It’s coming up on 8 months since the death of Adam “MCA” Yauch, member of one of the best hip-hop groups of all time, the Beastie Boys. Now that some time has past, I’m able to reflect with a clear mind (and not cry) on how much the Beastie Boys were part of my life growing up. When hearing the news of Yauch’s passing, I felt completely shocked. We all knew he had been battling cancer for a few years, but still you never think it will take the life of a 47 year old Master MC. My mind went immediately back to grade school. I was at St. Lucy’s elementary school and it was recess. We were outside in the schools parking lot, when I heard this awesome beat that was like nothing I had ever heard. I remember it so vividly. There was a boy named Brian Morris and he was much older, in 7th or 8th grade and a bad boy. In fact I’m pretty sure he ended up getting kicked out of school later on that year. Brian was so cool and never went anywhere without his massive boom box (that probably weighed more than me and my friends). The beat that we heard that day as bad ass Brian strutted around with his boom box on his shoulder was the Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey”.
If you grew up in the 80’s, you know how special that time was. A time of innocence before the digital world took over. The movies and music were incomparable, and with it emerged Music Television. MTV was a kids dream come true. All my favorite songs combined with movie-like videos, YES, more please! The videos were the visual stories of all the songs we heard on the radio. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Madonna’s “Like A Virgin,” and The Beastie Boys “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” are just a few that still resonate with me today. The Beastie Boys License to Ill was released in 1986 and to this day, more than 25 years later, it is still one of the best hip hop albums of all time. Just who were these 3 jewish white boys from NYC that mastered the sharp tongue of “Rymin & Stealin?” I think it’s only right we take it straight from their rhymes from my favorite Beastie Boys song, “Paul Revere”, which just happens to be No. 19 on Rolling Stones “Top 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time.”
“Now my name is MCA I got a license to kill, I think you know what time it is, it’s time to get Ill.” Adam “MCA” Yauch, had the scruffy voice to match his rough appearance. Yauch formed the Beastie Boys in 1981 with friends, John Berry, Kate Schellenbach, and Michael Diamond. Yauch was an artist in the truest sense. He was intelligent, focused and the “Master” behind the band. Yauch’s creativity soared him into learning & achieving different ways of producing music. In the beginning, the band may have had lyrics centering on drinking and girls, but they were young. As the Beastie Boys progressed through the years, their lyrics developed to mature, less cocky, but never losing their essential formula of fun and goofy charm that always shined through.
“Get ready cuz this ain’t funny, my names Mike D and I’m about to get money.” Michael “Mike D” Diamond was like smooth criminal. Mike D had the whole cool factor, with his Kangol like hat, dark shades and big gold chain. Along with rapping and song writing, Diamond drummed for the Beastie Boys. Mike D often referred to having the “deuces wild”, in his rhymes, solidifying his coolness.
“The King Ad Rock that is my name, and I know the fly spot where they got the champagne.” Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz, was my favorite Beastie Boy, and even though Jewish, could totally pass off as an Italian. I loved Adam’s whiny, nasally vocals and boyish looks, but mostly I loved his witty rhymes. His verbal humor may have been at the expense of woman, but hey, I’m not offended, and any girl who is just doesn’t get it. From “Girls”, License to Ill, “Girls, to do the dishes, Girls, to clean up my room, Girls, to do the laundry, Girls, and in the bathroom.” Adam joined the Beastie Boys when John Berry quit the band in 1982.
I would swipe my older brothers License to Ill cassette (yes cassette) and listen as much as I could before sneaking it back in his room. “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” might have been the absolute best anthem in 80’s along with its crazy teenage rebellion music video, but the entire album of License to Ill included beats that made you want to breakdance. Songs like “Slow and Low,” “Hold it Now, Hit it,” and “The New Style,” added to their distinct and orginal sound. Along with Run-D.M.C., who were already well known with their self titled debut album in 1983, The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and Grandmaster Flash were at the core of hip hop in the early years, but the Beastie Boys could be in a category all on their own. All three members began in the punk scene so their music infused the perfect combination of rock, rhymes, and hip-hop beats. In the beginning seeing the Beastie Boys perform you would get the impression that they were just rappers, but each member was a musician, and played various instruments from drums to keyboards. In the video for “No Sleep til Brooklyn,” the band parody’s the rock scene when they show up to perform and are asked “Where’s your instruments?” The video continues with the trio dressed as a rock n roll hair band to mock the fashion and rock n roll sound of these rock n roll hair bands. License to Ill ended up becoming the best selling rap album in the 1980’s and the first rap album to go No. 1 on the Billboard album chart.
After the success of License to Ill The Beastie Boys ended their relationship with record producer Rick Rubin and Def Jam Records and signed with Capitol Records. Their follow up album Paul’s Boutique was released in 1989, with lead single “Hey Ladies”. The sound was more mature, but still contained all the groovy funk qualities from before and still possessed their trademark comical lyrics. “She’s got a gold tooth, you know she’s hardcore, she’ll show you a good time, then she’ll show you the door.”
Next came Check Your Head, which was bit of a game changer for the band. Instead of concentrating on building their songs through samples like they did on Paul’s Boutique the band opted for a more live sound and created all their beats themselves instrumentally. The fusion of heavy distorted funk became a huge hit and from this sound the Beastie Boys created on of their greatest and most popular songs “So What’cha Want”, which contains one of the best MCA lines of all time “Well I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce, You’ve got the rhyme and reason but no cause, Well if you’re hot to trot you think you’re slicker than grease, I’ve got news for you crews you’ll be sucking like a leech”
Ill Communication, the bands 4th album, was released in 1994, and debuted at No.1 on the Billboard Top 200. The single “Sabotage,” became an instant hit and is still played often on modern rock radio stations. The songs style is categorized as “Rapcore,” and further explored their organic sound with its heavy bass guitar riffs. The music video for “Sabotage” is genius, directed by Spike Jonze, and poking fun at TV crime drama’s like Hawaii Five-O, etc. With the trio as characters.
Following Ill Communication the Beastie Boys returned to a more electronic dance vibe and released Hello Nasty in 1997, which included the hit single “Intergalactic.” The song samples the theme music for the 1985 film The Toxic Avenger, which lends to the 80’s feel, but the song also has a futuristic sound. The band won Grammy Awards in both Rap & Alternative categories that year.
During the bands later years, they became very vocal on their belief against the Iraq war with protest song, “In A World Gone Mad”. Also, Yauch was a founder of the Milarepa fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness and activism regarding the injustices perpetrated on native Tibetans by Chinese occupational government and military forces. In 1996, Milarepa produced the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which was attended by 100,000 people, making it the biggest benefit concert on U.S. soil since 1985’s Live Aid.
After a fairly long musical hiatus the band returned with To the 5 Boroughs an album dedicated to New York. The samples and beats in this album are superb, the Beastie Boys were able to still work in their light hearted comical personality, while also talking some serious political stuff and world issues. A couple of classics off this album were “Ch-Check It Out” and “Oh Word?”.
In 2007 the band released the totally instrumental album The Mix-Up, this was an album that basically just showed the love that the Beastie Boys had for music and for jamming out with each other. The album wasn’t as popular as all their others, but that’s not why the put it out and as far as instrumental jazz funk post-punk stuff it’s a pretty entertaining listen.
In May 2009, the Beastie Boys announced they would be releasing their 8th studio album intended to be Hot Sauce Committee pt.1 and followed by a pt.2. Shortly after, on July 20th, Yauch announced a cancellation of some tour dates due to a cancerous tumor found in his parotid gland & lymph node. With Yauch’s illness the release date of Hot Sauce Committee pt.1 was delayed for two years. In May 2011, the band released the album, slightly altered, under title Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Accompanied with this release was the short film Fight For Your Right Revisted. Fight For Your Right was basically a continuation of the Beastie Boys adventures after the events that happened in the “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” video, this short film is extremely hilarious and probably holds the record for the most cameos from famous actors. Seriously just about anybody you can think of is in it. The band later released another awesome video for their song “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win”, depicting the band as action figures and fighting off an abominable snowman, another really funny video.
Then it seemed that almost out of nowhere Adam “MCA” Yauch died on May 4, 2012. The musician, rapper, activist and director passed away after a 3 year battle with cancer and even though everyone knew he was sick, it still came as a horrible shock. It’s sad to think that there is no more Beastie Boys, no more comical rhymes, and no more hilarious videos.
I’ve seen the Beastie Boys live twice, once at a radio concert in the early 2000’s and then in August 2007. The 2007 show was amazing, they performed with so much energy. It was a night of old school hip hop, and just plain old fun, one of my favorite concerts of all time.
The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14, 2012, just 2 months before Yauch passed. With Yauch too sick to attend, Horovitz and Diamond accepted and read a speech that Yauch had written. Yauch’s speech began “I’d like to dedicate this award to my brothers, Adam and Mike.” He also thanked his original crew, Kate Schellenbach & John Berry, including John Berry’s NY loft where they would practice in the beginning. Just goes to show you what a classy, stand up guy Yauch was, never forgetting where it all started. Lastly, Yauch thanked his wife Dechen Wangdu and daughter Tenzin Losel and called them his “soul mates.” Ok, now I’m officially crying. It really sucks when a piece of your childhood dies so prematurely, but thankfully the music lives on, which is a huge comfort. So thanks for all the awesome music and memories. MCA you will be missed.
“MC for what I am and do the A is for Adam and the lyrics, true.” – Adam “MCA” Yauch. R.I.P.
For more hilarious videos, here’s a link to our original post dedicated to MCA