Friday, May 11, 2012

Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch 1964-2012

I nearly never heard Licensed to Ill back in 1986 because a Five Percenter almost robbed me for daring to support white MCs. 16 at the time, I’d just copped my shrink-wrapped copy of The Beastie Boys classic debut album from Crazy Eddie electronics store in The Bronx, along with a ham-and-cheese hero from my local Bibbo’s Deli. New York City DJs Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, Mr Magic and others spun ‘The New Style’, ‘Hold It Now, Hit It’, ‘Posse in Effect’ and the rest of the group’s Roland TR-808-powered beats on their late-night hip-hop shows on a regular basis. But the Five Percenter – Rashawn was his name – was set to toss my Licensed to Ill in the garbage that cold winter’s day right along with my swine sandwich.

“Fuck those whiteboys,” he said, a fine way to dismiss MCA, Mike D and the King Ad-Rock. Hip-hop’s Ramones. The Caucasian Run-DMC. I was never able to see The Beastie Boys live in concert, and now I never will.

Adam Nathaniel Yauch, rapper MCA, died on May 4th of salivary gland cancer. He was 47. Licensed to Ill, Paul’s Boutique (1989), Check Your Head (1992) and Ill Communication (1994) represent an uninterrupted stretch of crazy-high quality hip-hop in a genre that often struggles to put out more than two consecutive classics. As a group, The Beastie Boys are matched only by De La Soul in that regard.

MCA was the face of The Beasties’ evolution, from the teenage faux anarchy of their hit ‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)’ and the inflatable penises of their live shows to Tibetan Freedom Concert appearances and Yauch’s own nonprofit organisation for Tibetan independence, the Milarepa Fund. Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu – an American of Tibetan descent – and their daughter, Tenzin Losel.

As their labelmates on Def Jam brought hip-hop into suburbia, Beasties samples introduced Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Clash to the hood. Urban cultural exchange at its finest. --Miles Marshall Lewis

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