On The Death Of The Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA)

I remember it like it was yesterday. Kind of.

All throughout the 1980s, my family would spend our summer vacations at the Jersey shore. The family friends that we went to the beach with every year had a son who was my age -- Jason -- and he and I would build sand castles, ride bikes, and generally just hang out together for the week-long holiday.

In the summer of 1987, Jason brought a cassette tape on our vacation. It was the Beastie Boys' fall 1986 release, License To ill -- and I had never heard anything like it before.

I had dabbled in the hip-hop sounds of the 1980s a little bit; Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel, Newcleus, LL Cool J and others, despite the protestations from my parental units.

But the Beastie Boys were different.

The first song that was played for me was "Paul Revere" and I immediately knew that I was listening to something really cool. Granted, I didn't really know what that meant in my youth, but I knew that I really liked what I was hearing.

The idea that three white dudes from New York City made an album that crossed the bridge between heavy rock & roll (the album prominently features heavy guitar riffs and drum beats from the likes of Led Zeppelin) and the then-fledgling rap community was something that had me hanging on every note.

Needless to say, I went straight out and bought Ill when we returned home from vacation. But my love for the Beasties did not end with that purchase.

Fast forward a couple of years to the early 1990s.

I actually skipped Paul's Boutique for a time. I bought my Beastie Boys albums out of order...

There was nary a party or get-together at my buddy Zach's house that did not include the playing of "So Watcha Want" from the Beastie's 1992 release Check Your Head:

This song single-handedly defines my high school years. The album's continued driving and signature B-Boy hip-hoppery (see: "Jimmy James"), combined with great instrumental sounds from the trio, make it something that I still listen to 20 years later (holy sh*t, it's been 20 years).

After heading off to college in 1995, using unspent beer & cigarette money I purchased Paul's Boutique and Ill Communication at the same time at the local Vibes Music store. The latter album became the soundtrack for my college years -- beginning with the alt-rock smash "Sabotage":

...though I preferred the tracks "Sure Shot", "Flute Loop" or "Get It Together". [ed. note: Some lyrics NSFW. Check your volume.]

That said, the entirety of the track listing is excellent. Again, very fond memories of my college experience are wrapped in red plastic cups around this album.

So, why this march down memory lane?

As evidenced by the few mentions above (with many, many more UNmentioned appearances as a teenager and early adult), the Beastie Boys were a definitive force in my formative years.

From their early beginnings with License to Ill -- the references to girls, alcohol, and raucous parties -- to the more sanguine and enlightened nature of later albums like Ill Communication -- see "Bodhavista Vow":
As I Develop The Awakening Mind I Praise The Buddha As They Shine
I Bow Before You As I Travel My Path To Join Your Ranks
I Make My Full Time Task/For The Sake Of All Beings I Seek
The Enlighted Mind That I Know I'll Reap
Respect To Shantideva And All The Others
Who Brought Down The Darma For Sisters And Brothers
I Give Thanks For This World As A Place To Learn
And For This Human Body That I Know I've Earned
...or To The Five Boroughs -- see "An Open Letter To NYC":
Dear New York I know a lot has changed
2 towers down but you're still in the game
Home to many rejecting no one
Accepting peoples of all places, wherever they're from
... these guys shaped a good portion of my world view -- from a musical standpoint, at the very least.

And, who was the driving force behind the latter "enlightened nature" of the group? One Adam Yauch, also known as "MCA" (or perhaps "Nathanial Hörnblowér").

Out of the three Beastie Boys, I have always favored MCA. His gravelly voice and smooth delivery of rhymes was preferable over the nasal Ad Rock or the percussive Mike-D, in this writer's opinion.

Moreover, MCA seemed to be something of a personified conscience of the group, particularly in later years.

His co-creation of the Milarepa Fund and the subsequent organization of the Tibetan Freedom Concerts in the late 1990s and early 2000s are a great example of how a punk kid can grow into a socially responsible adult. I took this to heart as a young adult, and still believe that this type of transformative experience is possible -- even in a small town in central Pennsylvania.

I picked up Hot Sauce Committee Part II last year. In true Beastie form, the guys brought us a fantastic album -- despite being well into their forties. I think what saddens me the most is that, with the death of Adam Yauch, there won't be any more music from the trio.

Speaking of great music, here is a live show -- the Beastie Boys performing in Glasgow, Scotland in 1999. Yes, that is a 360° stage, and Mixmaster Mike cutting it up with them:

The sample of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" at the beginning is a nice touch.

Lastly, I'll end with a very cool tribute to MCA and the Beastie Boys by Coldplay, from this past weekend:

Thanks for the music guys. And RIP MCA.