Remembered: Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch
Yesterday, New York Parks & Recreation opened the Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn Heights, on the same site that the musician, producer, humanitarian and MC used to play as a child.
It's a year on from the artist's untimely death from salivary gland cancer and much respect is still being paid to his life and work, who under the moniker MCA along with Mike 'Mike D' Diamond and Adam 'Ad-Rock' Horovitz, founded the legendary NYC hip-hop act Beastie Boys.
Hundreds of artists and bands as diverse as Coldplay, Eminem, Bad Brains, Justin Timberlake, Chuck D and Phoenix have shared their gratitude for Yauch's musical and political influence on their work over the past 12 months by covering tracks and dedicating songs and albums to the late rapper.
Yauch, who became a major global figure in human rights, particularly relating to Tibet, was the mastermind behind many of the Beastie Boys' greatest videos and shared songwriting credits on much of the group's prolific output from the late 1980s through to 2011.
"We looked up to the Beastie Boys a lot when we were starting out and how they maintained artistic control making wicked records but still were on a major label, and the Tibetan Freedom Concerts they organized had a very big influence on me personally and the way Adam conducted himself and dealt with it all impressed me a lot. He was a mellow and [very] smart guy. May he rest in peace." - Thom Yorke
The band, one of only three hip-hop groups to be inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hame of Fame, released eight studio albums in their 35-year history and were amongst the first artists to bring the attitude and ethos of punk rock together with hip-hop rhymes and sensibilities.
There are far too many brilliant Beastie Boys tracks out there to make a definitive list, though the following five – written, recorded and releases at different periods in their time together - had more impact than others, thanks in part to the talents of Adam 'MCA' Yauch.
(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!) (1987)
Penned by Yauch and a friend in response to the posturing party-hard output from popular US heavy metal bands, this now seminal slice of rampaging rap-rock is one of the Beastie's best known tracks, partly due to the video which was a monumental short featuring LL Cool J, Murphy's Law, biker gangs, booze, smoking and mayhem. Memorable for so many reasons, least of all for the immortal line "Man, living at home is such a drag, Your Mom threw away your best porno mag."
No Beastie Boys list would be complete without the inclusion of this track, a heavyweight three minute slab made up of rock riffs, thumping drums and a slamdance-inciting anthemic chorus that no self-respecting alternative club DJ in the 90s would leave the house without. The Spike Jonze directed video which accompanied this track – the first single released from the boys' fourth studio album Ill Communication – is, typically, a masterpiece in itself.
Taking in samples from B-movies, classical compositions and a gospel choir amongst other diverse sources, the super-powered retro-futurist number was a huge hit for the boys and helped to seal album Hello Nasty as another classic BB joint, netting a Grammy for Best Rap Performance in the process. Nathaniel Hornblower, aka MCA, took the lead on directing the video, a brilliant send up of the superhero/sci-fi genre, and the track has to be in any Beastie Boys playlist.
Featuring some of the trio's best ever lines ("Gettin' old like Ali boom ba yay," "Goatee metal rap please say goodnight" and "Readin' in the news, 'cause I'm Country Mike" FTW), 'Alive' melded the Beastie Boys' mix of bombastic lyrics and social commentary to a killer drum pattern and reverse samples for a sleek and powerful result. The song featured on anthology The Sounds of Science and was described in the NME as "poptastic, dynamic" on its release.
Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win (2011)
Teaming up with MC and singer Santigold was always going to produce awesome results for the group, if slightly out of their usual territory thanks to a ska rhythm, dub-like reverb effects and a more laid back flow. The track, taken from the album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, was the last Beastie Boys track that MCA would perform on.
"I'm as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce" - Adam Yauch 1964 – 2012
Beastie Boys made waves last week when their track 'Girls' was rewritten by GoldieBlox for a pretty cool new advert (read about it here, or view below). However, despite the positive reaction, it seems as though the band didn't give the company permission to use the song. [read more]
Beastie Boys founder Mike Diamond recently let The New York Times have a snoop around his beautiful Brooklyn townhouse. [read more]
"If you knock me, you'll get mocked / I'll stir fry you in my wok / Your knees will start shaking and your fingers pop / Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock" goes one of the more memorable couplets on the Beastie Boys' 1997 hit 'Intergalactic'. It may not be one of Adam Yauch's best (and it certainly isn't one of his worst), but it's a classic example of the playful braggadocio he – under his MCA moniker - and the group excelled in from their formative years... [read more]