Record producer Sam Sever (real name Sam Citrin) convinced Nice and Serch to work together in 1987. Sever, Prince Paul, and The Bomb Squad produced their 1989 debut, The Cactus Album, a critically-acclaimed debut LP that went gold and contained a minor hit in "The Gas Face." The accompanying video, which featured a bevy of humorous cameo appearances that included Gilbert Gottfried, Flavor Flav, Salt-n-Pepa, and Erick Sermon, garnered respectable MTV airplay, and the single peaked at #5 on Billboard's Top Rap Singles chart, though it failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100.
As reported in many interviews, Serch had tried (unsuccessfully) to join up with fellow New Yorkers, the Beastie Boys. Upon signing with Def Jam, 3rd Bass inherited their label's feud with the Beasties. The Cactus Album was released shortly after the Beastie Boys – riding high on the success of Licensed to Ill – walked out of their contract with the label. In addition to containing multiple potshots directed at M.C. Hammer (who was called "M.C. Household Tool" in the liner notes), Cactus also attacked the Beastie Boys and their defection to Capitol Records.
3rd Bass's 1991 follow-up, Derelicts of Dialect, had a new target in fellow white rapper Vanilla Ice, who was the focal point of several tracks on the album, most notably "Pop Goes the Weasel." The track depicted Ice as a culture thief who watered down the sound of rap in order to pander to a mainstream audience, while depicting 3rd Bass as more respectful of the genre's traditions. Ice was also criticized therein for his refusal to credit artists whose music he had sampled (from the song Under Pressure by David Bowie and Queen) for his 1990 hit "Ice Ice Baby." The video featured punk rock icon Henry Rollins dressed up as Ice, who received a "beatdown" by 3rd Bass at the end. Fueled by the heavy backlash against Vanilla Ice at the time, "Pop Goes the Weasel" gave 3rd Bass their only Top 40 single (peaking at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100), and helped propel the album to gold status.
3rd Bass's final collaboration was the title track to the soundtrack of the 1992 film Gladiator. That same year - three years after The Cactus Album - the Beastie Boys retaliated against 3rd Bass on their new release Check Your Head; the track "Professor Booty" contained the lyric "...dancing around like you think you're Janet Jackson," which was a swipe at Serch's dancing in 3rd Bass's videos.