RIP MCA

It is always a little odd to write an obituary about someone you didn’t know. I didn’t know Adam Yauch. We didn’t get together to watch Knicks games or sit around and tell stories about our neighborhoods growing up. Our families never met and our children didn’t play together. For all I know, Adam Yauch could’ve been a jerk. I choose to believe that he wasn’t, but, hell, what do I know?

Here is what I do know. When I was 14, my mom dated a guy who had unique tastes in music. They didn’t date long, and I don’t think I could honestly tell you his name, for certain. I want to say Norman. What I do remember is one day he wanted me to listen to something he was in to, so he handed me a copy a Psychedelic Furs Midnight to Midnight. I wasn’t interested at the time (because 14-year old me was kind of stupid) but I listened and to reciprocate I handed him my copy of Ill Communication. I don’t know why that seemed like a fair trade, but I wanted to seem cool, and at 14, there was no one cooler than the Beasties.

There was something about their juvenile antics and hoarse flow that spoke to me. It was something that a horribly depressed teen like myself could cling to and idolize. Here were grown ass men, doing exactly what they wanted and absolutely didn’t care what anyone thought. I wanted to be them, but I just didn’t have the guts. They were three dudes who wanted to rap and maybe, occasionally play a punk song. They wanted to speak about whatever came to mind and rhyme John Woo and Rod Carew. They wanted to dress up like 70’s detectives and make the most awesome music video anyone has ever done or will ever do again. They just wanted to have fun and live in a world they wanted to live in.

To an adolescent, wannabe class clown who essentially used humor as a defense mechanism, and thought his poetry was going to change the world and he would one day leave this one horse town and make something of himself, just as soon as he got out of bed and turned on the lights, I couldn’t comprehend actually living a life you wanted to live. Here were three guys who used humor simply to be funny, because they wanted people to laugh and have as much fun as they were having. Here were three men who used their fame to make the art they wanted to make, while also being grown up enough to understand there was a world bigger than them. Here were three fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, etc. who knew that their place in society was to make it better for other people, through their fame, through their art and hell, through their antics.

They performed and lived on their terms. They toured with a giant penis as a stage prop, just because they thought it was funny. They threw a gigantic benefit for the people of Tibet, because they felt like it was their duty as well known performers and they broke open barriers and kicked down doors because well, there was a door and they had feet and, you know, the door was kind of in their way.

As an adult, I can only strive to be the man that I think Adam Yauch was. A pure artist, who somehow managed to not take himself too seriously. (I mean, read this response to a negative critic.) A man who wanted nothing more than to be himself, take care of his family, and then use whatever else he could to make this world better. I think we would all benefit if we took that attitude. I wish every day that I had the balls to do what I want to do and be what I want to be, just like MCA did. Even at 32, I am inspired, amazed and flabbergasted that he did just that.

So, it is with a heavy heart that we say farewell, but the beauty is that we can forever live with his art, and with his spirit, and most importantly, his ideals. His spirit of childish recklessness, his duty to help and his thoughtfulness towards humanity. And hopefully, wherever his soul may be, I hope they serve soda and pie.

Kick it.

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7 Comments

  1. Really nice work, Dave. Thanks for sharing this.

    • You’re welcome, Ann. High praise coming from you. Thanks for reading, I appreciate it.

  2. Wow Dave, one of the best articles I’ve ever read…it brought a tear to my eye…very well done! RIP MCA

    • Thanks, Nick.

  3. Nice article. I won’t post it here, but one of my most-read online articles was called “Fear of Black Radio,” in which I railed against the Beastie Boys for getting played on white rock radio while more talented black artists were relegated to the late night radio ghetto that nobody (except me) ever listened to. So I didn’t like Adam Yauch as an artist, per se, though I grew to have a grudging appreciation for him and his Beastie peers, and I always respected him for using his bully pulpit to advance meaningful causes near and dear to his heart. It’s terrible whenever I read of anybody my age being struck down by cancer, so I salute your tribute here, since it reminds me (and mine) that even the best of us may be saying “farewell” sooner than we’d like . . . . so we’d better make the most of the time given us, which Adam Yauch definitely, passionately did. Much respect. Honors. Thank you.

    • I would be interested in reading that. Since I was very young at the time of their debut, I’m not familiar with the backlash, but could see someone making an argument. Is it possible that their rise could’ve come as much from the sound they used, more guitar heavy samples, than just the color of their skin? Now I get that race was a factor, I would be naive to think otherwise, but this was the same time period DMC exploded by using some similar rock samples.


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