Happy Hanukkah! The Jewish "Festival of Lights" comes early this year. (Blame the ancient Hebrew calendar for the annual confusion—it doesn't line up with our modern one.) Hanukkah is the time when Jews worldwide celebrate a miracle that supposedly happened at a temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century B.C. Back then, a group of Jewish rebels called the Maccabees defeated the Greeks who had taken over the city. When they cleaned up the temple and rededicated the place to Judaism, they needed oil to burn in the lamps overnight. (For religious reasons, you were supposed to keep a lamp lit in a temple overnight.) They only had enough oil to burn for one night, but (here's the miracle) that little bit of oil burned for eight nights—long enough for them to get more oil, and keep things going. So that's why the holiday lasts for eight days. (Well, eight nights, technically, and seven days.) And why we light an eight-pronged candelabra called "the menorah," adding a new candle each night. And that's why, also, it seems like a good time to give thanks to some of the most notable Jews in hip-hop history. So sit back and light one (a candle) as we spin some records and the dreidel and celebrate the 8 Jews of Rap.
Written by Jeff Rosenthal & Eric Rosenthal (@ItsTheReal)
Michael "MC Serch" Berrin is no joke as a Jewish rapper. One half of the million-selling golden-era duo 3rd Bass, he personally took down fraudulent MCs, toured the world with Public Enemy, beefed with the Beastie Boys, and oh yeah, had the foresight (if not the foreskin) to discover Nasty Nas and executive produce Illmatic and It Was Written.
Hailing from an orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Far Rockaway, Queens, Serch started as a solo artist destined for a deal with A&M Records until producer Sam Sever linked him up with a Long-Island rapper Pete Nice; A&M didn’t understand rap groups, so 3rd Bass was left without a deal. Later, Russell Simmons would sign 3rd Bass to Def Jam, where, for better or for worse, Serch and Pete were considered the new Beastie Boys.
Serch’s dancing, his rhyming, and his slang—he was the creator of the term "the gas face"—were true to the culture. While his success helped push hip-hop further into the mainstream, Serch was a fierce protector of the original art form. He and Pete had no problem dissing more pop-friendly acts like MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice in their songs and music videos. 3rd Bass’s biggest hit was 1991's “Pop Goes the Weasel,” which went after Vanilla Ice and hit no. 1 on Billboard's Top Rap Singles chart.
In 1992, Serch decided to go his own way. While working on his solo album, Return of the Product, he signed a little-known Queensbridge rapper to a management and publishing deal. The rest, as Jay Z said, is history ("I know who I paid, god/Serchlight Publishing...") Over the next decade, Serch moved into acting, hosting radio shows, as well as hosting ego trip's VH-1 reality programs The (White) Rapper Show and Miss Rap Supreme. In 2014, he will hit daytime TV with his very own CBS talk show, Serch—on which he will help normal everyday people solve problems in their lives. See? Such a mensch!
Check back tomorrow for our next great Jew of rap.
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