Unlike most of those offering commentary on the death of Adam “MCA” Yauch, I can’t say that The Beastie Boy’s music changed my life, changed the way I listened to music, introduced me to a new musical genre, or changed my way of thinking. I can’t even say that The Beastie Boys are one of my favorite rap/rock/alternative groups of all time. I can’t say that I own every one of their albums. I do own the ones I like, namely Check Your Head, Ill Communication, and License to Ill (I own To The Five Boroughs too, but I don’t particularly like it). What I can say though is that I do like a large amount The Beastie Boys’ music, and MCA was my (and many others’) favorite member of The Beastie Boys. I know musical talent when I see it and hear it, and The Beastie Boys, MCA in particular, were just oozing talent. Their talent as musicians, rappers, and performers is paralleled only by the greatest of the popular music world’s most talented. They were groundbreakers and did introduce millions of kids and adults to a genre of music that they most likely knew nothing about, and in their later days, as lead by MCA, supported many just causes and introduced enlightening messages into their music via MCA’s interest in Tibetan Buddhism, the plight of Tibet, and other socially conscious ideas and movements. For such a great talent, and soul, to be laid low by such a common, yet no less horrific, disease at such a young age is truly one of the most sorrowful events that the music world can experience. Even more so, it is a sorrowful blow to the human spirit.
Yauch rapped on “Bodhisattva Vow” from, my favorite Beastie Boys’ album, Ill Communication: “Knowing only love can conquer in every situation…I pledge here before everyone who's listening to try to make my every action for the good of all beings,” and he truly did try to do what he could for the “good of all beings.” He took the time to dedicate his gravelly voice to some positive and enlightenment directed raps on nearly all of the Beastie Boys’ later albums. He was instrumental in organizing The Tibetan Freedom Concerts that ran from 1996 thru 2001. He was the subtle force behind The Beastie Boys’ maturation from party-hardy fun time worshippers to truly socially conscious engagers of the world, its injustices, and the potential solutions to its problems. The Beastie Boys would eventually get behind the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity, The Food Bank of NYC, and respect and equality for women. Ill Communication was the album, and MCA’s was the voice, that announced the new direction The Beastie Boys’ would be taking: “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue/the disrespect to women has got to be through/to all the mothers and sisters and wives and friends/I want to offer my love and respect to the end.” The huge inflatable penis was put in storage, Buddhist monk chants began to serve as backdrops, and The Beastie Boys’ showed the world they were more than party boys with nothing but good times on their minds.
This didn’t mean that the boys were abandoning the party. It was still okay to party, but the message became: party responsibly. Adam Yauch was the driving force behind this spiritual evolution. The change is evident to anyone who listens to Ill Communication. Fully engaged as musicians, artists, and rappers, Ill Communication would feature everything from the aforementioned Buddhist chants to loud and heavy guitar and bass. The intelligently crafted and live played beats and intoned rhymes would be unlike anything heard or crafted on any other Beastie Boys’ album before or after Ill Communication. It was, in my humble opinion, their crowning achievement, and that album alone would make them worthy of inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is not just because of the music on the album, but the message.
I lost someone close to me from cancer not too many years ago, so I have an idea of the pain that Adam’s family is going through. It’s easy to label something like cancer as evil when it strikes someone you hold dear. Unfortunately, cancer isn’t evil. It just is. Like many things that are destructive though, like areas of the world where freedom is still just a dream, poverty reigns, or human rights are oppressed, cancer can be fought. I think that Adam wouldn’t mind my suggesting that you take his words to heart and if you too are “glad if it helps anyone else out too” check out these sites below. Thanks Adam for all the rhymes, beats, riffs, and enlightenment.