pizza from this place that used to be right next to the label offices. So you couldn’t even compare where we were at then to where we ended-up. It was just ridiculous.”

One of my favourite tracks off the album was “Product Of The Environment” but the Marley Marl remix that was released just took that record to a completely different place in terms of its sound and mood…

“Of all the remixes that were done off that album, that was actually my favourite. I remember when we had different producers who were presenting us with ideas and then we heard that one. I mean, we were cool with Marley Marl as it was, so to have grown-up listening to his radio shows and then have him want to remix our music, that was just a no-brainer. I think he dropped us off a tape with the beat first and then once we heard it we were just like, ‘Let’s go with that one.’ I mean, the album version was really just like an album track, but that remix really turned it into a single musically. I mean, that record in a club….”

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The album will always be remembered for the beef between 3rd Bass and MC Hammer which culminated with a hit being put out on the group when you were touring on the West Coast. How seriously did you take that particular situation at the time?

“From everything that we were told it was serious and was apparently real because we had to go through some channels with Russell with some people that he knew like Mike Concepcion who was like a kingpin out on the West Coast. We definitely met with him out there and talked to him at the time. We had security who had worked with N.W.A. following us everywhere. So it was definitely something the record company weren’t taking lightly. Apparently it all got squashed. It really all came from the song “The Cactus” where I had thrown out the line, ‘The Cactus turned Hammer’s mutha out…’ Obviously I wasn’t talking specifically about Hammer’s mother it was just a play on words based on the title of his single. But Hammer’s brother took that and just went nuts with it. I know it was his brother Louis who was the one who called-up Def Jam just flipping out when the record came out. Then to top it off they said that Serch said it, so Serch ended-up taking more of the heat for that when I was actually the one who said it. But our beef with Hammer, aside from when Serch had that little altercation with him at the celebrity basketball game dance contest, was that Hammer had actually come in and totally dissed Run DMC at one point. Now, this was very close to the time when we were recording the “Gas Face” video, so Russell had told us that all of them were going to come to the video, but actually only DMC and Jam Master Jay got out there. We told Lionel Martin to get us a big hammer and that we were going to have Run DMC kick the hammer down (laughs). So that really came out of our respect for Run DMC and was our way of saying that you couldn’t just come out and talk  s**t about your founding fathers and be in the position that Hammer was in. I mean, there weren’t too many people who looked at Hammer as being a legitimate artist at the time anyway.”

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What was 3rd Bass’s connection with KMD at the time you were recording “The Cactus Album”?

“Well, our dancers Ahmed and Otis, who were also known as Thing 1 and Thing 2, they were from Long Beach, New York and were all down together in the Get Yours Posse with KMD. Doom (Zev Love X) and Subroc were very young at the time when we first started out, and then they were doing their own material and writing. Subroc at the time wasn’t even rhyming, he just had his drum machine and was programming beats. Serch actually knew them before I did and then through the affiliation with our dancers we just started hanging out with them. If you look at the photos that are on the inside of “The Cactus Album” that look like we’re all at a house party, those were taken in the basement of Ahmed’s house. We were very close with them at that time. I remember, we were taking the Long Island Railroad out to see Prince Paul to work with him on “The Cactus Album” and Doom was coming out with us. Doom had been using the term ‘Gas Face’ relentlessly at the time and Serch said, ‘Let’s do a record called “The Gas Face”.’ So we literally wrote that record on the train to the studio and while we were actually in the studio. It was all just totally spontaneous. That’s why, even saying the stuff about Hammer on there, it was just all totally off the top of the head.”

“Brooklyn-Queens” was another big single off the album…

“”Brooklyn-Queens” was a song that I’d had as a concept back from the days of being with Lord Scotch. So that was us expanding on an original idea. The same thing with “Product Of The Environment”, which was us expanding on one of Serch’s original demos. He’d done “Product Of The Environment” with Sam Sever before we ever got together and I had “Brooklyn Queens” before Serch was with me.”

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Another favourite track of mine was “Monte Hall” although it sounded totally different to anything else on “The Cactus Album” – where did the idea for that track come from?

“The music that was used on “Monte Hall” with the Grover Washington Jr. loops was something  I’d actually planned to use for the “Soul In The Hole” song. But when we looped it up we just decided it would work better on “Monte Hall”. When you looked at Hip-Hop at the time, everyone had their love jam or whatever, like Whodini or UTFO, there was that tradition of having that type of record. So we wanted to have that type of record on the album but not be corny about it. We didn’t want it to come off as being something that wasn’t real. But “Monte Hall” was another record that just totally came together in the studio. I think I had thrown out the name and Serch was just like, ‘Yeah, we’ll f**kin’ call it “Monte Hall”‘ and then we just wrote s**t right there with Sam Sever hooking up the beats. So that song was totally something that wasn’t planned that just got created in the studio”

So there was definitely a lot of spontaneity involved in the recording of “The Cactus Album”?

“Yeah. I mean, we definitely had a lot of things planned out in terms of how many songs we wanted on the album and what the overall concept of the album was going to be. I mean, I’ve told people before how I had conversations with Chuck D about how your A-side should be the same length as your B-side on a cassette because if someone’s listening to it in their car you don’t want there to be any dead-space on your tape because then they might just put in someone else’s tape. So we definitely put a lot of thought into some things, but there was also a lot of spontaneous creativity involved.”

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Moving forward, what was the concept behind the imagery used on 1991’s “Derelicts Of Dialect” album cover with the group being shown as ageing men?

“I mean, we had the idea for the title of the album and the concept for the cover came from us tying it into the idea that we kinda came into the business as almost like bums off the street and we figured we’d go out the same way. Actually, I think the people who did the make-up for the album cover were the same people who did the make up for the “Saturday Night Live” TV show. It was something that really we just planned for the album cover, but then it turned into a whole concept for the “Portrait Of The Artist As A Hood” video. I guess overall that was more of a darker album, but it was definitely a progression and reflected our personalities at the time.”

1991 was definitely a pivotal year in Hip-Hop in terms of the friction that was happening between the commercial rap that was starting to be embraced by the mainstream and the true-school artists who were still trying to be heard and recognised. It seemed like “Derelicts Of Dialect” really fell right alongside other albums that year like De La’s “De La Soul Is Dead” and Tribe’s “The Low End Theory” as a response to the commercial music that was being championed by the industry…

“That is true and the album was probably a reflection of the time too which is something I didn’t even think about, so you’re right on point there. Back in that time period we would get offered endorsement deals for Sprite, different soft drinks and other stuff and we would regularly turn them down as it was something that was kind of unheard of back then. We were all about our credibility. Nowadays people wouldn’t even think twice about an artist taking a deal like that, but back at that time it was foreign to us and didn’t really fit into the way we had patterned our career. Even to the point where Spike Lee had Serch and I come in and read for his “Malcolm X” movie. We read for it and he liked us. I remember Laurence Fishburne was in there reading for one of the other parts when we were coming into Spike’s office. He wanted us to play two of the prison guards who roughed Malcolm X up and we were just like, ‘Spike, can you picture people going into a movie theatre and seeing 3rd Bass rough up Malcolm X?’ In retrospect I can see what he was trying to do, but we actually turned it down. As much as we might have wanted to do it, we just couldn’t see ourselves in that role. Who knows how it would have been accepted if we’d done it, but the fact we turned it down because of how it could have been accepted just shows what a different time it was back then in the early-90s…”

I’m sure James Bernard would have written a column in The Source at the time if you had taken those roles…

“Yeah, exactly (laughs). We just didn’t think that it was appropriate so we stayed away. I mean, Spike really wanted us to do it and he might have had better judgement on it than we did, but we decided it’d be best to pass on that one.”

In the same way the MC Hammer beef was attached to “The Cactus Album”, 3rd Bass’s beef with Vanilla Ice was linked to “Derelicts Of Dialect” with the infamous “Pop Goes The Weasel” video beatdown. Were you going at Vanilla Ice primarily because he was one of the most successful commercial rap artists of the time or beccause he was a white successful commercial rap artist who you felt was damaging what Serch and yourself had achieved as white emcees?

“It just seemed to be the music in general at that time. You had Hammer. You had Vanilla Ice. I mean, to a lesser degree, you had Delicious Vinyl with Tone Loc and Young MC. There was a whole commercial side of the music that was going out to the whole country. Radio was really playing that stuff and still ignoring real Hip-Hop. So “Pop Goes The Weasel” was really our answer to that. I mean, that record was successful based on the strength of the familiarity of the Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer” loop, which got it into certain places that otherwise probably wouldn’t have been paying attention to our music. It was almost like a joke between us. I mean, we figured we’d do the record but didn’t really think it would be a single. But we kinda duped everyone into playing our little game because the next thing you know you had all these pop radio stations playing the record which was actually mocking the same people who were playing it. We’d even get sent out to be interviewed on some of these radio shows and then have to explain the concept behind the record (laughs)”.

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Did you get any strange reactions once some of those pop deejays realised what the group’s intentions were with “Pop Goes The Weasel”?

“I mean, all the traditional morning jocks and people like that probably still didn’t get it (laughs). I think at that point, we’d turn up at these stations like, ‘Word to your mother’s grandmother’s aunt’s third cousin..’ and all kinds of other stupid s**t (laughs). I mean, I think our core audience at the time understood what we were doing with “Pop Goes The Weasel” and that we were using it as a way to get the message out there but at the same time still keep our own integrity. But that single definitely helped us sell more records. I mean, if we hadn’t broken up at the time I think “Derelicts Of Dialect” would have even sold more than it actually did. We were still out on tour when the group actually split up, so there were definitely more tours and singles planned in connection with that album. So overall, “Dereliects Of Dialect” could have been a much bigger record if we hadn’t split at the time.”

KMD and Chubb Rock were both featured on the album, but “Microphone Techniques” with Nice & Smooth is still one of my favourite collaborations of the 90s to this day…

“That was fun to make. I always loved Nice & Smooth. Greg Nice is just such a character. Being in the studio with those guys was just nuts and something that I’ll always remember. The same thing with being in the studio with Chubb Rock when we did “Kick ‘Em In The Grill”. The verse that Chubb kicked on there just killed me. But with both Greg’s verse on “Microphone Techniques” and Chubb’s on “Kick ‘Em In The Grill”, when they each actually got in the booth to record and dropped their rhymes, everyone just lost it (laughs).”

What memories do you gave of working with Prince Paul on “Derelicts Of Dialect”?

“I mean, when we worked with Prince Paul on “The Cactus Album” it was very spontaneous and just came together. But when it came to the second album, we definitely had more time in the studio with Paul. We recorded most of those songs at this studio called Calliope, which is where KMD did a lot of their stuff to. But we spent a lot of time in there working with Paul and he was working on other stuff at the same time, like a lot of the De La stuff. So it was a cool time creatively to be spending time working with Prince Paul. We were collaborating with him quite a bit, throwing ideas that we had at him, then he’d pick up on something and throw an idea back at us. It was a great process because Paul was never tied to pre-conceived ideas of what he wanted to do as a producer going into the studio. I mean, sometimes we’d go in the studio and he might just have one loop set-up and we’d be like, ‘Man, what is that? We gotta have that one.’ The song “Come In” is something that came together like that. I mean, the actual song “Derelicts Of Dialect” was another big collaboration between us. We already had the concept of what we wanted and then Paul came up with the 9th Creation loop that was used on that record. I think that was actually the first record that we did for the album and really established where we wanted to go with the “Derelicts Of Dialect” project in terms of it being a darker album compared to the first album.”

You mentioned earlier about the group splitting-up – was there a particular moment when you realised that 3rd Bass was over or was it a gradual process?

“I mean, Serch and I had personal problems on the tour we did to support “Derelicts Of Dialect”. We probably didn’t speak to each other for a long stretch of that tour. We’d perform and people probably went to the show and didn’t think there was anything wrong whatsoever. But we had beef together and it probably started a lot earlier than we even thought. I remember there was one point where we did a show for Hot 97 in New York and I think they wanted Marky Mark to open up for us. We told Lyor that we weren’t going to perform and he basically had to beg us to get us to do it. So he basically knew there were some problems in the group and he tried to give us a little talk which probably prolonged things for another couple of weeks, but we just couldn’t move forward together at that point.”

Was it a mutual decision between you and Serch to end the group or were either of you pushing for it to happen more than the other?

“Actually, because we were so succesful at that time I don’t think we really thought that Def Jam was going to let us split-up. We had a lot of things that we were tied into contractually as well. So I think that was a bad move on the label’s part and also with our management. I think a lot of people could have done things differently. But it’s not like we were hammering it home like, ‘We’ve gotta do our solo s**t! We’ve gotta do our solo s**t!’ So things just progressed into that. I mean, at some point I think Serch did some demos and spoke to Russell. I don’t even know if Russell just thought that we could do some solo stuff and then still be 3rd Bass. Who knows what he thought? I mean, if there’s anything that describes where me and Serch were at back then, I guess my “Rat Bastard” video kind of answered any thoughts anyone had about ‘Do these guys have problems together?’ Yes, we did…”

That video definitely didn’t leave much to the imagination…

“Yeah, I guess it kinda said it all right there…”

Ryan Proctor

Check out the final part of this interview here.

Prime Minister Pete Nice & Daddy Rich – “Rap Prime Minister & Daddy Rich (Rat Bastard)” (Def Jam / 1992)

Old To The New Q&A – Prime Minister Pete Nice (Part Two)

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In the second part of my interview with 3rd Bass’s Pete Nice, the Prime Minister talks about the origins of his and Serch’s beef with the Beastie Boys, signing with Def Jam and touring the UK – check Part One here.

What were your thoughts when the Beastie Boys first came out on Def Jam?

“When they first came out, my room-mate at Columbia who hooked me up with Lord Scotch, SAKE, he actually went to high-school with Mike D and MCA…”

Is this where MC Disagree & The Re-Animator come into the 3rd Bass story?

“Yeah, well MC Disagree & The Re-Animator were all together with SAKE, who was Mark Pearson and who actually ended-up being our 3rd Bass road manager. So I didn’t know the Beastie Boys personally at that time, but I knew all about them from hearing stories. I mean, MC Disagree, Dan Kealy, he was very close with Ad-Rock when they were growing up in the same neighbourhood and everything. I guess the whole thing was, I don’t know if it was animosity or whatever, but Disagree and SAKE would always go to earlier clubs than even I was going to, like the Northmore and other early Hip-Hop spots in the city. I mean, they were into Hip-Hop and were white b-boys before most people were. They were like a year or two older than I was in school. So they always looked at the Beasties like, ‘Yo, those guys were into punk rock and now all of a sudden they’ve got up on Hip-Hop.’ I don’t think they really had any specific beef with the Beastie Boys, but of course throw into that them hanging out with us, the Beasties coming out first, and then the “Sons Of 3rd Bass” song we did on “The Cactus Album” kind of grew out of that. Plus, at the time me and Serch were trying to come out, their record had dropped so there was now already this perception of what a white Hip-Hop group should be about, so all these other record labels wanted us to kinda be like them and we really weren’t like that. Labels wanted us to have more of a rock edge, which is why that group the White Boys got signed around that time. Most people would listen to our records and say that we just sounded like a regular Black rap group. We took that as a compliment, but we just sounded the way we sounded and we weren’t going to change that to try and get a record deal. What’s funny, actually, is around that time Kid Rock was an emcee as well. I remember when Serch was entered into the New Music Seminar and Kid Rock was there rockin’ almost like an Evil Knievel suit with a flat-top (laughs).”

So it wasn’t really a personal beef that you had with the Beastie Boys, it was more about the indirect impact their success was having on 3rd Bass getting signed?

“It was probably as much about frustration as it was anything else. I mean, we would run into them at different clubs here and there. I remember running into MCA at Hotel Amazon once, and one time I ran into Ad-Rock at a barber-shop. But of course, Sam Sever was cool with them and also Dante Ross was boys with them from way back to. So there were just a lot of common denominators involved in the situation. Also, at the time, the Beastie Boys had left Def Jam, so that added to a lot of it as well. Like I said, I didn’t really know them. In fact, the only time I ever really had any contact with them myself was when our then manager Lyor Cohen got marrried in the Dominican Republic in 1988 and he invited all the artists. I remember Serch was dying to go but he couldn’t get out of work. But it was literally everybody; Run DMC, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, LL, me, EPMD, Davy D, Tashan, Original Concept. It was nuts. I mean, if the planes had gone down there would have been no Def Jam (laughs). I have pictures of Flavor Flav in a yarmulke at the wedding (laughs). But that was really the only time I had any contact with the Beasties and they probably didn’t even know who I was at that time, they’d probably just heard about these couple of other white rappers.”

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Serch knew the Beasties previously though, right?

“Well, the other part of the beef was, Serch knew Mike D and apparently one day Serch ran into Mike or one of the other guys, went back to his place to play some beats or whatever, and apparently Mike D was kinda clownin’ Serch and Serch definitely took offense to it.”

I remember Sam Sever telling me that same story some years back when I did a short interview with him about working on “The Cactus Album”…

“Exactly. So then, obviously I’ve already got the stuff that my boys were telling me about the Beasties and then as I got closer to Serch that happened. So the situation was almost like it was destined to be (laughs). I mean, you look back on it now over the years and there was definitely some stupidity involved. I mean, when MCA passed away I was asked to write a piece for Gawker.Com (note: Requiem For A White Emcee)  and I really had to think whether it was MCA or Ad-Rock that I ran into at that barber-shop that time and it actually turned out to be Ad-Rock. So I told them at Gawker that I didn’t really know MCA and had just met him a couple of times. But there was still that common link of what we did as white emcees, so I just wrote that piece based on that.”

You mentioned earlier the chip-on-the-shoulder that a lot of white emcees carried around back then. Did that ever come into play between you and Serch in terms of each of you wanting to be seen as the better emcee in the group?

“I don’t think there was really any of that between me and Serch back then. I mean, we would compete with each other more for ourselves to make better music as a group rather than going against each other. But I think other people would always bring it up more about who was the better emcee between me and Serch. That was definitely something that I felt was brought up more to some level from fans than maybe you’d hear people having similar conversations about a De La Soul or a Tribe. But that was really on a very small scale and when you have a group containing members with different styles it really just comes down to what people’s preferences are. But that’s what makes your group diverse.”

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So did the Def Jam deal actually happen quite quickly once the label were aware that you and Serch were working together?

“Nah, I mean the whole thing was actually quite difficult for us. When the Beastie Boys came out we had demos going around and all these labels wanted something else that was different to what we were doing. So we actually got turned down by a lot of labels that wanted to sign us to big deals but then backed out. That happened with Arista and some other big labels. Then, we started to get more credibility and buzz around us from performing at different clubs and turning up everywhere. Plus, me and Serch both had promos playing on the radio with Red Alert, which for us back then was pretty much the ultimate. Even if you didn’t actually have a record out back then, you could still have a promo playing on the radio. I had a promo on Red Alert for my radio show and Serch had the promos for his early singles. Those were still playing, so we thought we’d made it anyway (laughs). Even if we hadn’t made a record as 3rd Bass, we were still known around New York. But we had a difficult time getting those records deals. Profile Records were looking at us and then when Dante was at Tommy Boy they made a play for us. At the time we really wanted to be on Def Jam and I think Lyor and Russell finally looked at the whole landscape and realised that the Beasties were gone. At that time, Def Jam were kinda down and it was really Public Enemy who were picking them up. I mean, LL’s “Walking With A Panther” was a dud compared to how his other albums did. So 3rd Bass definitely gave the label new blood, along with EPMD when they moved over as well. The first Slick Rick album was doing well, so along with Public Enemy, I think us and EPMD gave the label a new identity for them to build on. But at the same time, Russell was still always trying to find that one R&B act that he could be successful with which he finally got years later with Montell Jordan (laughs).”

I think Russell’s main problem with that in the late-80s was that the R&B artists he was signing like Chuck Stanley and Alyson Williams were largely making traditional soul albums, which compared to the New Jack Swing sound of the time didn’t necessarily connect with the average teenage Def Jam fan…

“Exactly. I mean, Tashan was incredible and Sam Sever was working on his first album when we were doing our first stuff for Def Jam, but it was almost like that record was too good for the time. But he did have Oran “Juice” Jones who kinda blew up with “The Rain” which was a big single. He was a classic, man. I used to love that guy (laughs). He was just such a character. I remember, we’d used Grover Washington Jr.’s horn licks on our song “Monte Hall” and he was also on Columbia. There was an event that the label did for this new record from Grover Washington and they invited us to it and Oran “Juice” Jones. I remember we all took a picture where I’m sitting in this big chair with the cigar, Grover Washington Jr. is above me and Juice is to the side of me (laughs). But Juice was always the guy to come up with the good one-liners and everything he said at the end of his record “The Rain” was definitely not scripted. He could just come up with stuff like that at any time (laughs). But that record totally blew-up in New York at the time.”

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Given the impact Russell Simmons had already had on Hip-Hop by the time 3rd Bass signed to Def Jam, what were your first impressions of him when you joined the label?

“Obviously we were impressed. I mean, Russell was Run’s brother and had already had so much success. “Krush Groove” had already come out and Russell was really on top of the genre at the time. If there was anyone you were going to roll with back then, you’d be rollin’ with Rush (laughs). You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at the time other than with Russell. I remember, we were talking to different managers at the time and they were telling us to make sure we kept our publishing. So we spoke with Russell to try and keep our publishing and he was like, ‘Listen, I’ve got fifty percent of Run DMC’s publishing, I’ve got fifty percent of LL’s publishing, fifty percent of Public Enemy’s publishing, so why the f**k am I going to give you your publishing?’ But back then the business side was a lot different during that period when we were signed to all the big money that came later on with all the label consolidations.”

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What was the working dynamic like between Russell and Lyor Cohen?

“Russell and Lyor would always play the good-cop / bad-cop routine in any given situation. I mean, they were genius together. As different as they where, with Lyor being the hard-nosed business guy and Russell always being the nice guy, Russell was definitely just as shrewd. I could just write books about episodes with those two all day long (laughs).”

The “Russell Rush” interlude on “The Cactus Album” still makes me laugh with Russell discussing the name of the group and then he starts talking about the Dickhead Six…

“That was totally live. What happened was, when I was still at school at Columbia when I first hooked-up with Serch, Russell would tell us some s**t like, ‘We’re going to put you out on some dates with Run’ or ‘We’re going to put you out on some dates with LL.’ There were always these carrots that he would stick out there. It even got to the point where I had to speak to one of the counsellors at my school to tell them I might have to take the semester off to go on tour with Run DMC (laughs). But then these things would aways fall through. We just got so frustrated, so I said to Serch, ‘Look, we’re getting so much smoke blown up our ass, I’m just going to take a little tape recorder in to the meetings and we’ll tape that s**t.’ So we would go into meetings with Bill Stephney, Russell and Lyor, and I would just have the s**t running (laughs). So I just had all these tapes of our meetings and when we were doing the album I remembered the tape of the meeting where we were coming up with the name of the group. Russell was trying to get a date with Paula Abdul for the American Music Awards at the same time we were coming up with the group name so that’s what’s on the rest of that tape which is just classic (laughs).”

Any classic Lyor memories?

“I remember, one time we were in London with Lyor at a big hotel around Piccadilly Circus. We’d come in at the time for those rave shows they used to have out there where kids would call a phone number to get the location of the party. I remember, there were these Nigerian princes who were funding and organising them and they’d promised to pay Lyor £25,000 for Public Enemy and another £5,000 for 3rd Bass. It was just a whole s**tload of money. I remember Lyor saying to them that he was bringing us over and if the authorities came after them or anything that he was getting his money either way. So what happened this time we went was the show never happened. Lyor flew us over with PE and De La Soul. I remember it vividly, because right when we went on that trip our  “Steppin’ To The A.M.” video was released on Video Music Box in New York. So we weren’t actually in New York when it first hit, but that’s when our record sales really started to jump. But I remember Lyor with one of these Nigerian princes in the restaurant of the hotel we were in just going crazy like (adopts angry Israeli accent), ‘Listen you motherf**king prince, get me my f**king money or you’re going to be living in the f**king bush! The king, your father, is going to send you out to the bush by the time I’m done with you.’ Sure enough, he ended up paying Lyor even though there was no show (laughs).”

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Outside of New York that “Steppin’ To The A.M.” video was largely the first visual introduction to 3rd Bass for a lot of people – where did your whole cigar, cane and suit image come from?

“I mean, it kinda came from the days when I was hangin’ out with Blake (Lord Scotch). He gave me the name Prime Minister when we were hanging-out at the Albee Square Mall. We always used to hang-out at this jewellery store K & I Jewelers which I think Biz Mark mentions in “Albee Square Mall” a couple times. Big Daddy Kane would be at the Albee Square Mall as well. So I think Blake kinda looked at me as being a white Kane kind of character, so that persona was pretty much from before I was even with Serch. Then when first did the “Steppin’ To The A.M.” video with Lionel Martin from Video Music Box, he definitely picked up on that and was like, ‘Yo, I’ve got this huge chair, so you can sit in the chair like it’s a throne with your cane’ and it really just took off from there. I mean, I was smoking cigars anyway. And with the whole cane thing, when people would ask me why I needed the cane I’d tell them, ‘Yo, I got shot in the leg when I was a kid’ and all kinds of different s**t which was fun (laughs). Actually, I remember we did one show in Scotland and sometimes Flavor Flav would tell us to ask him to come out during our set. So at this particular show, he wanted to come out after we’d done “The Gas Face”. So we introduce Flav, people go nuts, and he comes out like, ‘Yo Pete! I was at this store today. Now, you’ve got your cane and that’s fly, but check this s**t out, man.’ He takes out this thing that looks like a cane, hits it on the stage and it turns into a little chair (laughs). He sits on it and is like, ‘Look at this Pete!’ and then goes into his whole ‘Yeaaah boy!’ thing and the crowd just loses it (laughs). But I will say, my favourite moment onstage was probably in England when the Poll Tax was around.  I was like, ‘F**k Margaret Thatcher! I’m the Prime Minister!’ and the whole crowd was going nuts (laughs). That’s probably as political as we got at that time (laughs).”

I think 3rd Bass was political to some extent just by your mere presence in Hip-Hop at the time as two white emcees in a Black-dominated artform…

“The other thing that I think people totally overlooked was that we were really the first integrated group as well because it wasn’t like Daddy Rich was just our show deejay or something, he was actually a member of the group. Hurricane was the Beastie Boys deejay for shows and stuff but he wasn’t actually in the group. But that’s actually a funny story too because our first deejay for 3rd Bass was this kid called DJ White Knight. Serch knew this guy DJ Holiday who was well known in New York but ended-up going to Tennessee. Serch went down to visit him and he met White Knight there who was definitely a nice deejay. Serch comes back from Tennessee and is like, ‘Yo Pete, I’ve got our deejay.’ He didn’t talk to me about it or anything and I’m like, ‘Are you f**kin’ kidding me? You’re going to bring this kid back from Tennessee and he’s all of a sudden our deejay?!’ Now Rich at the time, he was was at school in Farmingdale out on Long Island, so he really wasn’t available. But I was trying to get to him to be our deejay and join the group. So Knight shows-up after leaving Tennessee to live with Serch. I’m just beside myself and we were in the studio at the time and I’m like, ‘What the f**k is going on here?’ Sure enough though, I like Knight, he starts growing on us and I’m totally down with him (laughs). He’s doing cuts in the studio, we did a couple of early performances, he’s in the “Steppin’ To The A.M.” video in the back of the car. He did one of our first photo-shoots with us. It was almost like he was the fifth Beatle or something (laughs). But it turns out, him and Serch had some sort of falling out. Knight was living with Serch and his girl, some s**t happened and next thing I know they kinda split-up and Knight’s heading back to Tennessee (laughs). So Serch brought him in and Serch took him out (laughs). I was as baffled when he left as when he came. So that’s a bit of 3rd Bass trivia for you (laughs). But after that happened, that’s when I told Rich that we wanted him. We had already produced the first album but Rich did those early tours with us and then when we got into the second album Rich was involved with the production.”

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I still have tapes of your appearances on Tim Westwood’s Capital Rap Show from 3rd Bass’s visits to the UK – what do you remember of being on-air with Tim in London?

“I remember Tim had the late-night show on Capital Radio at that time and we used to go up there with this guy from Def Jam in the UK called Trenton. I just remember going up there late-night after we’d been running around all day with Serch going nuts and Tim would end almost every line he said by saying ‘Respect!’ So it just became a running joke between me and Serch where we would imitate Tim Westwood all the time (laughs). Then we’d get back to the States and hear is tapes back home and there was somewhere that used to list his charts in New York and we’d see we’d made it onto his charts and be happy about that. But Tim was was always very receptive to what we were doing and gracious enough to have us on his show so we always got along well with him.”

Ryan Proctor

Check Part Three of this interview here.

3rd Bass – “Steppin’ To The A.M.” (Def Jam / 1989)

Who’s On Third? – 3rd Bass

1990 3rd Bass appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show” – Pete Nice and MC Serch discuss racial Hip-Hop politics of the time before performing “The Gas Face”.