The $50k bounty MC Hammer put on MC Serch’s head
(Credit: Spotify)

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The $50k bounty MC Hammer put on MC Serch's head

MC Hammer is still widely considered a gimmick hip-hop artist who commercialised the genre and sold out. With his 1990 single ‘U Can’t Touch This’ receiving two Grammy awards, the culture saw his smiley, upbeat dance music as a fraudulent rip-off of hip-hop. This includes figures such as 2Pac.

In an appearance on Kron TV in 1991, 2Pac accused Hammer of “diluting rap” and exclaimed, “He’s making something — he’s playing that Sambo role, and the reason everybody’s buying his record is because he’s no threat, and everybody wants to see Sambo dance.”

However, 2Pac, akin to MC Serch, didn’t realise that behind his smiley public character, MC Hammer (real name Stanley Burrell) was an unadulterated gangster who was friends with Suge Knight and knew dangerous people.

MC Serch was a member of the Queens trio 3rd Bass, who had their fair share of success in the late 1980s and early 1980s New York rap scene. However, in 1989, the lyricist (real name Michael Berrin) found himself with a $50k bounty on his head after a misunderstanding by MC Hammer, who believed he heard a lyric aimed at him on the 3rd Bass song ‘The Cactus’.

In 1989, 3rd Bass released their album, The Cactus Album. However, the year before, MC Hammer had released a song called ‘Turn This Mother Out’. In their lead single, ‘The Cactus’, in an attempt to be lyrically savvy, 3rd Bass emcee Pete Nice wrote a line for Berrin that heard him rap, “The cactus turned Hammer’s mother out.”

Speaking on the Ed Lover Show in 2015, Serch recalled a story when MC Hammer’s brother called his record label to kill him in Los Angeles, remembering, “We’re in the air, and Carmen Ashhurst-Watson, who was the president of Def Jam at the time, picks up the phone and hears someone say ‘Is 3rd Bass on their way to LA?’ And she goes ‘Yeah.’ And the voice says, ‘Good. They’re dead. This is Louis Burrell.’”

In a 2018 interview with DJ Vlad for Vlad TV, Serch admitted that the threat on his life put so much fear in him it broke him, revealing, “I’ve been through 25 years of therapy three days a week. I am not good. I wish I could be good. But when somebody tries to kill you over a rap lyric? … Understand what it feels like to not know that you can turn a corner without someone trying to kill you for $50,000.”

You can hear the line from ‘The Cactus’ in the video below.