On Friday, the world lost a bad-ass MC, a humanitarian, and an all-around good person when Beastie Boys founding member Adam “MCA” Yauch lost his battle with cancer at 47 years old. When the news hit Friday morning, many of us at MamaPop were profoundly affected. So, rather than just one of us writing the tribute, a few of us decided it would take a group effort to memorialize such a groundbreaking musician—a man who inspired us to fight for social justice as well as our right to party.
When I was 11 years old, I didn’t exactly have the greatest taste in music. Tiffany was my jam.
Thankfully, around that time, my parents went to Maui for a week, leaving us in the care of my 16-year-old cousin. This was totally bad parenting on their part, since Desi basically let us eat brownies and mac ‘n’ cheese for every meal and watch MTV 24/7, a channel that was theretofore verboten. However, it was during that week that I would discover many of the artists that I still listen to on a daily basis, and one of the most notable groups was The Beastie Boys. Before this weeklong indoctrination into music that was not “super lame” according to the cousin I idolized, I thought I liked all musical genres except for hip-hop and metal, but here was this band that was kinda both and I liked them. Here’s the thing about The Beastie Boys to an 11-year old who is just starting to refine her tastes: those dudes were having so much fun together, it commanded my attention and forced me to appreciate something I thought I didn’t like. So I paid attention for two decades, as they continued to top themselves with genius samples and sick beats. The Beastie Boys opened a door for me, ushering in a whole host of artists I probably would have otherwise ignored.
MCA was my favorite, not just as an MC but just as this dude you want to hang with. A devout Budhhist, a champion of international human rights, particularly in Tibet, and just an all-around nice guy who oozed positiveness. On Saturday, as I sat with my partner in the stands at a soccer match, They played “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” followed immediately by “Sabotage,” an obvious tribute from whoever was in the sound booth that day. I felt several tears wet my face as I watched the kids and parents around us rocking out together. It’s strange how something that has always put me in a good mood suddenly made me so profoundly sad, but in that moment I realized there would never be another Beastie Boys album. And that sucks.
Earl the Butcher:
I’ve purchased Licensed to Ill three times on cassette, twice on CD, and once on iTunes. I lost my Paul’s Boutique tape in a bitter breakup of a high school relationship. I skipped fourth period English class to buy Check Your Head. We blasted Ill Communication all the way to Charleston, WV, heading for Lollapalooza, where I saw the Beastie Boys for a fourth time. I can pop any of those albums in at any time and listen to the whole thing straight through.
Any new music I can stomach has some sort of Beastie in it: a distorted mic, a wah-wah pedal, or some sick sample from some song I haven’t heard since I lived in my dad’s house. When I look through my closet at all my Adidas Campus shoes, my stupid knit hats, Fred Perry track jackets, and Lacoste polos, I don’t wonder for a second where my sense of style comes from. My favorite shows to this day are Da Ali G Show and Jackass. Before all that, there was Nathaniel Hornblower highjacking the microphone at the ’94 VMAs, pranking an unsuspecting world.
I’ll let good writers argue the Beastie Boys’ stamp on pop culture. Me, I’ll just say that they were the soundtrack of my youth and, on Friday, we lost one of the best there ever was.
Enough of that—just wanna give some respects to MCA; grab the mic and Ma Bell will connect you. #RIPMCA
Last Friday morning, I drove my five-year-old to school, hitting skip on my iPhone through song after song looking for one he’d want to listen to and/or one that didn’t contain questionable lyrics. I came to “Slow and Low”, from the Beastie Boys’ legendary debut album Licensed to Ill, and it pains me to say it now, but I hit skip. Everyone has a favorite Beasties song. Mine? That’s it, for so many reasons, including the memories from my youth it evokes. So, because it’s one I listen to ALL the time, and I didn’t think my son wanted to hear it anyway, I skipped it, but not before the Boys could belt out “Let it–,” — literally a second of the song. My son heard that much and asked me to go back to it, and so I did without hesitation. And then I watched in amazement in the rearview mirror as he tentatively sang along: “… flow! … go! … low! … po!”
About five hours later, the news broke that Adam Yauch, aka MCA, aka My Favorite One, had lost his fight with the cancer he’d battled the last few years. Despite knowing it was inevitable, it came as a shock not only to me, but to an entire generation, as evidenced by the immediate reaction on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and the countless tributes since. The Beastie Boys were pioneers and a class act. The latter is even more evident now than it ever was before—in a time where “stars” are better known for getting caught with their pants down (literally) than for the art they contribute. It’s weird to talk about the Beastie Boys in the past tense; only one of them died, but the sad reality is there is no more Beastie Boys without Adam Yauch.
MCA’s passing is sad because a good, hugely talented guy died young, for reasons beyond his control. It’s devastating because it’s the end of an era. Amid the sadness, though, is the gratitude that, despite their too-short time together, the Beastie Boys left enough of a legacy to carry our kids through their formative years, as they did us.
Back when I was a skater punk snot in 9th grade, I turned my nose up at everything “establishment.” One night, my buddy and I happened upon the Fight For Your Right video as we were flipping channels in between sketching circle A’s in our schoolbooks. The conversation went like this:
“Hey, this is hardcore, isn’t it?”
“Then why is this on MTV??’
“Yeah, hardcore isn’t supposed to be on MTV!”
“Let’s just watch this one video.”
If these Beastie Boys were getting rotation on mainstream MTV, then how bad could “conformity” really be? I studied hard and went to college.
A few years ago, I was driving with my six-year old son when Fight For Your Right came on the radio. Of course he was confused as to what “your best ponomac” meant (to which I replied “a car”), but he loved it. So I played him all my old favorites throughout the course of many car rides thereafter. Then, one day, we found out the Beasties booked a show in LA. My wife brought up that they curse a lot. But the Beastie Boys as the kid’s first concert experience would be unforgettable. Given that, how bad could a few swear words be? We bought tickets.
That was the tour that was cancelled when MCA announced that he had cancer. I’m still waiting for a worthy first concert to bring my kid to.
Namaste, Beastie Boys. Thank you for always helping me find my center.
I remember very distinctly being in class in third grade and talking to classmates about this new group, The Beastie Boys. “Fight for Your Right to Party” was just starting to blow up, and I remember feeling like this was something much different than whatever music had been popular among us up until then. This really felt like something that was just for us, that we didn’t share with parents or with little kids, that this was going to be the music that helped to define our youth. While there would still be ready-made musical indulgences to be had in the form of Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, and New Kids on the Block, the Beastie Boys were constantly coming out with what was fresh and exciting.
I normally don’t feel too much about the deaths of celebrities, but MCA’s death really made me genuinely sad. The situation sucked, of course, but it carried with it such finality about that experience being in the past. But music is eternal, of course, and I’ll never stop listening to the Beastie Boys and remembering how they’ve always made me feel.