Final Shout out to MCA

10 May

I was sweating it out in Lawrence when I got the text: “MCA SON!” “Adam Yauch?” I responded. “Yep. Sad day buddy.” Damn. I was still processing Junior Seau’s suicide. I ended up hanging with my friend’s neighbor’s drinking Brass Monkeys (Mickey’s and Orange Juice) in their upstairs apartment.

I was too shocked to feel anything. We jammed a little and listened to drum breaks and by the time it got dark my feelings were starting to settle.

It seemed fitting to go to a punk show that night, and I halfway expected one of the bands to bust out “Tough Guy” as a tribute to the Beastie Boys. It never came, not even a mention Adam Yauch and I left the club feeling a bit disappointed that many didn’t seem to share my grief (and how could these kids they were probably six when Intergalactic played on the airwaves).

But it was obvious who knew what was up. I happened by a jazz bar to hear them playing Paul’s Boutique and so I went inside and bought shots for the bar staff. This was probably the closest I felt to bonding with the universal middle aged white guy.

The next day I overheard various conversations from cohorts in my age range. These servers at the restaurant were talking when I was in line. “ Man you hear about MCA from the Beastie Boys?” “Yea man. 47.”

“He was so young.”

“ I didn’t even know he still had it man. I thought he’d beaten the cancer.”

“So did I. Everyone had done such a good job of downplaying it. I guess that’s why it’s so shocking.”

I remember when various pop figures had met their demise Tupac, Biggie, Jam Master Jay, Michael Jackson, even George Harrison. This one hit me differently. This felt personal. Those deaths didn’t hit the same nerve that Adam Yauch’s touched.

I grew up on the Beasties. I had the Licensed to Ill on cassette and my little brother bumped it incessantly on his toy boombox player. I myself was 7 or 8 when that album came out. I missed the bus on Paul’s Boutique (My older cousins listened to Easy E and Ice-T, MC Shan and Boogie Down Productions).

But I could remember when Whatcha’ want? Debuted on BET and my aunt’s husband saying “Damn Beastie Boys coming hard with it.” The video was trippy and the clothes they were wearing were the standard white kid’s apparel at the time. I was about to be a sophomore in high school when Sabotage played non-stop on MTV.

I remember kind of hating on the B-Boys because all the white girls I was trying to fuck back then loved them (especially AD-Rock). By this point I wasn’t sure about them. I didn’t have many white friends and I just wasn’t getting them at that time.

And I knew that when the “Licensed to ill” album was playing at any high school party I was attending, then that was the signal to split; because some white boys were about to get rowdy (meaning that something stupid was about go down which would result in the police getting called).

But I was fresh on my own when Hello Nasty came out. I remember when the album dropped. I was at what was then Warehouse Music, listening to shit and saw the cover.

I figured I’d give it a listen. The beats were fresh and hard and dope. So I bought that shit and the first six tracks justified the purchase alone (it would be many years later before I’d learn to appreciate their instrumental joints). But that was the moment that they cemented themselves into my heart. I was 19. I had my own car.

I was finally getting pussy, and I had realized that white boys weren’t all that bad to kick it with—in fact they really knew how to party. I was getting loose—real loose. I traded in my collar shirts for ringed Tees with Speed Racer and Curious George on the front, and long sleeves underneath them. I was doing any drug that was offered to me and expanding my mind.

By the time the B-boys came to Fort Worth I was ready. I went to funky town in my tear away Adidas pants and fresh T-shirt. I got drunk on Corona and tequila and puked in the parking lot of the Tarrant County Convention center. I had a fucking ball (though my second level seat seemed rather far away from the action).

Rancid and Rammstein opened up for them (Tribe called Quest had just broken up at this point–and were no longer on the tour—which was a real bummer because I had just been introduced to them via MTV and The Source magazine).

People lost their minds when they played Intergalactic, people really fucking lost it when they closed with Sabotage, motherfuckers were moshing all up and down that arena– while the lights went on to expose the impending madness. My life was changed forever that night.

I went out and immediately bought Paul’s Boutique, Ill Communication, and Check Yo Head. I was in on the secret finally. These white boys were pretty fucking cool It seemed like a litmus test of legitimacy if you quoted the “Dick in the Mashed Potatoes” sample and the present company got the reference. Either they were a square or I’d met a friend for life.

A curious thing happened that kind of signaled a change in the winds. In 2000 (before El duderino from the Bush family stole that election) the Beasties had announced a tour with Green Day and Rage Against the Machine. I could give a fuck about Green Day, but I was a hard core Rage Against the Machine fan.

During that time I had five favorite bands: Wu Tang Clan, Beastie Boys, Radiohead, U2 (go ahead and laugh I had EVERYTHING they’d ever recorded), and RATM. The Wu had skipped out on their tour with RATM back in ’98 (opening the door for whites to get exposed to the Roots) so this was surely going to make up for that.

RATM and the B-boys on the same tour? This had the potential to be one of the greatest tours of all time. I bought myself pit tickets for the Dallas show and just waited. It was surely going to be the best summer of my life.

I was already going to get to see Roger Waters and Steely Dan. This was the butter cream icing on the cake. Alas though, misfortune struck. Mike D broke his collarbone riding his (low rider?) bicycle and the tour had to be canceled. A few months later Rage broke up, and sure enough old “shrub” stole the election.

What seemed to be a promising start to the decade became a harbinger for the strangeness to come. When 2004 came I had finally learned the ins and outs of jazz and instrumental music.

I’d finally caught up with the Beastie Boys’ early nineties catalog and was a bit underwhelmed when To the 5 Boroughs came out (You mean they don’t play instruments on this one? WTF!!!)

My girlfriend at the time was a complete pop culture whore and I remember getting snarky with her when she said she bought their album. I snickered and told her I preferred when they played their own shit (I was such a pretentious douche).

She was the kind of girl who liked Jimmy Eat World and Save Ferris, and Bowling For Soup. One time she played me an album by Guster, and halfway through the album I decided that this was reason enough to break up with her. She was a gorgeous red head chick but she had terrible taste in music, and this always led to criticism from me in some form or other.

Finally she grew tired of my stale act and ended things for good.

That fall the Beasties went down to Austin and newly single I decided to meet this older woman down there to go to the show. It was off the chain. I was front row down in the pit and they played everything. The rapping was on point (even if they did look a little goofy as three older gentleman in green warm up suits dancing around) and they sounded great during their three instrumental breaks (the first time I saw them I would use these moments to sit down or go pee—this time I was ALL IN).

I moshed with the hard core geeks and tossed my share of crowd surfers. I even got a little head that night from the lady who took me to the show. All in all a great night for 38 US dollars.

When the Mix-Up came out I was living in California as a (literally) starving writer. I had just had my car stolen at the Arcade Fire show in Berkeley. I was living off of 20 bucks a week for groceries. My diet consisted of granola cereal, soy milk, and Amy’s canned soup. My weight was down to 145 lbs. I had graduated high school at a 165 clip. I had quit my restaurant gig in Berkeley and hadn’t yet found a gig in San Francisco.

One particular Friday I was in the city goofing around when I came across this huge line in front of the Warfield theatre. Young folks were dressed to the nines heading to what looked like the party of the century. Prom gear galore, powder blue tuxes and funny wigs.

Make up, long multi-colored stockings, and a festive atmosphere directed me to look on the bill and see that sure enough the Beasties were back. At the time I had the money for the show. But it would cost me for sure. I was looking at some lean weeks ahead if I dropped coin on the show. I found out that they were doing two gigs in the Bay.

The next day they’d be at the Greek. At least there I could stand outside the venue and listen. I kept walking to whatever destination I was heading—probably some booty assed open mic. I didn’t go to Berkeley the next day, and whatever I did instead I can’t tell you (I’ve blocked out most of those embarrassing, unnecessarily lean years out in Cali from my memory). I did eventually look at the set list from that San Francisco show a few years later.

My stomach dropped too when I peeped it. The show looked incredible. They had opened up with one of my favorite tunes from Ill Communication, Transitions. It was mostly instrumentals and very little rapping (that would be the Berkeley show). This particular show seemed special.

The boys were all threaded out in green suits looking suave and dapper. From everything I’ve heard and seen this was an unforgettable show (and of course I chose to fucking miss it). I can easily say this is one of my biggest regrets as an adult (that and trying to fuck every good looking female comic on the open mic circuit).

For whatever reason, I found myself getting back into the Beasties over the last 10 months—right before the Hot Sauce Committee had come out. This may possibly coincide with the fact that I’ve recently started jamming with a dude across town (I realized how much I like Mike D’s drumming—he’s good but not intimidating).

Maybe it is because my responsibilities have increased and the need to feel as free as I should have felt in my late teens, has surfaced. All I know is that I spent many an off day last summer and fall blowing some serious dank and listening to Beastie grooves.

It felt good. Especially as a newly single dude. Swimming, playing board games, reading National Geographic, and learning music, seemed more important than getting laid. I found myself examining the ’91-’94 period for the B-boys, wondering how cool it must have been to play in a band with your best friends.

They were so ahead of the curve, taking their record budget and building a studio with it. Instead of sweating out the budgeted hours for studio time, they were free to record at their own pace, setting up a skate ramp and basketball court at their newly built G-son studios.

I mean can you imagine being in your EARLY twenties, and have nothing to worry about but getting high, recording music, playing basketball, and skating—but getting paid to do so (and occasionally touring the world) with your two best friends? It feels me with awe and envy to see them living the life I could only dream of.

And perhaps this is why I’ve in some ways regressed to the boyish attributes of my teens. I never got to skateboard when I was young. I didn’t get a chance to grow up with my schoolyard buds because we moved around so much when I was a kid. I can’t imagine how cool it must be to live the life that Ad-Rock, Mike D, and MCA got to experience during their 20’s. I had some good ass times in college. I had experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything.

In fact I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s out there. But boy oh boy I know that it must have felt fucking good to wake up as those guys ( By the way that time period in the 90’s is documented by a photographer named Ari Marcopoulos in a book called Pass the Mic—its a great coffee table item).

I have never had a favorite Beastie Boy. I have liked them all for different reasons. Mike D’s lyrics in Whatcha want? always seemed dope to me (and that badass Knicks t-shirt he wears in the video). Professor Booty was another tune that got kicked off right by the king Ad-Rock, I always liked his on stage energy, he was always crazy and spastic (and a ladies’ man—I mean really Ione Skye and Molly Ringwald?). I always liked MCA’s voice and he seemed to have the most serious and focused lyrics.

But all three were legitimate badasses in their own rights, funny, goofy but also serious musicians (something I never quite appreciated until I got serious about actually picking up an instrument)with some serious swagger. What was always so cool to me though was the dynamic. It was obvious how close they were.

They always seemed to be sharing some inside joke or another. Interviews with them could be highly entertaining (there is a really good one in Michael Rappaport’s Tribe Called Quest documentary where they are just cutting up—sharing about 30 years of inside jokes by this time).

This is what makes MCA’s death so sad to me. Rarely do you see a band last longer than 5 years. These guys had been together since they were teenagers and were still just as close (probably even closer now) as they were then.

Imagine how difficult it is to lose a friend you’ve known for 30 years. Now imagine how equally difficult it must be on a psychic/spiritual level it would be to lose a band member (especially a bass player in a trio).

Its a double loss for Mike D and Adam Horovitz. They lose a guy they’ve shared intimacy on and off stage with. It is a pretty heartbreaking thing to imagine (Bill Evans said he never got over losing bass player Scott LaFaro in a New York City car accident—he played with other guys and continued to make albums but he never quite recovered saying it just wasn’t the same magical intensity that he and LaFaro shared).

This is on par with Clifford Brown and Richie Powell dying in a car wreck in the midwest. It is on par with John Bonham or Keith Moon dying in their sleep. The Beastie trip (as we have known it) is over. But it was a damn good ride.

I’m glad I was able to taste a little bit of the goodness. All they ever did was spread good natured fun, and laughter, and creativity. I will always admire and envy the things they accomplished. I can’t believe I am at the point in my life where the adults from my childhood are now old and gray, with wrinkles under their eyes and in their faces.

I never felt old listening to the Beasties even as a 33 year old man skateboarding the streets of Tulsa, getting high and geeking out over video games and basketball. Now with MCA’s passing I am forced to examine my life(AGAIN) and determine how much longer I can be the boy I never got to be in my teen’s. Reading the various tweets, eulogies, and obituaries on Mr. Adam Yauch quickly brings up the fact that it’s no longer 1994.

Those Beasties are well gone. Those guys grew up to start families and branch out as human beings. That clubhouse they shared in Los Angeles is no longer there. They all are in Manhatten now going to film openings and DJ-ing at Museums, and hanging out backstage at concerts and getting interviewed for tv shows and documentaries.

There is still so much for me to do. Adam Yauch (and the Beastie Boys themselves) has touched so many people. His death has reverberated across the globe, revealing just how much he and his band have affected people out there.

I’m only one of millions of people that have been influenced and affected by the energy that was put out there by them. More than anything Adam Yauch’s life (and death) has shown me that there are no limits as to how far one’s imagination can stretch.

And though I am far from the person I was when I was 19 (I’m only now realizing how much my perspective was shaped by those guys—from political awareness to sense of style, and musical tastes) there is a greater self within reach if only I access my faith and creativity.

Thank you Adam Yauch, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz for teaching me that you don’t have to meet someone in order to have a positive affect on someone. You only have to do positive things and then the ripple effect takes care of everything else. Most importantly, (a lesson I continually learn over and over again) they taught me that I wasn’t nearly as cool as I thought I was. Namaste fellas.

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