Adam Yauch — 1964-2012
Adam Yauch, best known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, lost his battle with cancer, dying at the age of 47. Right now gasps are echoing around the halls of MTV, followed by a stunned, solemn silence. Ironically, MTV was the first place I discovered the Beastie Boys, who were busy throwing pies and partying in their breakthrough “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” video. As a clueless little suburban girl on the West Side of Cleveland (well before the Internet, I’m reluctant to admit), I watched MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock doing something I’d never heard before — melding hip-hop (which barely had a name at the time) with pile-driving punk-inspired guitars and reveling in the kind of alpha male cartoonish antics that girls like me (who didn’t care about football players or the kinda guys who cared about cheerleaders) would grow to either blatantly fall for or wind up being secretly attracted to — in a place I’d never really known much about before, New York City.
The Beastie Boys’ License To Ill album (one of the most cherished albums in my collection, one of the best albums of the ’80s, and one of the best debut albums ever recorded, in my opinion) became a portal into a world I never knew existed. Here were three guys wilding out in track jackets and Adidas shelltoes and fake ‘staches, paradoxically making an unholy, f***-it-all mess that somehow still ended up being good, clean fun, with a knowing wink and nod, vowing not to sleep until Brooklyn (before Brooklyn would become known for organic hummus and strollers and people like me), and drippin’ swag more than 20 years before that’d become “a thing.” They acted like someone gave the smart kids a cool pass. To me and the generation of ’80s kids who grew up with the Beastie Boys, MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock were the original mashup artists, combining urban music and city life, punk, pop and street style into a brand-new teenage dream with a message that was equal parts ironic, self-aware, wry, and, at its core, positive and conscious. Beastie Boys kept it street, but they didn’t stick to rapping about guns and drugs. They rapped about being kids and being young, wild and free. The Beastie Boys were the original swag pioneers, and MCA’s unmistakably raspy, intentionally bratty rhymes were like a battle cry to join that new movement that’d lead me to Brooklyn (after a few years at a rental on Rivington Street, steps away from the original Paul’s Boutique storefront), and ultimately to a life buoyed by the velocity of New York, by music, and, ironically, to MTV.
+ Read more about Adam Yauch’s passing and the endless impact of the Beastie Boys after the jump.
This isn’t a Beastie Boys retrospective, though if it were, I’d be veering off into a several-thousand-word tangent about overdosing on Ill Communication and what happens to the chemical balance in my brain when I hear the insane breakdown in “Professor Booty” or the cowbell of “Hey Ladies” or the sonic monster-truck mayhem of “Sabotage” or the bass line of “Root Down” or “Intergalactic”‘s electronic freak fest, and how I, like a lot of girls my age, built an entire 10-plus-year fantasy around falling in love with a guy who was just like a Beastie Boy if not an actual member of the group. But really, this is about losing an inseparable, irreplaceable, symbiotic piece of a whole. This wasn’t a group with a frontman. It was a group of equals. Just Ad Rock, MCA, Mike D, three bad brothers — practically conjoined triplets — tagging each other into the ring, passing the mic back and forth, bonded forever, boys who became men who became politically active, dropped the girl-chasing, pie-facing bit, but never lost their misfit energy or creativity or their ability to inspire or convey gratitude. And to this day, the Beastie Boys still command the same amount of respect and reverence as they did when they were just still, well, boys.
MCA was absent last month at the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland, where the Beastie Boys made music history, earning a place in the hallowed rock hall. At the induction ceremony, presciently and profoundly, Mike D told Rolling Stone, “Obviously if we could trade anything, it would be to have Adam here with us. I think probably the most special thing about tonight, the thing we’re most thankful for, is the relationship the three of us have with each other.”
The Beastie Boys’ music will certainly stay fresh forever, and Mike D and Ad-Rock, the surviving Beastie Boys, may continue on in some iteration. But it’s almost impossible to imagine them passing the mic to anyone else but MCA.
+ Below watch MTV News’ “Adam Yauch: Remembering A Beastie Boy” tribute, watch Beastie Boys videos, remember Adam Yauch’s life in photos, and check out MTV News for complete coverage of Adam Yauch’s life and legacy. And tune in to MTV tonight at 8 p.m. for “Adam Yauch: Remembering a Beastie Boy,” an hour-long special hosted by Sway celebrating the life and career of Adam “MCA” Yauch, including his biggest moments and remembrances from his friends and peers.