It’s not hard to understand the impact of the loss of Adam Yauch, aka MCA, founding Beastie Boy. With the passing of music idols comes a sense of the passage of time, all the more so when they’re barely into middle age. But MCA, to a swath of music fans, is more than a distant idol. He, and the band he helped build, somehow make a connection as everymen to those who loved their music. It’s not because they’re white kids from Brooklyn rapping, or because Yauch had a Jewish mother; that’d ignore their popularity across the broader hip-hop spectrum and far from the New York City boroughs. It’s not simply their combination of punk and hip-hop and rock, though that blend they and producer Rick Rubin brewed was clearly an essential vehicle.
Somehow, Yauch spans coming of age all the way from unapologetic immaturity to genuine manhood. Maybe it’s beause Yauch was so downright irreverant, ready to speak up, in that uniquely forward manner of New Yorkers, across that whole span. And Yauch’s own journey has unique appeal, seeming to play every possible role a musician can. From starting a band with an inflatable phallus and crank calls to ice cream shops made into raps to contemplative Buddhist advocate and activist, everyone seems to just follow along. “You’ve got to fight for your right to party,” and the fans nod in agreement. “The disrespect to women has got to be through,” and the fans nod in agreement. From raucous kid to advocate of women’s rights, against violence, for Tibetan freedom, in a New York facing down 9/11 and an America choosing between peace and war, Yauch earnestly gave voice to those people. Celebrities can try to do this, but Yauch and the Beasties could do it for fans who truly felt they were one of their own.
To understand that appeal, though, you have to go back to the most irreverant stuff, the jokes the Beasties would later apologize for. You have to see them in their rawest state, mugging for New York’s DIY public access television, making weird informercials for their music. You have to see them live, tearing it up, making the music that kept them from being just another label creation or young kids’ fantasy. People loved Adam Yauch the man because they understood the kid, because they grew up with him. And what an extraordinary path he took – what an incredible, unforgettable voice.That’s why I’m hugely grateful to Jason Forrest of Network Awesome for teaming up with us to share some of those videos, some of the oddest and most obscure finds, dug from the archives and found via YouTube, “sampled” from the Interwebs in the way the Beasties sampled on their records.
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Mike D, Adrock and their special guest Sir. Wallace Stewart presenting the 120 minutes from MTV 90's
Ultra-cheap infomercial that the Beasties ran on TV to promote their album Hello Nasty
The Beastie Boys tear up Germany on the Hello Nasty tour
The Beastie Boys' elaborate and somehow charming release party for Paul's Boutique!
A look back at the long and incredible career of the one and only Beastie Boys!
Interviews with the Beastie Boys throughout all phases of their long and brilliant career