Finding a release
Since hearing about the death of Adam “MCA” Yauch Friday afternoon after a fight with salivary gland cancer, I’ve been having a hard time coping with the loss.
The Beastie Boys are my favorite hip-hop group of all time, and MCA was my favorite member of the trio. I ran through four Facebook statuses in about 20 minutes and shed some tears, but I didn’t know what else to do.
My mom recommended I write a column about MCA, thinking it might be cathartic. It sounded like a good idea, but I don’t know if it will work. I hope it does.
I didn’t grow up listening to hip-hop: I grew up listening to the Beastie Boys. I’ve since become a fan of many hip-hop artists, but the Beasties introduced me to rap. For that, I’m forever grateful to Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, Mike “Mike D” Diamond and especially MCA.
My first full-length Beastie Boys album was 1998’s “Hello Nasty.” Of course, I had heard “Fight For Your Right,” “Brass Monkey” and “Sabotage” before, but “Hello Nasty” was the first time I sat down and listened to one of the group’s albums. I was hooked.
I worked backward until I had all the group’s records. I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to “Licensed To Ill,” “Paul’s Boutique,” “Check Your Head” and “Ill Communication.” When 2004’s “To the 5 Boroughs” was released, I was all caught up and devoured that album as fast as I could.
Each time I listen to these records, I catch something new. And each time, I find something MCA does, a line or a delivery, and realize how great he is. I guess I have to say “how great he was” now. That sucks.
His rough, gravelly delivery was so different from Ad-Rock’s and Mike D’s that everything he said stood out. But he could be so smooth, too. He was funny, charming, self-deprecating. Yauch was too talented for this to happen.
Beyond his incredible ability, MCA used his platform for so many great causes. The group organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, with MCA — a devout Buddhist — as the main member pushing the cause. The money raised from the concerts was donated to Tibet.
MCA and the rest of the group also spent much of their careers changing the perception that they were sexist party animals, largely formed after the release of “Licensed To Ill.” “Sure Shot,” a single from “Ill Communication,” featured a Yauch verse that served as the group’s first step in changing their lyrical themes.
“I wanna 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 wives and friends/I wanna offer my love and respect to the end.”
I am thankful the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame while MCA was still alive. Although he didn’t attend the ceremony, I’m sure the induction brought him
I think this is hitting me so hard because it’s been a painful reminder of what cancer can do. Someone I love is currently fighting cancer, and I’ve been trying not to think of the worst. But MCA’s death slapped me back to the reality that cancer can defeat even the best of us.
Adam Yauch’s legacy will live on through his music and the work he did throughout his amazing life. There will be countless kids in the future who discover the Beastie Boys and their dizzying creativity and incredible longevity. These same kids will hear that gravelly voice and hopefully know they’re listening to a true master of the craft of hip-hop.
“No Sleep Till Brooklyn” just came on my iPod as I finish this column. Now you can have all the sleep you want, MCA. I love you, man. Thanks for everything.