RIP: Adam Yauch, of The Beastie Boys

5 May

I’m saddened by the loss of Adam Yauch, aka MCA, of The Beastie Boys, who passed away yesterday at the age of 47 from cancer.

Jon Pareles, writer for The New York Times, noted the group’s importance by saying, “In the history of hip-hop, the Beastie Boys were both improbable and perhaps inevitable: appreciators, popularizers and extrapolators of a culture they weren’t born into.”

“The Beasties opened hip-hop music up to the suburbs,” said Rick Rubin, who produced the group’s 1986 debut album, in a recent interview with The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. “As crazy as they were, they seemed safe to Middle America, in a way black artists hadn’t been up to that time.”

I also remember reading that when The Beastie Boys signed with Def Jam records in the mid 1980’s, Russell Simmons, Def Jam’s owner, wanted them to dress like the record label’s other major rap act, RUN DMC, in  gold chains and black leather jackets.  The Beastie Boys weren’t comfortable with that and stood their ground, and dressed like white frat boys instead.

Whenever I thought of Adam, I thought of him as a peaceful person; someone with integrity.  Perhaps that had to do with his turn to Buddhism, and his founding of the non-profit Milarepa Fund that worked to promote freedom for Tibet.

I also think of his playfulness–something he, Mike D, and AdRock never seemed to lose.  I liked that they were these three Jewish guys from New York, who knew they weren’t good rappers, embraced that, and through their sheer sense of ridiculousness, and desire to spread cheer all around,  infected us with their home-spun, funky, uplifting sounds.

Rest in peace, MCA.

 

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