Last week I really wanted to write about the passing of Adam Yauch – otherwise known as MCA of the Beastie Boys – but I didn’t. There are reasons for why I wanted to write up a blog. The obvious being that since this is intended to be a music blog, and since a high profile and prolific musician passed, I should probably put in my two cents.
But would I say? That I grew in a middle class neighborhood and got into the Beastie Boys through Hello Nasty instead of their earlier albums? That I heard of them first from punk bands I was listening to at the time? Yes, actually because that is the truth.
My perception of the band is different than most people. Growing up in suburban New England you experience hip-hop differently than one would in a major city, especially New York. To me the band was more than hip-hop. They (to me) embodied the punk rock ethos; to deconstruct what they were – a punk band – and create something entirely new. Something that wasn’t familiar, that was strange, that was new. Something aggressive and polished and accessible but that carried the weight of an important message; that times had changed. Out with the old and in with the new, as they say. But I regret not giving the group more attention both in my youth and now. This weekend I was at a local bar that has a great jukebox with some friends. Inevitably we got around to talking about Yauch’s passing and we each admitted to one another – and probably for the first time to ourselves – how much we liked their music. The group came on the jukebox but not by our hand. Back at my place the Beasties were pumping through my computer speakers and no one seemed to mind listening to their albums from start to finish instead of just selecting a few song, or making a playlist.
From eighth grade and throughout high school my friends and I had an aversion to rap. It was what the popular kids listened to even though 95% of them were suburban white kids and 25% of that original grouping was upper-middle class. But the Beastie Boys were the real deal. It wasn’t music about clubs and expensive lifestyles. It was about being bored, being an outcast, a nerd. It was music for people who thought differently. The Beastie Boys music opened my mind (and record collection) to more than just specific bands in the specific genres I was enclosed in. It was also a history lesson in hip-hop. For this I am grateful to Yauch and crew.
Hundreds of music blogs took in in their stead to write about Yauch and with good reason. The Beastie Boys are one of those bands that push a genre while also pushing themselves. There isn’t much I can add to their history by writing it here. They were entertaining. They were spiritual. They were political and they were influential. I was naive to not introduce myself to them earlier, or continue to follow their career more closely as did some of their biggest fans. Every few years a musician or a band will come around that changes the game even if only slightly. Saddest is felt when they’re gone because they are people (like you and me) but if you are blind to what is happening as it happens, then the sadness is only deeper.
The passing of Adam Yauch is truly sad and I wish the best to his family and friends. The music community suffered a loss with his passing.