3rd Bass was one of a still-small number of white hip-hop artists to achieve wide acceptance in the larger community. Along with the Beastie Boys, 3rd Bass proved that white hip-hop wasn't necessarily going to become a watered-down, commercially exploitative rip-off of the genuine article, as so many white interpretations of black musical forms had been in the past. Instead, they were possessed of a well-developed lyrical technique and were respectfully well-versed in hip-hop culture and tradition. They helped set the tone for the way white rappers could credibly and intelligently approach the music, and despite staying together for only two albums, they managed to create a highly positive lasting impact.
3rd Bass was formed by Queens-born MC Serch (born Michael Berrin) and Brooklyn-native Prime Minister Pete Nice (born Pete Nash), along with African-American DJ Richie Rich (born Richard Lawson). Nice had been an English major at Columbia University and hosted a short-lived hip-hop show on radio station WKCR. Serch, meanwhile, had honed his skills battle-rapping at clubs and block parties and had previously released a solo single called "Hey Boy" on the small independent Idlers label. Both Serch and Nice were working as solo acts until producer Sam Sever convinced the two 20 year olds to join forces in 1987. Along with Prince Paul and the Bomb Squad, Sever produced their 1989 Def Jam debut, The Cactus Album (aka Cee/D), which was greeted with enthusiastic reviews in most quarters. Clever, good-humored singles like "The Gas Face," "Steppin' to the A.M.," and "Brooklyn-Queens" helped make 3rd Bass's name in the hip-hop underground. They followed it in 1991 with Derelicts of Dialect, which featured one of the first recorded appearances by Nas and contained a viciously funny jab at Vanilla Ice called "Pop Goes the Weasel." Accompanied by an equally humorous video, "Pop Goes the Weasel" became 3rd Bass's biggest chart single and performed some much-needed damage control in the hip-hop community: not only did it prevent 3rd Bass from getting lumped in with Ice, but by extension, it also distanced at least some of the Caucasian race from the whole phenomenon, opening doors for greater inclusiveness later on.
Despite their success, 3rd Bass disbanded in 1992 when MC Serch went solo. He issued Return of the Product later that year, and the remainder of the group, billed as Prime Minister Pete Nice & DJ Daddy Rich, teamed up for Dust to Dust in 1993. Neither was as successful or high-profile as the two gold-selling 3rd Bass albums. Serch, interested in discovering new talent, became the head of A&R at the respected, now-defunct Wild Pitch label, and later founded his own label, Serchlight Productions. Nice, meanwhile, dropped out of the music business and opened a store in Cooperstown, NY, that sold baseball memorabilia. In 2000, 3rd Bass reunited for several concerts. ~ Steve Huey