While the anticipation for ¡MAYDAY! and MURS’ upcoming collaborative album ¡MURSDAY! continues to build, one of the album’s heavier songs was recently released, covering a topic that’s becoming all too real in our society today.
“Serge’s Song” is inspired by the incarceration of a friend of Bernz, and holds special significance to anyone that has had a friend or loved one behind bars in an ever growing and out of control penal system.
To gain a better understanding of the track’s inspiration and what it meant to those involved in it’s creation, we spoke to both Bernz and MURS and got some insight into the making of the song, what inspired it, and how they feel about the current state of the vastly expanding prison industry in America.
If you’re in hip hop or you’re in a major urban area like we are and you’re a middle-class or lower-class kid, you’re going to have friends that are locked up. So I’m sure it was personal for Wrek on one end, but it was really a song that Bernz had made for his solo record, so it’s very personal for Bernz.
Serge is a homie from around the way, somebody I grew up with and he just found himself in some bad luck and became incarcerated for I’d say about a year or two. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance. He’s somebody that doesn’t really deserve to be in there and definitely not a fucking menace to society in any way, shape or form. There was a lot of back and forth with the courts and like the system kind of messing up his whole thing you know? Without getting into too much detail for his own sake – I don’t know how much he wants me to divulge about his case – the bottom line is after seeing him in jail I came home and wrote this song.
I still have friends that are locked up and the whole time I’ve been touring I’ve dealt with that. You know, I’ve been on the street and seen dudes I hadn’t seen in years and they’re like, “Aww my nigga what’s up, man? I see you on TV cuz! You’re doing it man! When I was locked up I told everybody I knew you and motherfuckers didn’t believe me but that gave me the strength to keep going and know that you stuck with it and you did it for us man.” Shit like that makes me feel good or just being able to spend money on my friend’s book or go to visit them in a halfway house.
I’ve done the whole thing, sitting there through the glass. So I had a lot to talk about and it’s also kind of an ode to “One Love” and the 20th anniversary of Illmatic. I know there’s a lot of people out there still incarcerated or have loved ones that are incarcerated and kind of unjustly in this world, whether it’s for weed or speeding tickets. It’s just a way for the government to make money.
So for any fans that we have locked up I wanted to address them and let them know they’re not forgotten. Although ¡MURSDAY! is mostly a celebratory album, in the back of your mind when you’re celebrating you’re usually thinking Damn, if my homeboy such and such was here he would trip out! So it’s just taking a pause from the celebration to talk about someone that you care about that may be incarcerated because it’s hard on both sides. For the person that’s incarcerated most definitely and for the people on the other side trying to ride and hold it down for them, it’s difficult.
It’s not just a lower/middle class thing, it has nothing to do with race. You know when I was younger, I didn’t even know that white people went to jail. But when you start traveling and going to places like Kansas, Chicago, New York or in the south it’s just as real for everybody regardless of race.
I don’t know if I’m portraying Serge, because I believe Serge is a real person so I don’t want to get beat up, but I am definitely playing the incarcerated person, and I’ve had too much experience with that so I can kind of gauge their mentality. I’ve gotten tons of letters. I just got one a couple months ago from my boy that’s locked up. I still have friends that are incarcerated and it’s kind of just me paraphrasing what they put in their letters and what they say in their calls.
What’s funny is that no one in ¡MAYDAY! was born in America, and with me growing up in Los Angeles, I have a heavy Latino influence, specifically Chicano/Mexican-American especially on the way I am, the way I talk, walk, and live my life. A lot of my fans are Latino, Mexican or Chicano.
So, I’ve always put little Spanish lines in almost every album you ever hear from me because my family owns a dry cleaner in South Central where everyone speaks Spanish. I picked up some slang from working the counter there. I’ve also always loved Mexican girls so I was always trying to learn little phrases to say to girls. So when I heard that they were fluent and that Wrek is half-ass fluent I was like, “Well shit, let’s keep that.” [Bernz] just played it for us and said maybe we can just use the beat, but when he explained the song to us we were like, “Fuck that, we’ll just rap in the middle!”
It was supposed to be an all Spanish song, but I fucked that up…
Honestly the song at first was just kinda rollin’ around and probably was gonna be on my solo [album], but that whole section where MURS and Wrek rhyme, I didn’t have anything on it anyway, I didn’t know what to do there and I played it for MURS out of nowhere and he loved it and really wanted to put it in the album.
At first I was scared, because obviously the song is in Spanish, but he showed me that so much of his fan base is Spanish and Mexican and Latin and told me that I need to embrace that side of me more, so we just rolled with it and it was his idea to kind of make it into a tribute to Nas’ “One Love” so it was cool.
THE PRISON SYSTEM IN AMERICA
I mean, we shouldn’t be making money off people’s freedom, or off human beings which is kinda what seems to be happening. It seems like they’re taking longer to change certain laws and change certain things because it’s in their benefit you know? It just sucks, I’ve never been to jail and I don’t know what it was like before it was privatized or after, but what I do know is the numbers keep going up and so many people are in there for stupid reasons you know?
There needs to be some sort of an overhaul. Some sort of… I don’t know, we need to overhaul the system and kind of start to redirect and [re-thing] what rehabilitation is and start to really put hard criminal offenders in one place, different from places where maybe people have drug problems or whatever.
So we’ll see what happens. It’s an ongoing struggle, it’s like a human rights thing.
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- Do you have any friends that are incarcerated?
- What do you think of the prison system?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.