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Adam Yauch: The Conscience of the Beastie Boys

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He was the best pure rapper of the three Beasties: Check his blistering solo spot "A Year and a Day" in the middle of the "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" medley that closes "Paul's Boutique." In performance, from the barely controlled chaos of the Licensed to Ill tour to their final show, a triumphant headlining set at the 2009 Bonnaroo festival, he was the linchpin, the center of the act around which the other Beasties splattered their wise-ass rhymes with power and precision.

I remember sitting in a Soho health food restaurant with Yauch when "Ill Communication" was released in 1994, and he was laughing, trying to sum up the changes he and the group had been through. He told me that he had located some high-tech juicers for them to take on that summer's Lollapalooza tour, and he described being at the store and asking a bunch of excited questions about the details of the juicing operation. The clerks at the store paused, he said, and asked "So I guess you guys don't drink Budweiser anymore?"

In front of tens of thousands of people or alone on a New York sidewalk, Adam Yauch was genuine and open and curious. He was a musical and spiritual seeker, aware of the platform he had been given and eager to see where it might lead. On "Gratitude," from "Check Your Head," the Beastie Boys sang "What's gonna set you free/Look inside and you'll see." That's how Yauch approached his life, and it's why his legacy can't, don't and won't stop.

Alan Light is the author of "The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys." A regular contributor to MSN Music, he is the former editor-in-chief of Vibe and SPIN, and was co-founder and editor-in-chief of Tracks. He is the director of programming for the public television concert series "Live From the Artists Den," and contributes frequently to The New York Times and Rolling Stone. Alan is a two-time winner of ASCAP's Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music writing.

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46Comments
May 4, 2012 11:16PM
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Rap, alt rock, hip-hop - whatever you want to call it - the lyrical vision and smoothness of Beastie Boys songs influenced countless artists.  They weren't gangsta wannabes, they were true to their NY roots.  Even people who aren't fans can recognize their totally unique style.  5, 6, 7 platinum albums with 15 - 20 number ones?   Adam brought a voice to the Tibetan cause - before he made it mainstream who knew about "Free Tibet"?  You don't have to like their style of music ( I'm not a fan of country but I give Johnny Cash his dues) but you can't discredit their impact on artists and fans.  I put all their albums on shuffle and its been non-stop Boys all day.   Sad to think we will never hear new rhymes from MCA.  But he'll live on through all of his legendary prose well past our dying day.  RIP Adam Yauch.  Condolences to family, Mike D and Ad-Rock.
May 4, 2012 10:13PM
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Really really sad news indeed.

 

Old school legend has passed away.

 

Grew up on these guys beats and rhymes from the beginning.

 

Wasn't a big fan of Licensed to Ill but IMO...Paul's Boutique, Check Your Head and Ill Communication are a hatrick of albums that any group would give their left arm to produce.

 

I feel old today.

 

RIP Adam Yauch.

Condolonces to the family.

 

Karlos

May 4, 2012 10:11PM
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MCA, you will be missed greatly bro.
One of the true legends of both Rock & Rap.

I have had many, many good times fighting for my right to party while listening to the beasties.
High School wouldn't have been the same without them.
I saw them in concert for the first time opening for Public Enemy, wicked show man!

good times.....

May 4, 2012 10:02PM
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Sad sad day for any Audiophile. R.I.P. MCA, your legend will live on.
May 4, 2012 9:43PM
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Possibly the best live show I've ever seen.  Saw the B Boys back in the day in the 90s and it was great.  Saw them again in 2010 and was completely blown away at the level of the new show.  Fine tuned over the years, obviously.  Like fine wine the Boys had aged to perfection.  Like a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape.....  We'll miss you MCA. 

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