Sunday, May 6, 2012

MCA: Beastie Boy, Better Man

"Paul Revere" My personal favorite Beastie Boys' song.

On Friday, the music world, and the world in general, lost one of the greats. Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was only 47, and although he was way too young to be taken, he left an indelible mark on the world in his short time. You will never hear a bad word spoken about him or the Beastie Boys (except maybe from the Chinese government). There were innumerable tweets, facebook statuses, and other homages to the artist (even the NY Mets honored him, which may have finally gotten me back in their good graces). I didn't really feel the impact of his loss until I read post after post from my favorite artists, talking about how influential MCA and the Beasties were on their lives and careers. I can't count how many amazing artists and musicians said that the Beasties changed their lives, and in an era where people claim that every new song and video is "life changing", when it came to MCA and the Beastie Boys, the claims were not exaggerations.

The Beastie Boys were never my favorite group (I couldn't get into the punk rock aspect too much) but I always enjoyed their music and respected them as icons. Here were these crazy ass white boys playing alongside the likes of Run DMC, Public Enemy, and LL Cool J, and absolutely holding their own. The greatest thing about them, and the thing that all other hip hop artists respected more than anything, was how they stayed true to themselves and true to the music. They didn't get caught up in fads, they started fads.

They went from a straight punk band to a hip hop group, but always stayed true to their punk roots. Even when they got older and started spending more time hanging out with Tibetan monks than guzzling 40s, they kept the punk rock attitude in their music. The song, and the video, "Fight for Your Right (To Party)" is one of the most memorable songs and videos from my childhood. Even though they were mocking other rock anthems of the time, you couldn't help but admire the antics and attitude they portrayed in the video. Most people didn't even get the parody because the Beasties were having so much fun that people wanted to be just like them; not to mention the song was simply catchy and energetic as hell. It didn't matter if they were being honest or ironic in their antics, it was the interaction between the three members of the group that was so mesmerizing. Even if you never saw their interviews, in which their love and camaradery is readily apparent, you can tell these guys were best friends just by listening to their songs and watching them perform. They were never the best lyricists, but their back and forth style, and the way they all complimented each other, is unparalleled. They were never individuals, they were the sum of their parts, which makes MCA's passing that much sadder; the group can no longer exist. Remove one component, and the whole thing falls apart. My heart goes out to Ad-Rock and Mike D. They lost a brother and a large part of themselves.

And the music world lost a legend. My favorite album, and the one that really cemented their legacy as true artists, was Paul's Boutique. Teaming up with the Dust Brothers, the Beasties took their sound to a whole new level and proved they could do more than make ironic party anthems.

They went on to make one of the best videos in history for Sabotage, and even though I didn't like the song that much, I always watched the video when it came on. Losing the MTV video award in five different categories (to Aerosmith and REM, nonetheless) only added to their cult status and led to one of MCA's finest moments ever, pulling a Kanye before Kanye; as Michael Stipe was accepting the award for Best Directing, MCA, disguised as his character from the "Sabotage" video, bumrushed the stage and protested the Beastie's loss in all five categories.

Punk rocker for life.

Their growth as musicians was remarkable, but it was their growth as human beings that was truly incredible. Although it was largely AD-Rock who was considered the best rapper/leader of the group, it was really MCA who led the personal growth of the group.  He founded the Milarepa Fund to give royalties to the Tibetan monks who the Beasties sampled on an album, and eventually that led to the Tibetan Freedom Concert series. The concerts, held over a span of 5 years, raised almost a million dollars for the cause of Tibetan independence, a cause that could still use your help.

So instead of simply enjoying his fame and money, Adam Yauch decided to dedicate much of his life to people halfway across the world. And he was still able to put out some quality music while he was at it.

The world is a better place because of his existence, and it's a sadder place because of his early death.


I Love You All (And You Will Be Missed, Mr. Yauch)...Class Dismissed.

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