As I’m sure you’ve now heard, Adam Yauch, better known to us as MCA of the Beastie Boys, sadly passed away on Friday after losing a near 3 year battle with cancer. Far from being in a position to write a well-informed obituary, I’d just like to take a moment to send a bit of love MCA-ways, and share with y’all a few of my favourite related memories and Beastie songs and videos – and at the same time, maybe even ease the sadness of losing a musical hero for the very first time.
I’m searching my mind here, but thankfully, as far as I can tell, the nucleus of my musical heroes are still with us and in good health. In terms of artists that I look up too, whose records I bought during the golden years of my musical awakening, there hasn’t been a bursting of my record listening bubble until now. Therefore, the passing of MCA has come as a real shock.
Born too young for License to Ill, and raised on a diet of Beatles and Britpop, I didn’t actually discover the Beastie Boys until summer 1999, whereupon school was officially out and N64’s were officially in. It was during this time (post school, pre-sixth form) that the majority of my closest friendships were formed. And the two years that followed are easily some of the fondest of my life.
Many a day was spent playing Goldeneye and Mario Kart 64, soundtracked (at my group of friends insistence) to Ill Communication, Hello Nasty and The Beastie Boy’s Anthology: The Sounds of Science. I had yet to succumb to lure of the Beasties, but my friends and I shared a passion for a wealth of other artists, and it was this mutual love for music that was highest on our agenda.
Whilst we were never considered the cool kids, my group of friends and I were certainly above the lower end of the social scale. Much of the ilk of The Inbetweeners, we had access to the parties, but not to the girls. It was a time of unrequited love, underage drinking and regular trips to HMV and a select few second-hand record stores.
I will never forget the ritualistic manner in which we’d peel the pricing and security stickers off of our CDs on the bus ride home. I’d gorge myself on the art-work, sleeve notes and lyrics. The previous generation to me and my peers fetishise the virtues of vinyl, but I’ve often felt the same sentiments toward many a CD. Few more so than Hello Nasty itself. Just holding it my hands evokes such love and happiness. I’m finding it hard to describe what it is about the artwork that I like so much but I think I can nail it in a few simple words : it’s just so fucking cool.
The front cover is in reference to “MCA, where have you been? Packed like sardines in a tin” from Body Movin’, and just look at how happy MCA actually is sat in the middle of that tin. He’s positively beaming! Looking at it now after his death, it really warms my heart and reminds me how much fun MCA and the Beastie Boys really were.
I wholeheartedly equate the Beastie Boys with fun and friendship. The Beasties were a gang, they were brothers, and it was through my fondness for my own peers that I gave the Beastie Boys the time of day. Outside of my parents, my older brothers and of my own investigations, this group of friends were the first to have any influence on what music I listened too, and the music of the Beastie Boys was the first that I had to persist with before I eventually saw the light. Sure I already loved Sabotage and its accompanying promo but I hadn’t really listened to any other Beastie Boys until this time.
I recall laughable attempts to try to rap along to their records. The closest I ever got was with an MCA rhyme from Intergalactic: “well I gotta keep it going, keep it going full steam, too sweet to be sour, too nice to be mean, on the tough guy style I’m not too keen, try to change the world I will plot and scheme.” At least I think it goes something like that? I found MCA’s gruff voice to be the most accessible element of the Beasties, the most reassuring, and I took to lines like that with gusto. Phrases like “I’m so sweet like a nice bon-bon” or “I’ll stir-fry you in my wok”, they never failed to raise a smile.
As you’ve probably gathered. Hello Nasty was the record I took to the most. It had such variety; tunes like Super Disco Breakin’, Song for the Man, and the instrumental groove of Sneakin’ Out the Hospital. It was clear to me that so much thought had gone in to it, so much love. And as I’m a big softie at heart I was always gonna fall for the most tender, un-Beastie Boy song on the album, MCA’s gorgeous little world-weary ballad, I Don’t Know.
Too this day I have only ever possessed Licensed to Ill, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty. And it makes me sad to say that it has taken the death of MCA to make me delve a little deeper. I never even noticed this classic MCA rhyme before on Sure Shot: “I’ve got more rhymes than I’ve got grey hairs, and that’s a lot because I’ve got my share.” What a bloody legend!
After years of putting it off, I think the time has finally come to visit Paul’s Boutique. Until then, we might as well enjoy a remaining few favourites.
R.I.P MCA and thanks for the memories.