Monday, May 21, 2012

A Tribute to Adam Yauch, AKA MCA, The Beastie Boys, and Youth

First, this:

Even if you're not into Coldplay, you've got to admit that's a moving tribute to one of the greats.

Anyway, I know this is a YA blog, and I know this is my first post, but I promise to tie it all together by the end.

In case you hadn't heard, the world lost an incredible artist on May 4th, 2012. Adam Yauch was best known as MCA, and was one of the visionaries who created one of history's most popular bands: The Beastie Boys. Many know them as wild, partying, misogynisitc, drug-addled morons, but Adam in particular was also a voice for freedom, and it was his passion for truth and human rights that led the Beasties to create the Tibet Freedom Concert, and he was also heavily involved in the Tibetan freedom movement.

Before I get all personal up in this post, I want to share some of MCA's most famous and admirable lyrics. To get a better idea of the man:

I've got more rhymes than I've got grey hairs,
and that's a lot because I've got my share.  
(self-deprecation is something I always admire)

I give thanks for this world as a place to learn
and for this human body that I'm glad to've earned
(he was a Buddhist)

Your knees start shakin
 and your fingers pop
 like a pinch to the neck from Mr Spock
(pop-culture references were a B-Boys staple)

So like a pimp I'm pimpin,
I got a boat to eat shrimp in.
Nothing wrong with my leg
 I'm just B-boy limpin
(style, and knowledge of self, is important
 even for white Jewish rappers)

"Now my name is M.C.A. - I've got a license to kill
I think you know what time it is - it's time to get ill
Now what do we have here - an outlaw and his beer
I run this land, you understand - I make myself clear."
We stepped into the wind - he had a gun, I had a grin
You think this story's over but it's ready to begin
(as writers, surely we all recognize great storytelling)

I'm as cool as a cucumber
in a bowl of hot sauce
(who's hungry?)

Droppin science like Galileo dropped the orange

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 the sisters and the wives and friends
I want to offer my love and respect to the end.
(as the middle son, between two sisters,
raised by the most amazing woman who ever lived,
I love this line so much.
It's probably my favorite lyric ever written.

But perhaps this post isn't so much about Adam, as it is about me. The first album I ever bought with my own money was Bob Marley and the Wailers, Legend, which I purchased with change, on cassette tape. But the first album I fell in love with, because my big sister's friend who lived up the street owned it, was Licensed to Ill, by the Beastie Boys.

that's me on the left, not rocking out to the B-Boys, but it probably looked like this when I did
Licensed to Ill dropped in 1986. It was a time of yuppies, it was a time of huge bangs, it was a time when MTV still played music videos, and a time when kids in the hood could still hang. That rhyme was on purpose, but I'm serious. I was in fourth or fifth grade at the time, attending Catholic school on Queen Anne Hill just north of Downtown Seattle. We actually walked to school, back then, my sisters and I. It wasn't uphill both ways, and there was never snow, but I promise my parents seriously did actually let us walk to school.

It was like 8 blocks.

But that's not the point. The point is that I discovered this band that made me feel like everything I was was okay. A lonely, horny, pre-teen boy who missed his missing dad. The only male in a house full of women who loved his mom and sisters but needed a guy to show him how to swing the bat. An angry, rebellious kid who didn't want to hear a single damn directive from his aunts an uncles when his mom died that next summer.

I'm not saying the Beastie Boys had all the answers, because they didn't, and they never could, but music that speaks to you, especially when you're young, is music that makes it okay to be alive and in pain at the same time. Artists who can convey the dichotomy of life while speaking true, are artists whose message you will always remember.

Most of the B-Boys early stuff was silly. It was about getting high, macking on girls, and about eating White Castle, but the groove was there, and the honesty was there, and they touched me in such a way as a boy that I kept coming back, and more importantly they turned me on to conscious hip-hop like A Tribe Called Quest, Jeru da Damaja, and KRS-ONE. They exposed me, as White Jewish Rappers, to a world I would have never otherwise discovered, and I owe them a lot of thanks for that.

me and my peeps in like 1989, when we finally had a License to Chill
For now, I urge you to watch Fight for your Right to Party (Revisited), starring Frodo Baggins as the King Ad-Rock, Officer Michaels, from Superbad, as Mike D, and Kenny Powers, from Eastbound and Down, as the eponymous, MCA AKA Adam Youch, AKA Nathaniel Hornblower. It also has cameos from Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Will Farrell, Rashida Jones, Rainn Wilson, Ted Danson, Jason Schwartzmann, Amy Poehler, Chloƫ Sevigny, Will Arnett, Adam Scott, Steve Buscemi, John C. Reilly, and Jack Black.

Adam Yauch directed this video, under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower, as he did many of the early Beastie Boys videos, and it was probably the last great thing he did before the cells of his own body overtook him (WARNING PG-13 for language):

Also, if they weren't a division rival, I might have to become a Mets fan.

Rest in peace, Adam. May the Buddha forever hold you against the girth of his beer-muscle, and breath upon your face the peace of everlasting Nirvana. Your music, and your message, will always be missed by this B-Boy.

Now, those of you who are old like me - what bands spoke to you when you were young and knew everything? Those of you who are still young - what are the bands that touch your lives in ways that you will never forget?

For my eldest daughter, who's 16, it's My Chemical Romance.


Eliza Tilton said...

I ride on the bus into the city everyday. I sit on the seat and I dream myself away.

Don't get me started. I'll start singing Girls next which would be weird because I'm agirl who likes boys...

I can't wait to check out that vid when I get home. Beastie boys and Will Ferral? I don't think it gets better than that.

Nancy Thompson said...

Oh you are so young, Matt! My band was Led Zeppelin, poetry set to music! Supremely touching post by a very talented writer. Thanks for sharing that!!

Pk Hrezo said...

Oh man, I' hear ya, brother. We'd skip school and blare the BBoys cuz you know, we were fighting for our right and all. They broke the barrier and made it cool for white kids to like rap too. And they lived on thru out the years of our generation ... We were still jamming to them when I was in college. Brass Monkey was my fave.
RIP Adam

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