Set in a camera-filled, roach-infested warehouse in the South Bronx, VH1’s The (White) Rapper Show combines tried-and-true Real World roommate tensions with Project Runway–style elimination rounds. M.C. Serch, of the early-nineties white-rap group 3rd Bass, plays mentor to ten contestants—including John “King of the Burbs” Brown (from Davis, California), Misfit (the English femme fatale), and Persia (the tough girl from Queens)—battling for a $100,000 grand prize. He spoke to Brian Keith Jackson.
In the first episode, the rappers were sent out bearing gifts of Saltines and offers to rap for their new neighbors. How were they received?
Most of the people were pretty happy. They were like, “Thank God you’re up here and you care about representing the place that started hip-hop.”
Why do you throw the sneakers of the eliminated over utility lines?
I grew up in Far Rockaway, and you’d always see shoes on the line. It can represent many things, a loss in the neighborhood, but for the show it’s about, “Step off.”
The contestant Persia is also from Far Rockaway. Why did you punish her for using the word nigger?
The overwhelming opinion is it can’t be tolerated. It sends out the wrong message. She was using it from a place of comfort, and she grew up with it. But that core of friends doesn’t extend beyond that core of friends.
So the remedy was to hang a thick chain with a blinged-out N-word insignia around her neck?
Yeah. Chains have strong historical implications. We made her wear it for 24 hours, and immediately you could sense a difference in her attitude.
Did you feel discriminated against as a white rapper?
There’s always the question of credibility. I had to be twice as good as the next man or woman. Even though most of hip-hop music is being purchased by white people in the suburbs, there’s still a prevalent feeling of “How can you know about hip-hop?” But I think the biggest problem white rappers encounter is with themselves. They don’t find comfort in doing what they need to do. How can you call yourself a white rapper if you’ve never performed in front of black people? It’s a black art form.