The closing of any year leads to the inevitable realization that many of our heroes passed away without seeing another. One loss that particularly hit the Hip-Hop community was Adam “MCA” Yauch, and the late Beastie Boys MC covers this week’s new issue of the The New York Times Magazines.
The issue is a special tribute to the numerous icons that passed away in 2012, including Whitney Houston, Don Cornelius, Hector “Macho” Camacho and too many more.
Yauch’s profile was written by longtime, respected journalist Alex Pappademas of Grantland. The cover story recounts Yauch’s influence and evolution within the Beastie Boys and in turn on Hip-Hop and Pop culture in general. Pappademas writes:
Yauch and the other Beasties — Adam (Ad-Rock) Horovitz and Michael (Mike D) Diamond — came from circumstances that had previously not produced any rappers of note. They were white Jewish New Yorkers who played together as a teenage hardcore band before they made hip-hop records; when they started rapping, they bent the music to their own concerns without robbing it of its outlaw appeal. They rhymed about beer, girls and mischief in screwy, squirrelly voices over music — by the producer, Def Jam co-founder and would-be Beastie-Svengali Rick Rubin — that pilfered ’70s dirtbag metal, old-school funk and the “Mr. Ed” theme song. They were somehow both credible and ludicrous, a joke about hip-hop that never felt like a joke at hip-hop’s expense. Their debut album, “Licensed to Ill,” from 1986, was the first rap record to top the Billboard 200.
It was Yauch and the Beastie’s will to never get stuck in creative rut that fan or critics built for them, that’s precisely why they succeeded.
Did Yauch’s evolution as a person drive the Beasties’ evolution as a band? Did they grow in order to keep up with him? It’s hard to know. But he continued to be a motivating force in the years that followed. It’s Yauch who raps, “I wanna say a little something that’s long overdue/The disrespect to women has got to be through” on “Sure Shot,” from “Ill Communication” (1994). Should it have been obvious from the beginning that disrespecting women wasn’t O.K.? Sure. But now they were calling themselves on their own failings of judgment.
Adam Nathaniel Yauch died of complications from carotid-gland cancer on May 4, 2012. Rest In Power MCA.
Check out The New York Time Magazine cover and more photos in the gallery.
Photos: Glen E. Friedman