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My name is MCA and I still do what I please.

Both photographs © The Beastie Boys

A couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite groups was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I have a strong dislike for awards and certifications and ceremonies and that kind of thing, but I took a moment on Twitter to give love and congratulations to the Beastie Boys, because really—they deserved to be there. It was satisfying to see a group I grew up loving (and still love now and never stopped loving) honored for their contributions to rock music. If any group cannot be pigeon-holed into a single genre, it’s the Beastie Boys. So let’s just go ahead and recognize them everywhere. Hip Hop Honors, Rock and Roll, Walk of Fame, Grand Old Opry…go for it.

When I found out that Adam Yauch—MCA, he’s got a license to kill—wasn’t going to be able to attend the ceremony because he was too ill, my heart sank. I knew he’d been diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, because the Beasties had to cancel their tour and postpone their album. Somehow, though, once the incredible Hot Sauce Committee was finally released last year, the general assumption was that Yauch was alright. That he was going to be OK. He even directed the video for “Make Some Noise.”

And now he’s gone. I’m glad that induction ceremony happened when it did.

I blogged about that video just over a year ago, and I said this about it: “The new Beastie Boys video reminds me of how deeply satisfying it is to have been their fan for about 27 years now. They just never disappoint!” That’s the truth. I was lucky enough to see the Beastie Boys live a few times over the course of those 27 years in various stages of their career, and they were awesome. Life and energy and power and happiness and FUN.

I’ve had the “Who’s your favorite Beastie?” discussion many times with many people, and the general consensus always seems to wind up being all of them. But if you break it down, you do it a little like the Beatles—and Yauch was the George Harrison of the Beasties. Maybe you wanted to date Ad-Rock and party with Mike D, but MCA is the one you wanted to get deep with. He’s the one you wanted to philosophize about life with over a nice vegan dinner. He’s the one you wanted to talk to about art and New York and basketball and Buddhism. MCA, what up?

Two big things happened in my musical world in 1989: The Cure released Disintegration, and the Beastie Boys put out Paul’s Boutique. I have never listened to two records more than I did those over the next few years. 23 years later, they are both in my top five all-time favorite albums. The Beastie Boys never have never had a low point, but they have had a high—and that was it. Paul’s Boutique moved the bar for progressive, innovative rap music so high that I don’t think anyone can ever top it. Even Miles Davis called it the greatest album ever made. By anyone. Ever.

Even though there’s no video, I have to include the “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” here. It’s the greatest 12 minutes in the entire history of hip hop. MCA has the coolest part, of course—the “Year and a Day” section that kicks in at the 3-minute mark.

If the Cure were the soundtrack of my teenage isolation and anger, and Morrissey is the soundtrack of my adult disappointment with life, the Beastie Boys are the ongoing soundtrack to friendship, fun, and good times. They’re the sound of skate parks, hair dye, cool sneakers and cute boys. The Beastie Boys made me want to move to Brooklyn.

When I grieve over the loss of a person like MCA—someone I didn’t know—what I’m really grieving on a personal level is the recognition of lost eras of my life. Friendships that went by the wayside, people I did know who have passed on, and the realization that I’ll probably never feel that way about a group or artist that I might discover as an adult.

Adam Yauch was bigger than just the music, though, and over the next few days there will be lots of tributes to him and the other work he did (creating the Free Tibet Music Festival, directing tons of videos for the Beasties, making a movie about high school basketball players, and so on). This is just about me, really, and about losing another one of my musical heroes and another slice of my personal soundtrack. My heart goes out to Yauch’s wife and daughter, as well as to Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond, who I know must be feeling the loss of their brother in a heavy, heavy way.

Here are a few of my favorite Beastie Boys moments out of so many. And all of these videos were directed by MCA, of course…Nathanial Hörnblowér, Adam Yauch from Brooklyn, Yauch with his fisheye lens, Yauch with his close-ups and his hoodie and his gravely voice and his beard like a billy goat.

Good times, good man. Thank you.

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  • Reply shilo May 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm


  • Reply Brett Alderman May 4, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Holy Cow! This was a huge blow for me today. The past several months I’ve been listening to them over and over and over again. If mp3’s could wear out like cassettes and vinyl, I’d probably have replaced “The Sounds of Science” three times by now. As soon as I get off of work I will be driving, windows down blasting “Sure Shot,” “Keep it Together” and “Skills to Pay the Bills.” They were such a big part of the landscape of my youth. This loss is hitting me surprisingly hard, (I don’t really have such a response to artists dying). I can’t tell you how many times I heard “I don’t like rap, but I love the Beastie Boys” growing up in Florida.

    Thank you for the post!

    • Anna @ D16 May 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      “Sounds of Science” is my favorite Beasties song to rhyme along with. I remember feeling REALLY accomplished when I finally learned all of the words and could get all the way through without tripping up!

    • Brett Alderman May 4, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      “Sure Shot” is the only song I can keep up with (and I was I was blasting it on the way home apologetically). My personal visual style has been influenced a lot by 80’s / 90’s MTV (and TransWorld Skateboarder). So watching their videos make me want to pull out the fisheye lens and takes some pictures tonight. Before I die I want to make a video like “Sure Shot.”

    • Brett Alderman May 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      “Strictly Hand Held Is The Style I Go
      Never Rock The Mic With The Panty Hose
      I Strap On My Ear Goggles And I’m Ready To Go”

      Probably some of the best lyrics ever. Ever.

  • Reply Beth May 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    So well said. Paul’s Boutique is in my all time top 10. For me, that record more than any other was my soundtrack to my first tastes of freedom, recklessness and, like you said, friendships with kindred spirits.

  • Reply whitney May 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I was hoping you’d write something. You did, and you did it well. Great tribute for a deserving man. I feel so sad about his passing.

  • Reply Rhea May 4, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    You tapped in to what so many people are feeling today. Thanks for adding this thoughtful post to our collective grief of this creative badass visionary.

    • Anna @ D16 May 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      “Creative badass visionary” really says it all. Truth!

  • Reply Melissa May 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    ‘like you’re speaking for me! thank you! R.I.P. MCA

  • Reply Bertie May 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I came here knowing that you’d having something beautiful written about MCA. Thanks for this.
    What a loss.

    Alev Hashalom

  • Reply holly May 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    im pretty surprised at how sad this news made me, really really emotional after i heard. i dont really get that way about celebrities…but he was so different. and totally my favorite beastie. thanks for this post.

    he will be missed, thankfully we have SO MUCH to remember him by.

  • Reply Martha Rose May 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    You put into words exactly how I feel… Beastie Boys makes up a huge part of my personal soundtrack. Beautiful post, thank you.

  • Reply hungryandfrozen May 4, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Excellent tribute and writing about this very sad news. The Beastie Boys soundtracked so many moments in my life, some significant, some long forgotten.

  • Reply Grumble Girl May 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I’m so sad about this… I knew he was sick, of course, but after he had to pass on the RRHF thing, I had a bad, bad feeling… I had no idea it would come this fast. Chunks of my teenhood, and lots of my adulthood memories are all floating around in my head today. I’m so sad about this.

    Nice words, lady. xox

  • Reply Ann May 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Beautiful post, thank you. My heart is aching- such sad news.

  • Reply Betina May 4, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    So sad, such a loss. Cancer is just the worst disease ever. The music industry has truly lost one of the greats.

  • Reply Stacy May 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Thank-you so much for this. You’ve expressed a lot of my sentiments in a way I can’t. It’s been a sad day.

  • Reply Audrie May 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    You said it perfectly. It’s beyond belief that he’s gone… I had to read the news that he’d passed a couple times before it sank in and the tears came. RIP MCA.

  • Reply matchstic May 5, 2012 at 2:28 am

    wow …

    “When I grieve over the loss of a person like MCA—someone I didn’t know—what I’m really grieving on a personal level is the recognition of lost eras of my life. ”

    … that is so true. Thank you for finding the words for that feeling.

  • Reply Aaron May 5, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Great post. Thanks for summing it up.

  • Reply Jarret May 5, 2012 at 4:06 am

    Growing up with there music and how I was such a huge fan in my teenage years thru until now when I heard about the news today about MCA it has hit me harder then I thought I felt sick all day. My thoughts and prayers go out to there families who are grieving and I pray we find a cure to this awful disease 47 years old is too young for anybody to die. RIP Adam

  • Reply Ella May 5, 2012 at 5:58 am

    A beautiful, well written post. I’m really sad now.

  • Reply shashi May 5, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Thanks for summing up so beautifully what I’m feeling right now.

  • Reply Caz May 5, 2012 at 9:16 am

    As a tribute, Hulu is playing the top 10 Beastie Boys videos of all time.

  • Reply Sherry May 5, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    This news felt like a punch to the chest. Many inspirational, innovative and irreplaceable artists have been lost in the last few years. While I have been sadden by them all, this is the first time I feel it so deeply. I couldn’t even comment yesterday.

    Paul’s Boutique was my first album by anyone ever. I didn’t technically own it. There was a kid down the street who was 3-4 years older than the rest of us and while he mostly hung out will cooler, older, kids he would occasionally invite us over, to swim in his pool or lounge in his parent’s basement. One such time he was listening to Paul’s Boutique. I loved it. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. He lent it to me and I had to listen to it on my Dads player out in the livingroom when he was at work (I was 9-10 and it was summer). That christmas I asked for my first CD player (remember those giant things?) It was expensive, it was my only gift, but it was so worth it to listen to this whenever I pleased.

    I always intended to return the CD but we saw eachother infrequently and I never had it handy to give back when we did see one another. Soon it became a bit of a running gag, with him asking when he would get it back and me answering “tomorrow”. In fact my first day of highschool there was a bang on my locker and he (a popular senior then) asked me when I was going to give him back his CD. I remember my friends being pretty impressed. That CD sits on a shelf in my office next to the rest of their albums and remains an all-time favorite to this day.

    Fast forward to two years ago, my younger cousin, a senior in HS at the time decided he wanted a record player for his birthday. So I took it upon myself to buy him his first record, and spent forever at a local record store (yes they still exist!) wading through new and used vinyls, perusing “the greats” and trying to figure out which album to gift. I wanted it to be something special. My boyfriend obviously thought I was over thinking the situation asked me if I even remembered the first album I had. Like a giant light bulb going on I ran over to the B section, picked out Paul’s Boutique and quickly cashed out. My cousin loved it.

    MCA thanks for the music that you shared! The Beastie Boys meant more to me then they’ll probably ever know. Anna thanks for your ever thoughtful posts. Sorry for my long ramblings.

  • Reply joolz May 6, 2012 at 1:47 am

    the song i keep coming back to is “gratitude”, off “check your head”.

    such an awesome song, and exactly what i feel.

    i had a feeling you’d write about MCA, and i’m glad i swung by and had a look.

  • Reply Kirsty Bunfield May 6, 2012 at 3:36 am

    I reckon this is the best article I’ve read on the death of MCA and the beastie boys this weekend. Thanks.

  • Reply Gina May 7, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Hi- I’m a new reader to your blog but I had to comment on this post. You wrote exactly how me and so many of my friends have been feeling the last few days. It’s like a part of my teenage/early adult years have died with his passing. I grew up listening to the Beastie Boys and like you, they are still one of my all time favorite bands. Thanks for writing this and mad respect to the Boys.

  • Reply donna May 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    One of my all time favourite experiences was driving down from Toronto with my friends from uni to catch the NY leg of the Free Tibet concert. It was just amazing overall. I have so much respect for the Beastie Boys so yeah, so yeah this news is very sad.

  • Reply Stu Alcane May 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    After being a fan of the Beastie Boys for nearly 20 years, the news of MCA’s passing has hit me hard.

    Growing up I flitted about through many genres in finding music which I loved, but I constantly came back to the B-Boys, and their catalogue of brilliant albums. Upon hearing Adam Yauch was diagnosed with cancer I was absolutely gutted. This sadness was relieved when Hot Sauce Committee Pt.2 was released, hoping that his heath problems had passed.

    The past week I’ve been struggling to come to terms with the news of his passing. Like the author of the article, I have found myself grieving over this loss of someone I did not know personally. In my endeavours in life, close friends and myself took the soundtrack and the philosophy of the Beasties to heart, and really felt I’d grown up with them.

    In all honesty I’d imagined myself being in my senior years, and eagerly awaiting the ‘latest Beasties album’. I can only put aside my feelings when I think how his family and fellow band members are feeling, my thoughts are with them. I just hope Mike & Adrock can continue on with their musical journey and grace us with some more of their genius.

    RIP MCA, I cannot thank you enough for the gifts you gave the world.

  • Reply troy. May 10, 2012 at 9:59 am

    A Year and a Day (Live in Miami 1992)

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