|Yauch and company during the recording of Paul’s Boutique|
One of the three Beastie Boys – punk, rapper, activist, filmmaker, all around good-guy, MCA or Adam Yauch passed away in May 4th of last year. The group that he lead with Adam Horivitz and Mike Diamond had a huge effect on me during my early teen years and my passion for the group endures up until this day. Adam Yauch was diagnosed with cancer mid-2009, just as the band was about to release their eighth studio album and his death at the way too young age of 47 has robbed culture of a true hero.
Yauch formed the Beastie Boys at age 17 with John Berry, Kate Schellenbach and Michael Diamond. They found their start playing hardcore punk in the clubs of NYC but would soon adopt the emerging sounds of hiphop. Adam Horovitz joined and Kate Schellenbach would leave, and the core three of MCA, Ad-Rock and MCA gradually built a back catalogue of classic albums (Licensed to Ill, Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty), proving that three white boys from NYC can rap just as well as their fellow black artists. In the 90s they re-incorporated live instrumentation back into their sound with MCA’s phat basslines providing some of the most memorable hooks (Gratitude, Sabotage etc).
Yauch became passionate about the plight of the Tibetan in the 90s and organised several charity concerts (Tibetan Freedom Concert 1996 – 1999, 2001, 2003) raising money and generating much awareness for the problems facing the Tibetan people. After directing the bands’ music videos through-out their career he moved into feature film making in the 00s with the live concert film Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! (2006) and the basketball documentary Gunnin’ for That No. 1 Spot (2008).
It was through Yauch and his subsequent creative projects that I found a great deal of inspiration during my formative years. From the very first time I was introduced to the Beastie Boys video the Intergalactic video directed by Yauch, which debuted on Top Of The Pops mid-1998, I was hooked. Their humour, heart, fat fucking beats and mean rhymes (from middle age white dudes!) won me over, a large amount of all these elements contributed by Yauch, and they subsequently became my favorite band through my youth to the present day.
As I delved further into their back catalogue, from the age of 11 onwards, I discovered true musical and artistic heroes, through the uncompromising way in which they tore genre conventions apart, the no bullshit approach they had to getting their vision out there and the way they weren’t afraid to change, to move from frat boy party rap antics to politically aware concious rap. And of course, they created albums which remain my favourites to this day, Paul’s Boutique, Hello Nasty, Licensed to Ill, Check Your Head, To The Five Boroughs, Hot Sauce Committe Part 2. For a band that was around thirty years, to have so few misfires and so many classics is rare indeed.
I became inspired to try my hand at rap because of Yauch and his crew, found a musical role model and was constantly inspired by his humour and creativity. Loosing one of my main heroes is certainly a mixed thing and I have no doubt in my mind that MCA had many years ahead of him. What creative projects he would have embarked on we’ll never know. Never the less, this is the journey that life had in store for him and it certainly wasn’t a life wasted.