How the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch influenced my musical tastes [Remembrance]
It has been a week since Adam "MCA" Yauch has passed away from a bout with cancer. I really felt like I should post something on here at the time, but just could not figure out what to say that you would not be able to read in any of the many stories and tributes you could find on the web.
As the news spread that day, Facebook and Twitter became grounds for an outpouring of "RIP MCA" posts and reflections of listening to the Beastie Boys and the influence the group had on many of my friends.
Sixth Grade would end up being a highly significant year in my life. I found myself starting over in a new school, having moved the previous summer from the much smaller Greenville, IL to what seemed like an overwhelmingly large Belleville, IL. At some point in the school year, I decided to sacrifice my weekly allowance for a considerably lengthy amount of time so my Mom would buy a recently introduced Nintendo Entertainment System for me. While the NES was a huge change in the landscape of video gaming, and would become a huge part of my life, there was another event in the world of entertainment during this time that would help shape the rest of my life. Licensed To Ill happened, and I was introduced to the Beastie Boys.
The first two friends I made when I first moved to Belleville were Travis and Brandon. Travis lived directly across the street and Brandon lived just down the block. Brandon had an older brother and that is how I remember getting a copy of Licensed To Ill. It was only a matter of time before Travis, Brandon, and I would have every line of the album memorized. By the summer of '87, Licensed To Ill would become the soundtrack to just about everything we did - as long as the parents were not around anyway. I cannot even remember how many times we would dub copies on blank cassettes because the previous copy would be worn down to unplayable levels.
Fast forward a couple of years and I would find myself starting high school and becoming close friends with Jeff. We became friends through a mutual interest in music, particularly hip-hop and the Beasties. Their sophomore album, Paul's Boutique, had recently been released and you just felt that they just elevated the hip-hop game to a new level. In our junior year, Check Your Head hit the record racks and the group appeared live at Mississippi Nights on tour in support of the album.
The date of the show was May 8, 1992; the first time I would ever step foot inside Mississippi Nights. This show marked the first time I would go to a concert without parents involved or being in a huge auditorium or concert hall. I remember being incredibly excited and even slightly nervous before the show. I think the nervousness stemmed from feeling like I was going into this whole new world that I was nowhere near cool enough to be a part of. I could go into the details of the show, but then this post would end up being a book. Let me just leave it at the show was amazing and is still in my top five shows I have ever attended.
Even more important than the show being absolutely amazing, was the experience I took away from being in that room that night. To me, there is no greater feeling in life than being in a small venue while a group is just absolutely killing it and the crowd is having the time of their lives. Whenever the jackpot amounts in the various lotteries get to the astronomical range, people always start talking about what they would do with the money if they won. My selfish answer to that situation would be that I would go to a show every night until all the money was gone, or just build my own venue and throw the most amazing concerts I could come up with. The Beastie Boys helped kickstart my addiction and helped me find something that makes me happier than I ever thought I could be.
Though this is embarrassing to admit, I can remember on quite a few occasions where Travis, Brandon, and I would be listening to License To Ill and all rapping along to the album and basically pretending to be the Beastie Boys. Though it seemed like we were getting to the age where this was completely silly, it just felt natural and still really fun. (I find it ironic that we still had no problem playing those video games on the NES pretending in the back of our minds to be the characters in the games, but playing "pretend" at that age was just for the little kids and we were now so old.) I was always MCA when we did this. I remember actually feeling a little resentful in that I wasn't Mike D or Ad-Rock because I wanted to be one of the more "outgoing" members. MCA always seemed like the mellow member of the group. This was fitting because I was the quieter and introverted person in our group and just wanted to be the person I wasn't.
As I got older and more involved in listening to hip-hop, MCA became one of my favorite MCs and, to me, was the strongest link in the band. While the Beasties started out as partying delinquents, the group went on to raise the consciousness in hip-hop. MCA was heavily involved in various charities and organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts. He also was incredibly creative in the video production, often directing many of the Beasties' iconic videos under his alias, Nathanial Hörnblowér.
Maybe 47 is too young to lose someone with so much left to give. But, maybe we should be looking at it another way. Here was someone who made the most of the time he had here and remind ourselves to do the same. Thank you Mr. Yauch for being a huge part in my love of music and, ultimately, in my life. To my friends, the next time the Beasties come on over the stereo and we all start to pretend to be one of the B-Boys in our minds, I call MCA.