|Ad Rock, MCA, and Mike D|
If you’re over 50 or under 30, you may not know his work. He is one third of the Beastie Boys, a trio of goofy white kids from New York who became hip-hop stars with the anthem “You gotta fight, for your right, to paaaaaar-tay.” If that’s all you know, you may wonder why Gen Xers are so upset at his passing. I’ve wondered myself why I took this news so hard. Maybe if I can explain it to you, I’ll understand it myself.
The Beastie Boys were the soundtrack to my youth, starting in 1986, when I was 10 and their first album dropped. They accompanied me through the minefields of junior high, high school, college, into my mid-twenties. I memorized their songs to impress my big brothers, I shook my rump to Paul’s Boutique throughout college, I commuted to my first job in San Diego listening to Intergalactic. The Beasties were a beacon of cool—artists who did their own thing, and made it big. They were cute, smart, funny, talented, irreverent—all of the qualities of a good big brother. And they knew how to have fun.
As I trolled the internet, twitter and Facebook Friday night for reactions and news about MCA, I smiled to read about the uproar their first album caused with concerned parents. Apparently they had a giant blow up penis onstage at their concerts, and some of the lyrics were objectionable. But parents, as they often do, missed the point. Even at 10, I knew they were being ironic. They kind of meant it, they kind of didn’t. They liked to have fun, but come on, fighting for your right to party? It’s hyperbole. And my favorite song on the album is Paul Revere, a story of being on the run from the law, holding up bars, wreaking havoc on society. Sung by three goofy kids, it was funny. “Mike D grabbed the money, MCA stashed the gold, I grabbed two girlies and a beer that’s cold.”
My love for the Beasties culminated when James and I went to see them live. 22 years old, living in San Diego, working at our first post-collegiate jobs, we were both lifelong Beastie fans. When we heard they were playing Aztec stadium at SDSU, we decided we had to go, our lack of tickets notwithstanding. We showed up early, and combed the crowd outside, looking for extras. James insisted we hold out for general admission tickets, and somehow, we found ourselves inside, pressed right up against the stage, shouting every word in unison with the crowd. Yes, I almost got trampled in a mosh pit, but James gallantly saved me, and we danced and screamed and sang along to Beasties songs that covered twelve years. It was, to this day, the best show I ever saw, and one of the most fun nights of my life.
MCA wasn’t just a Beastie Boy, he was an activist, very involved in the movement to free Tibet. He was a father, a husband, and undoubtedly beloved by many people. Though I didn’t know MCA personally, I feel like part of my youth died with him. Because some of my happiest times growing up were accompanied by Beasties’ music. And how can there be any Beasties without MCA?
Thank you, MCA, for your music, for your humor, your dedication to freedom, your creativity, your example. You touched many lives in your forty-seven years on this earth, and you leave a legacy to be proud of.
Who was the soundtrack of your youth?