A tribute to a hip-hop pioneer and activist
Anyone who knew either of his names knows by now about the passing of 47 year old Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch. He passed away last Friday after a three year battle with cancer.
Looking back, I find it hard to uncover a bigger musical or political influence in my life then that which the Beastie Boys left. Adam Yauch of course had a big part in that.
Before the B-Boys came around in the mid eighties, my only musical likings were Iron Maiden & Twisted Sister (give me a break, I wasn’t even ten!). It’s no small coincidence that after the release of License to Ill – the Beastie Boys debut album – my three musical genres of choice became metal, punk and hip-hop.
Although License to Ill at the time was considered a “party album” (even the Beasties called it one big joke) it not only influenced me musically, I identified with it politically. It taught me at a young age to fight for my rights, even if back then it was simply to party. In part, it helped to birth Quiet Mike.
Luckily, the instant success of their debut album didn’t get to their heads and MCA along with Mike D and Ad-Rock matured quickly (a rarity in the music business). Yauch found refuge in Buddhism and clearly matured the most as a result.
Soon after, the Beastie Boys started to use their hard hitting hip-hop to attack racism, war, social injustice, even the sexism they had been accused of early on. While record companies began to spit out Gangsta Rap left and right, the B-Boys refused to go back to that type of mentality even if it meant a diminished pay check. They never sold out, only grew.
Yauch went on to work extensively on behalf of Tibet’s oppressed Buddhist population. He was instrumental in organizing a series of Tibetan Freedom Concerts in the late nineties featuring acts that included U2, Radiohead, and Run-D.M.C.
For those of us who grew up in the eighties and nineties, losing Adam is on par with the passing of John Lennon. That statement might sound sacrilegious to some people, but only to those who didn’t know the man or his music. I’m grateful for his rhymes throughout the years and I’m glad I had the chance to see him perform twice.
Beautifully, Yauch passed away during Wesak, the buddhist time of enlightenment. At the time of his death, MCA was the conscience of the Beastie Boys, a musician, a film maker, an activist, a Tibetan freedom fighter, a father and an inspiration to anyone who’s picked up a mic or a protest sign. I’ll miss him to the highest degree.
I’d like to end this with a little tribute to his rhymes, it is after all what he’ll be remembered for.
“I want to say a little something that’s long overdue, the disrespect to women has got to be through. To all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends, I want to offer my love and respect to the end” – Sure Shot, 1994
“Don’t grease my palms with your filthy cash. Multinationals spreading like a rash I might stick around or I might be a fad, But I won’t sell my songs for no TV ad” – Putting Shame in Your Game, 1998
“Now you can shuffle numbers but facts is facts, so many billionaires while so many lack. So before the poor decide to react, come on party people and share up your stacks” – Alive, 2000
“I went to get a loan and they asked my race, I wrote down human inside the space . It’s a disgrace how they try to debase, it ain’t the bank’s damn business how my lineage trace” – Right Right Now Now, 2004
“Pass me the scalpel, I’ll make an incision. I’ll cut off the part of your brain that does the bitching. Put it in formaldehyde and put it on the shelf and you can show it to your friends and say ‘that’s my old self”’’ – Make Some Noise, 2011