What I really want to create is a not-for-profit Unofficial Biography of The Beastie Boys that is an audio version only, meaning I would have to personally rap you the chapters. But instead you get this for now:
It's been a couple weeks since Adam Yauch's death and I still can't seem to get over it---the mourning of my own adolescent years, the loss of his deep, husky voice, the music and beats he created--and the loss of an admirable man whose evolution we can watch anytime we want thanks to youtube: his crazy years fighting for his right to party, falling down all over the stage in ridiculous antics, barely able to get through an interview without losing focus-- to his metamorphosis into heightened lyrics and ideas about feminism, social justice and Buddhism.
I also feel for his brothers--Mike D and Ad Rock who also changed their frat boy lifestyles--Mike D became a vegetarian and Ad Rock took an opportunity at the VMA's to speak out about sexual assault against women, and all three got political with messages about the plight of Tibetans in their struggle for freedom and why the U.S. should enforce non-violent means to resolve conflicts. I can't imagine the camaraderie they must have shared--their job was literally finishing each other's sentences. They got rich and famous together, traveled the world together, they all got married to cool, smart women, they grew older together (and so gracefully!). Although the videos for Sabotage and Intergalactic are among my favorites--and I love the humor and visuals of "Nathaniel Hornblower" (aka MCA) who directed many of them (Sasquatch kidnapping them in Triple Trouble and the crazy epic chase in Body Movin'), my real favorites are the videos where it's just the three of them together--barely inches apart, like a Hydra creature, swaying and rocking to the beat as one. You can also see the differences in their personalities like a character study for a novel--MCA as the laid back leader with the gruff, "wise" voice, Ad Rock with the highest pitched voice and the most energy--and best dancer, and Mike D like an intermediary between them. It feels so juvenile, these boys playing pretend, rapping to the camera, but it's also profound. For three people to rise above the commercialization of their art, the changes and growth of three decades, the ebb and flow of life and still be the best of friends, gifted musicians and MCs, intuitively bobbing and moving around each other on stage and in their videos--it doesn't happen every day, or even every decade.
Here are my favorite videos showcasing their brotherhood, and in their words "just three MCs and one DJ."
1. So What Cha Want
Walking through the woods was never more fun. Just the three of them rhymin' and rappin'.
2. So What Cha Want Live
This is even better---this is one of the best live videos I've seen of theirs--really playing off each other. And their energy level is through the roof! Even MCA who usually channels his energy differently by hanging back and letting the other two jump around more is right there with them.
There are other people in the band and it's not one where they're crowded in front of a fisheye lens, but playing music together is symbiotic and you can feel their connection here--not to mention their versatility. Ad Rock (Adam Horovitz), said that when he wrote 'Gratitude' he showed it to MCA (Adam Yauch) who liked it a lot and Ad Rock said it meant a lot to him to get Yauch's approval. They were going through a transition together during this "Check Your Head" era--and they emerged on the other side, friendships intact. "What's gonna set you free? Look inside and you'll see."
4. Three MCs and One DJ
This makes it seem like the best times of their lives were hanging out in a basement rapping with each other.
5. Right Right Now Now
The video begins with their arms linked in a circle. And it continues with a series of cameras circling them as they move around this one small spot. They spoke out against taking any corporate sponsorship and they're wearing what looks like "home made" style Beastie Boys shirts. It's fascinating just to watch them work together--and that's what the song--a very political song-- is about. Who better than The Beasties to tell us how to work together?
If the video has been disabled, click here to go youtube (it will open in a new window): Right Right Now Now
6. Ch-Check it Out
I have to add this live one. They are the masters of what I call (and maybe other people do too?) "The Walking Fisheye." They do their classic walk-and-rap to a camera with a fisheye lens, one of their signature styles. They had to censor their own song to perform this on Letterman--the chorus is not "Let's turn this, turn this party out." They've done "The Walking Fisheye" so many times, as soon as they emerge from the Subway exit they glide down that sidewalk, never tripping over each other, always in a groove like a choreographed dance. They know they've got it down--"So believe it when I say I'm no better than you, except when I rap so I guess it ain't true."
Thanks for letting me obsess over you and your bros, MCA. You are greatly missed.
I’ve been mourning the loss of Adam Yauch aka MCA of The Beastie Boys since he passed on Friday. I didn’t realize how much I was effected by this, until several days later, I found myself nostalgic, listening to their music, watching performances on youtube and feeling a real loss of my childhood-adolescent and early-young adult years. I can’t say the Beasties were ever my favorite band. I never saw them live. But they were a part of my life the way music was always a part of my life—there was always music, and there were always the Beastie Boys. Who would say they didn’t like them? Who wouldn’t think they were cool? Who could say they didn’t represent our youthful growing, learning and changing ideas about ourselves and then the world?
From as far back as I can remember, they were always cool—not yet legendary like they are now—because they were still relevant and cutting edge and younger, but definitely just always so damn cool, in a way I was too young to even get. I remember the ‘Fight For Your Right’ video. It came out in 1986 and although I didn’t watch it then, when I was old enough to watch it (which, for me, was only a few years later as a little kid—sneaking in the living room to watch MTV and getting caught watching scandalous Billy Idol videos--what would be tame by today’s standards) I felt like I was part of the club. I got into “rock” early and liked that rock “swagger” wearing little jean jackets and passing on the bubble gum pop and going through my parents’ Who albums instead. The Beasties mix of rock guitar, SCREAMING and ‘old school’ hip hop appealed to me. These privileged, skinny white dudes were like a bridge from my rock preferences to my expanding ideas of hip hop and my continuing curiosity about it.
When I was pre-teen, I was still a little young to fully appreciate ‘Paul’s Boutique’ and ‘Sabotage.’ Later it would become my anthem for all my teen angst—at 1:52 when they scream WAHHHHHHH!—I would blast it in the car when I could finally drive—no one understands me except Mike D, Ad Rock and MCA!! (pretending I was drag racing through the backwoods streets of my hometown, when really, I was notorious for going the speed limit—and that’s what the Beastie Boys represented—we thought they were bad boys, but they weren’t really). It felt a little dangerous to like the Beasties and I hid their music from my parents, just in case.
When ‘Hello Nasty’ came out, I was in high school. They were older, and so was I. They were thinking about the greater issues of the world. So was I. They were starting to have messages about it. So was I. I had been really into 1960s music, vintage clothing, and the world my parents had grown up in. But ‘Hello Nasty’ brought me back into my own world. I couldn’t believe how ‘Intergalactic’ sounded—how could a song sound like that? My sister and I made up dances to it, over and over, it gave us such an adrenaline rush. It was futuristic and modern and cool and spacey and they were rapping ridiculous lyrics but with so much conviction. They were older and more mature. Their stage performances were more polished, they carried themselves differently. This is when they started wearing matching jumpsuits and I couldn’t tell if their movements were choreographed or intuitive with each other—a real ‘bromance’, they were separate but one. They were separate from us but we were one with them. The music was so much more complex. They seemed so intelligent—far from their days fighting for their right to party. I trusted them more and where they were taking us. I listened to that album over and over—when I went to college it was still the go-to album—everyone loved it.
Beasties in their jumpsuit era
Later, when I lived in NYC, I found myself in a city I had never been in, with a copy of “To the Five Boroughs” with a picture right on the cover of the city before my eyes. It was their most politically themed album and I was right there with them energetically, it was like my meta-physical map to the city and the time. And Adam talking about the situation in Tibet and the situation in the U.S. in a new era of The Patriot Act and terrorism and Bush and post-9/11, it was scary and confusing and infuriating—but I had my older bros to explain it to me.
I can’t remember a time when the Beastie Boys weren’t there and when they didn’t mean something to me and to my life. Losing Adam at only 47 (I can’t believe he was even 47—he seemed ageless, like he was always going to stay a “boy”) has made me feel how much time has passed, how much me and my generation have grown up and how much the older generations we looked up to have aged. But it also reminded me of how much I learned from them, how their music became a timeline for my own growth and how many good times were had by all. Keep on rockin’ and rappin’ Mike D and Adam H. And RIP Adam Y. Thanks for the memories.
The sound of music makin you insane
You can't explain to people this type of mind frame
Like a bottle of Chateau Neuf Du Pap
I'm fine like wine when I start to rap
We need body rockin, not perfection
Let me get some action from the back section
"I think that it's very important that the U.S. start to look to non-violent means to resolving conflicts"
I could dance to this song forever! Love it when Adam says "Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock!"
Fun interview with Conan at the end.
Feminist dudes speaking up against sexual assault.
News from the Captain's Quarters.