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Cool like lemonade: MCA

May 16, 2012


I discovered the Beastie Boys in a way that characterizes their reach: a white kid in surburbia*, I experienced the culture and mayhem of NYC via the music of three punks who decided to make hip hop. Although I still hear their first record as (kind of) a prank on many levels (Licensed to Ill is mostly a rap record for the sake of making a rap record), their following work has brought me much joy, insight, and solace.

While Paul’s Boutique is my favorite record of theirs (and one of the most important moments in hip hop†), I thought of Hello Nasty when I heard of Adam Yauch’s death. Hello Nasty came out in 1998, the summer my best friend (and fellow b boy) committed suicide. I was 15 and I was devastated; it’s a moment that I would not come to terms with (at least better terms with) for years. In those early days, Hello Nasty was my go-to CD. My friend and I had both loved “Intergalactic” when it came out – and Hello Nasty is full of other great hip hop tracks. (In short, Hello Nasty is Paul’s Boutique 2000.) But the last half of the record was introspective and songs like “I Don’t Know” and “Instant Death” brought me peace when I was confused about life and what to do “when your man kills himself.” It’s hard to fully explain how much it – and the Boys – offered me help when I was scared to ask for it.

The tributes, the tweets, the shout outs – all have been touching and comforting in mourning a musician that impacted my life so deeply. And a lot of them have been dedicated to the entire group – which is fitting: I can’t think of a group more integrated than the Beastie Boys – most notably their “three man weave.”‡ Honestly, it’s just hard to imagine the group without all three of them.

Forming in their late teens, the Beastie Boys’ career has been non-stop and remarkable: the different albums and countless videos they’ve made; the charitable concerts (for which MCA was a key figure) and tours they’ve produced; and all that has happened since MCA’s diagnosis in 2009 – coming to terms with their frat fool past with “Right to Fight Revisited,” Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – all is a testament to their work ethic and incredible drive.

I’ve been digging through their career these past few weeks. Now, more than ever, is a good time for me to remember that life – love, family, work, death – is full of transitions.



*if “surburbia” still means outside the urban landscape… and is extended to a small town in the middle of the desert.

†at an odd time: by 1989, hip hop was equally accepted and disregarded as a genre that depended on sampling. Paul’s Boutique, roughly 10 years after hip hop’s birth, promoted sampling as an innovation – something that was long overdue, and something that would be grossly abused in the decade to come.

‡shameless plug: see December’s 12th’s “Top 12 Hip Hop Collaborations” (#7)…. or just listen to them.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 17, 2012 10:24 PM

    It struck me just how much your music choices are drawn from your life experiences. Arcade Fire, Radiohead, hip hop, etc. create this soundtrack, while you play out the music with your stories. The strong connection between the two ultimately makes these kinds of posts so thoughtful and heartfelt. 🙂

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