A few days ago, a programme called 10 Things I Hate About 1987 was on TV and featured Frank Bough getting very hot under the collar about the riots he expected the Beastie Boys to cause when they brought their awful music over to the UK. Out of touch wasn’t the word. But that’s what people thought of them back then. Instead, they became one of the most important groups in the world, making at least one stone cold hip-hop masterpiece. And now Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch has died aged just 47. It makes no sense.
The sad irony is that while The Establishment saw the Beastie Boys as talentless yobs when they burst onto the scene with Fight For Your Right, Yauch’s life is proof that they were anything but. He was a director of movie videos and films and built a recording studio/film distribution company, and he was a practising Buddhist whose widow is a Tibetan American activist. The Beasties did their fair share of Free Tibet concert appearances, and certainly did plenty in the aftermath of 9/11 as well as releasing the wonderful To The 5 Boroughs, full of political protest about the Iraq War, alongside tributes to their hometown.
But, of course, what we’ll remember MCA and Co for is their impact on the world of music, turning from a hardcore punk band into the first white boys to do hip-hop as well as their African-American friends. If they came off as being out for scandal and headlines at first, they certainly changed all soon, making one of the best albums of all time, in any genre, in 1988’s Paul’s Boutique. Packed with samples and incredible intricate production, it’s influenced so much hip-hop since then and will stand as a classic for the ages, as well as a riposte to anyone who writes off rap music as being a load of violent, talentless misogyny.
My abiding memory of the Beastie Boys is around the Hello Nasty album when I was at sixth form and that CD on the common room radio more than any other. I was lucky enough to see them on their To The 5 Boroughs tour and I’m very glad that I did, because it was full of everything that made them great, taking in rap, rock, jazz and a great group connecting with their fans. So it’s incredibly that MCA’s battle with cancer has been lost at such a young age, because he still had so much to give. But we’re so grateful for what he’s left us.
Rest in peace, my favourite Beastie Boy.