Music

RIP MCA

Adam Yauch, otherwise known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, died on Friday. He was 47 years old.  I will miss him greatly.

I’ve followed Adam for over 25 years, ever since the Beastie Boy’s debut album Licensed to Ill came out in 1986.  I was 14-years-old; young and very impressionable.  MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock instantly became my idols and the older brothers that I never had.  I voraciously devoured anything Beastie-related and if they told me to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, I would have done it…as long as they thought it was cool.  Everything they did was cool, as far as I was concerned.  There was no one I wanted to meet and hang out with more than the Beastie Boys.

By and large, their music has been the soundtrack to my life.  It has meant so much to me that it’s difficult to put into words.  Their uniqueness and place in music history is truly unprecedented.  Think about it: there is truly no other artist or group that can match their combination of longevity, cool-ness, musical maturation, critical and commercial success, and relevancy not only in the hip-hop world, but the pop music world as a whole, for over 25 years.

But the Beastie Boys were (are) so much more to me than just their music.  Their influence on my life, outside of their music, has been immeasurable.  I worshipped everything they did, everything they said, everything they wore, every movie and show they watched, and everyone they listened to and referenced.

I stole a Volkswagen logo off an abandoned car and made a necklace out of it like Mike D.

I drank Brass Monkey, made up fake Spanish Fly, and went to White Castle just because they did.

I recreated the backstage scene from their Licensed to Ill VHS one hazy, legendary night at SUNY Cortland before the Cortaca Jug.  I started it by spraying beer all over our dorm and it instantly got out of control.  The carpets were damp for weeks.

I bought Adidas Stan Smiths because MCA wore them in the “Shake Your Rump” video.

I bought Adidas Superstars and Puma Clydes because Ad-Rock wore them.  And they were hard to find back then.

I drunkenly called (718) 498-1043 many times to “Ask for Janice”.  I never got through.

I bought 3 or 4 Beastie Boys T-shirts as the first purchases on my first credit card from the old Sessions catalogs that Rolling Stone magazine used to advertise in the back of their issues.  I also bought a “Phillies Blunt” T-shirt that I saw Ad-Rock wear when Check Your Head came out.

I started listening to Jimmy Smith, George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, Dick Hyman, The Meters, Funky 4+1, and so many more artists because of the Beastie Boys.

I started to noodle around on guitar shortly after Check Your Head came out because I figured, if they could do it, I could do it too.  I’m still noodling around.

I poured over the song credits for Paul’s Boutique for years trying to spot all the lyrical references and samples used. Over 20 years later, I still hear something that I haven’t heard before.  It is, and always will be, my favorite album of all time.

I bought two vinyl copies of Paul’s Boutique when it came out.  One copy was for a turntable that I didn’t own.  The other copy I carefully cut apart so I could hang up all the album artwork in my bedroom in all its panoramic glory.

I had my brother photocopy and mail me the entire CD booklet of Ill Communication while I was in Navy basic training in 1994.  The album was released while I was there and I wanted to at least read the lyrics of what I was going to listen to when I was done with training.  I wouldn’t have done that for any other group.

I followed Luscious Jackson, Money Mark, Mix Master Mike, The Dust Brothers, and any albums produced by Mario Caldato, in large part because of their connection to the Beastie Boys.

I watched the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Putney Swope, Dolemite and Danger: Diabolik because of their lyrical and visual references in songs.

I bought every issue of Grand Royal magazine that they wrote and published.  They’re still in my attic.

I drove to Atwater Village once when I was in L.A. to see if somehow I could find G-Son Studios.  It was a futile effort and I wasted hours in the process.  I did find the X-Large store that Mike D started in Los Feliz.  I bought a hat.

I rented, then eventually bought copies of the movies Lost Angels and Roadside Prophets because Ad-Rock starred in both.

I researched the struggles of Tibet, got interested in Buddhism, and started reading the writings of the Dalai Lama because of MCA.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

When Adam died on Friday, I received numerous messages from people offering their condolences.  My friends, some who’ve known me a long time, some who’ve only known me for a couple years, thought of me when they heard the news and wanted to offer their sympathy.  That is heartbreakingly mind-boggling and I thank them all for thinking of me.

Now I find myself talking about the Beastie Boys in past tense.  Not because I don’t think we’ll ever hear from them again, but because it will never be the same again.  Sure, they may put out some unreleased music and get up on stage sometime in the future, but there is now a huge, unavoidable void without MCA.  He, like the others, is irreplaceable.

Adam was the conscious of the group; the moral center.  His life is a wonderful lesson for myself and others.  He never stopped growing, learning, joking, questioning, caring, loving, and was authentic to the end.  There’s no reason I can’t still idolize him for that.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I’m the person I am today in large part because of the Beastie Boys. I was wild and rebellious without a care in the world.  I learned the delicate art of wit and sarcasm largely by following their example.  I became open to trying new things and challenging myself.  I learned from my mistakes, (finally) matured, and became older and wiser while still maintaining the core sensibility of having fun and enjoying life.

My son, who is 9-years-old (and who still idolizes his old man for the time being), sat with me Friday night as I pulled up old Beastie Boys clips on YouTube.  He laughed at their unabashed absurdity from the Licensed to Ill days when they appeared on talk shows like the old Joan Rivers Late Show.  They were just so much goddamn fun to watch and he ate it up.  I laughed right along with him and then I turned away so he wouldn’t see me cry.  Not many people are blessed to have their idols grow, mature, and remain relevant for so many years.  I was lucky.  I hope he’ll be as lucky as I was.

Rest in peace, Adam.  I’ll miss you.

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