I'm going to miss you, MCA. I grew up with the Beastie Boys. Literally, figuratively. They were the soundtrack of getting older.
License to Ill came out when I was in middle school, and, well, was an idiot kid, fascinated by beer and girls and sniffing glue. I'll never forget the first time I saw the video for Fight for Your Right to Party. It was late at night, and I was sitting up alone watching MTV by myself. When it came on, I thought it was a joke. When it ended, I still thought it might be a joke. But I also scribbled down the band's name, and went out and bought the tape that weekend. It was white boy rap, with aggressively stupid yet clever lyrics, dropped over metal like Zeppelin and Sabbath. I was hooked.
And as they matured, on wax, I came along with the ride. I happened to be just getting (way) into LSD and marijuana and ecstasy When Paul's Boutique dropped my sophomore year of high school. It's really popular to say that this sample-heavy album could never be made again today. But holy shit, that it was even made then is a minor miracle. It sounded like nothing else I'd ever heard. Lyrically it was so complicated and full of references that I spent hours and hours trying to understand what the hell these guys were talking about. That just accelerated on Check Your Head and Ill Communication.
Good God, y'all. They were so much cooler than me. So much cooler than I'd ever be.
And as time went on, Adam Yauch in particular became like a wise older brother. He led the Free Tibet charge. On Sure Shot, when MCA offers that "I want to say a little something that's long overdue / the disrespect to women has got to be through / to all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect to the end" it was a profound re-assessment of the way women were approached in hip hop and pop music in general. And it was nowhere more true than in his own past. It was complicated and messy, like life. And it helped me approach my own complicated, messy relationship with women. Something that I'm glad I had the chance to do, long ago, before I met my wife. Before I had a daughter. I have an ocean of regret for many of the things I did and said when I was younger. And seeing MCA atone for his past publicly helped me realize that doing so was, really, the only way to move on.
After I graduated, when I was learning to write professionally I very much tried to emulate the Beastie Boys. The unexpected turns of phrases, the clever similes, the grab-your-encyclopedia references were all things I tried to incorporate into my prose. I still do.
And fucking cancer. Yauch was 47. Good God. That's not much older than I am now—I'm closer to his age than I am most of my coworkers. Son of a bitch. That's just fucking horrible. It's just horrible.
I'm not one for bemoaning dead celebrities. There have been a few that have gotten to me. (Kurt Cobain, Joey Ramone) But for the most part, I tend to feel nothing. Nothing at all. But somehow, this one really hit me. And it seems like maybe there are a lot of other people out there who feel the same way.