Monday, May 7, 2012

Workin' For MCA: Adam Yauch R.I.P.

It was not until HBO ran the telecast of the 2012 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Awards Show that it hit me.

Adam Yauch was dead.

You always knew something was up because the base camp seemed mum on the deal. Then came the aforementioned telecast where only two of the Beasties showed up.

There is no way Adam would have missed that. You knew he was in bad shape. And that sucks because he is my age, you know?  We're supposed to be turning into Republicans now, not watching our musical peers die! From what I know about him-I do not think it was the work of a good press manager-Adam Yauch seemed like the kind of guy continually striving towards spiritual perfection. Here was a dude that walked a misogynist line at first, but then got a chance to see a completely new worldview with his fame.

And it sucked, even when his wallet was full.

He saw the way things were while traveling the globe. He endured the Cretins at nearly every stop, the ones who viewed that to fight for their right to party meant to be prone to violence, to disrespecting women, to ignoring those who suffer more in favor of his own superficial needs. So he transformed himself into a Buddhist spiritually, and his music became more from the heart as well.

At first it appeared that he was gonna to outmaneuver the Treacherous Three with equal shares of basic passion and novelty. But when he began to put more of his spirit into a new spat of songs, the Beastie Boys suddenly because more than another white boy novelty.

You can probably guess that I hated Licensed To Ill. As I loaded in my shit into Rider Hall, a dormitory on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa, the sounds of Licensed To Ill blared out of nearly every window. It was a precursor to what was to come next: binge drinking followed by a continual formation of 4 to 6 troops as they made their way to a collection of bars within walking distance from the campus in a spot referred to as “The Hill.”

In the morning, you’d find sleepy and embarrassed girls quietly pushing their way out of stranger’s dorm rooms, disgusting remnants of vomit in the communal showers, and then the entire thing begins again with another bit of Bloody Marys over “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.”

Fuck the Beastie Boys!

They sounded like they were part of the problem and I wanted nothing to do with them. I was working as the Program Director for the campus radio station the next time I came across the Beasties. How ironic that they were there towards the beginning of my college career and here they were trying to paint a soundtrack for my exit. I was having nothing of it.

A new record came into the station, Paul’s Boutique, and I immediately placed into the bin for the Rap show that we aired every Saturday night before the metal show. I was sure that the show’s host would find a good audience for this new Beasties record, because I most certainly wasn’t part of that audience.

By this time, I was fully enthralled with Public Enemy and a new band called De La Soul and guessed that the Beasties were following their moronic id on to a new record label because they didn’t get what they wanted with Def Jam.

Then a friend called me.

“Have you heard the new Beastie Boys record? He asked.

“No, and I have no intention of listening to it either!” I responded like a no-it-all.

“Dude, you need to hear it. It’s nothing like the first one.” He encouraged.

It took more that one phone call before I made a return visit to the rap radio show’s record bin and pulled Paul’s Boutique from the crate. “Is this as good as I’ve heard people say it is? I asked the white rap show host whose last name was easily misread as “Bologna.” “

Yeah, it’s a really good record.” He replied, surprised that I would even give a shit. As far as he knew, the only record I every borrowed to make a copy of from his pile was Schooly D’s Am I Black Enough For You.

 I put Paul’s Boutique on the Technics turntable in the back production room, admiring its selfless artwork that barely identified the artist and title. I also got a kick at how the band used the old Capitol rainbow spiral label for the vinyl version. What I really loved was how the Beasties spent the three or so years in between records and completely reinvented themselves in a way that nobody could anticipate. How did three schmucks from Brooklyn get their heads out of their ass in such short order that their sophomore release ended up being an absolute classic?

I was sold.

And the Beastie Boys became our generation’s hipster MCs, splicing in the collective memory of our pop culture before anyone else into some of the best lines ever put to pen and over a collage of beats and loops that had everyone playing “Guess The Sample.”

While the Beasties may not have got better after Paul’s Boutique, they certainly became more beloved. I’d say they were worthy enough to gain access to the Rock Hall, but I would have rather seen a few more releases instead of having their entrance speech seem more like a eulogy instead of an induction.

What a shame. Adam Yauch was one of those rare artists continually evolving, and if not in music, then in life itself. I hope that his faith prepared the transition into the next realm with all the beauty he deserved. His greatest lessons may indeed be the ones not found within music, but what an awesome residual effect they are for the rest of us.

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