Friday, May 04, 2012

RIP Adam Yauch

Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys, died of cancer today. He was 48.

While I will admit that I hated the Beastie Boys when Licensed to Ill came out, they eventually became one of my favorite bands, and one of the definitive groups of my generation. They went from being snotty sexist assholes to being Buddhists and feminists. They showed Gen-Xers how to age gracefully, how to give up our childish ways without selling out, and how to retain a sense of humor while actually giving a shit. They were the Ur hipsters of my generation, influencing fashion, music, language, and what people listened to. They are the reason why I listen to Lee Perry. They are the reason I watched Dolomite. They showed how white people could respectfully participate in hip-hop. They made good music. They were decent rappers.

As I mentioned earlier, I really didn't like Licensed to Ill when it came out, and to this day I think it is a pretty terrible album. I wrote them off as irritating frat boys until my brother played "Eggman" off of 1989's Paul's Boutique. That album saw them going in their own, stoned-out direction. The first album of theirs I bought was 1992's Check Your Head. I was a junior in high school when it came out, and I thought the video for "So Watcha Want" was the coolest thing in the world. I spent the next few years trying to imitate their look in that video with baggy pants and knit caps. The thing is, everyone (white) listened to that album: people into alternative music, hip-hop fans, people who hated hip-hop. They transcended the genre. They were just cool. And Yauch was the coolest one. With his gravelly voice and his more serious persona, he was simply a cool dude. He got millions of middle class white kids to explore Buddhism when he came out as a Buddhist. He, along with the rest of the Beastie Boys, channeled that white middle class angst into something more creative and positive than bands like Limp Bizkit or Korn did. The Beastie Boys loss their cultural cache as the 90s progressed, but they never sold out or got pathetic. They stayed true to themselves, releasing two solid albums in the 21st century.

Yauch had been battling cancer for a while, but it still came as a shock to me that he passed. It's like hearing that someone you went to high school died, although he is eleven years my senior. It's made me feel old and mortal.

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