This is turning into a regular season of remembrances that yank me back to my younger self’s passions and offer the same challenge of what the hell are you going to make of your life. First we lost Adrienne Rich, and now Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys, has died at 47 of cancer.
The classic take on the Beastie Boys is that they made hip-hop “safe for the suburbs.” That is certainly how they found their way to my ears: my first memory of listening to the BB is sitting in my car in the parking lot at Tysons Corner Mall at 10PM after finishing up my job folding shirts, rocking out to the Licensed to Ill album. What is really amazing about them is how they were able to stay together at the highest level as friends and creative partners while evolving so much as people. MCA was the lead jerk in the band when they were teenagers singing about Brass Monkey, but became the one to say “To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends/I want to offer my love and respect to the end” by the mid-90s (on “Sure Shot,” source for the title of this post), and shout out to his parents. There’s nothing here for me to say that hasn’t been noted elsewhere but his combination of maturing gracefully while staying (somewhat ironically) dope was unique.
My favorite Beastie Boys moment was in the summer of 1997 when my brother and I saw them as part of the Tibetan Freedom Concert on Randalls Island in New York–along with Blur, Bjork, Alannis and other mega stars of the 90s. The Beasties were in matching red mechanic suits, bounding around the stage at the peak of their powers. Watch the whole video, including the NYC skyline at the end. #RIPMCA