Remember the Sounds of Science ~ The Legacy of the Beastie Boys
It was a deeply sad day for American music on May 4, 2012. For those of you in the dark, this refers to the passing of Adam Yauch, better known as MCA from the Beastie Boys. In the swift thirty plus years gone by, the transition of rap into hip hop, many fail to remember the importance of the Beastie Boys.
The Beastie Boys are shown to the right, Adam Horovitz, known as Adrock, Michael Diamond, known as Mike D, and Adam Yauch, known as MCA and also under the pseudonym Nathanial Hörnblowér. They were a trio founded in New York City, and brought their Jewish roots and punk rock instincts into the the early rap scene in 1979.
In the long historic evolution of hip hop, the Beastie Boys were special, and it is this legacy that will be important. When the came along, it was an exciting and formative time in modern music. They can be credited with an influence that brought together a new and interesting kind of sonic wizardry to the rap world. Those who remember that far back, will know that rap had not made the transitions into the pop culture and was still stereotyped as racially motivated music.
To put it simply, if the Beastie Boys had not come along, someone else would have had to fill their shoes. They brought together the synthesis that showed rap was not a black or white style of music. When touring with Run DMC and other groups, the Beastie Boys were not trying to be anything but themselves. They rapped, sampled, and wrote lyrics from their own point of view, and did it very well. In a time when rap was dominated by black artists, the Beastie Boys showed many producers the other side of the force.
If the Beastie Boys had not taken up the sword with their originality and focus, someone else would have had to invent it. They were as important to modern hip hop, pop music, as any other contemporary, maybe more so, because they came at it from such a different attack. Let alone, we should not forget that they did more for legitimizing the only new instrument of the millennium, the sampler. They were sued again and again over sampling issues, but survived the early sampling era because the were real artists, and worked their craft. They won their rights multiple times over, because the followed the codes of sampling laws, but still were purists and artists. They had the real world punk rock ethic, sometimes playing instruments, but sometimes relied on synthetics, and their use of the beat box, drum computer, and that big reverb on overload in the arena sound, made rocking the mic an understatement.
The sampling method of the Beastie Boys is not artless or general thievery like most sonic sample method of the time. It is an album like "Paul's Boutique" that has become one of the greatest examples of sample collage art, period. At the time they could have easily followed in the shoes of contemporaries like Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, which they were probably associated with due to not being black rap stars, but instead they enlisted the influence of the Dust Brothers and create an eternal mosaic piece. Now that same album could not have been produced, for the climate on copyrights and music has been blurred by the corporate juggernaut. Producers would now shy away from the methods that the Beastie Boys employed. The bottom line is that all this fueled a fire that erupted across the music world, and thus a legendary album was born. It may not be the most finely sliced mix of pre-existing music ever made, but it its place in time both culturally and legally was a work of fate. Also it all happened before the hammer down soon after on the issues of sample length and intellectual property. This contributes greatly to the legacy of the Beastie boys.
The Beastie Boys formed in the spirit of a hardcore punk band. The band supported Bad Brains, the Dead Kennedys, and the Misfits in their early touring days. Yet they ended up selling more than 40 million albums worldwide by 2011. Their discography of albums, minus a few compilations from the record producer agencies, is as follows.
Licensed to Ill (1986)
Paul's Boutique (1989)
Check Your Head (1992)
Ill Communication (1994)
Hello Nasty (1998)
To the 5 Boroughs (2004)
The Mix-Up (2007)
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011)
The trio burned the wax hard, putting out seven platinum or better albums from 1986–2004. The Beastie Boys are one of the longest-lived hip hop acts worldwide, and they continue to enjoy commercial and critical success more than 25 years later. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2012, being only the third rap group to enter the Hall, after Run-D.M.C. and Grandmaster Flash. It was only a month later that MCA died of cancer of the parotid salivary gland.
In 2011, Adam Yauch received the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from Bard College, for his significant contribution to the American artistic or literary heritage. He and the Beastie Boys are also greatly recognized for their contributions to the video medium, their independent film artistry, and for having all around good humor about themselves, which is something lost on many modern musicians.
Adam Yauch was a practicing Buddhist. In his lifetime, he became a Western voice for the Tibetan independence movement. He also was the creator of the Milarepa Fund, a donational not for profit organization that was solely devoted to Tibetan independence. MCA was responsible for several benefit concerts to support the Tibetan causes, the most popular and well known being the Tibetan Freedom Concert.
He leaves behind his wife Dechen Wangdu, and their daughter, Tenzin Losel.
Fans and artists will miss you Adam, somewhere in heaven, there is a new arrival singing, " MCA has got a beard like a billy goat." Thank you Adam and the Beastie Boys for leaving the world, your legacy to be remembered.