Rockaway Rapper Hosts MTV's 'The White Rapper Show'
When Michael Berrin was a student at Far Rockaway High School in the 1980's, most of his classmates were looking forward to playing for the Yankees or the New York Knicks. Berrin, however, was into music and particularly rap music, which many of his sports-minded friends thought strange.
Berrin, however, did not much care. He went on to form the rap group, "3 rd Bass, which in the early 90's had a hit record with "The Gas Face."
Since the group broke up in 1992, Berrin has remained in the music business, first as a producer, then as a radio host and a corporate consultant for the "urban market."
Now, Berrin, better known to his audience as MC Serch, is back in the spotlight as the host of the new MTV "The White Rapper Show."
The setup for the new reality show is simple. Take ten white amateurs who want to rap and put them in a roach-infested building in the Bronx. Then, they must do lots of often race-related tasks to prove the rhyming skills and build respect with the other nine competitors. The last rapper standing gets $100,000.
Reviews of the show say that it is "instantly hilarious," and that it is both a parody and a commentary on race in music."
Berrin, who has been around long enough to have tangled with the likes of Vanilla Ice, schools the young rappers on the history of rap and hip-hop and the art of the rhyme.
"This generation can't answer basic hip-hop trivia," Berrin, who is 39, told an interviewer. "Early on, there was a history that you had to know [if you wanted to rap]. I had to know who the Funky 4+ was, who Sha Rock was. I had to know this, because when I was coming up, guys would test me."
One of the favorites on the show is Persia, a controversial 25-year-old from Far Rockaway, who describes herself as the program's "hood connection."
"You'll see on the show why a lot of white rappers are made fun of," she told an interviewer. "There's very few who can make it, very few that are real. I think that if you concentrate on the fact that you're white, then so will the world."
For Berrin, this show is likely to be his biggest pop culture moment, bigger than his success with 3 rd Bass. The Jewish musician is trying to get his hip-hop career going once again with new material, including an album that will pair Palestinian and Israeli rappers and he's working with some old tapes that he found recently in his Detroit home that he once planned to use for a solo album. He's preparing to release them as "Many Young Lives Ago: The 1994 Sessions."
Berrin, the son of Rockaway activists Merv and Roz Berrin, has come far from his Rockaway roots, but seems to be returning quickly to those roots as he ages.