Saturday was the third annual MCA Day in New York City, a day of remembrance for the most enlightened Beastie Boy, Adam Yauch, who succumbed to a three-year battle with cancer on May 4, 2012, at the age of 47. A group of Tibetan monks decided to honor Yauch, who over the last couple decades may have done more than any other celebrity to put Tibet’s liberation struggle into the consciousness of twentysomethings, by breakdancing in Union Square. They look pretty good to me.
As a tribute to Adam Yauch, comedian Neal Brennan, who co-created, co-wrote and co-executive produced the Chappelle Show, uploaded this video to YouTube from the unaired third season (2004) of Dave Chapelle’s cutting-edge comedy program.
I anticipate that we’ll be seeing fresh Beastie Boys photos and video footage in weeks to come. Adam Yauch’s death is hitting music and pop culture fans hard and the amount of attention his passing is generating is testimony to how magic his vibration was and continues to be. Thanks Neal for sharing this.
The Beastie Boys perform “The New Style” on a boat in New York City’s East River. Chappelle gets in on the action.
It’s still sinking in here that MCA-aka Adam Yauch- has died, and that, in effect, the Beastie Boys are no more. What a fucking bummer.
It’s an inescapable fact that the Beastie Boys are one of the bands that define my generation. If you were a child at any point from the mid 80s up until the late 90s you cannot have escaped their influence. And I’m not just talking about their music; their aesthetic reached everywhere, from film and music videos to magazine publishing and clothes lines.
I feel like my generation (and I use that term loosely) don’t have a singular iconic figure they can point too, like a Prince or a Bowie. You know, that one person that unites an entire age group through sheer talent and poise. Well, the Beasties may not have had the incredible album-a-year productivity rate of Prince or Bowie at their prime (in fact they were legendarily slow at making music,) but their extra-musicular activites more than made up for that, and meant that when their albums did drop it was a major event.
More than just the music on its own, more than the Grande Royale magazine and record label, more than fantastic the art work or the trend-setting X-Large clothing range, it was the Beastie Boys incredible videos that set them apart, and brought their diverse fan base together. They really knew how to work in different media while retaining their core identity, making them some of the first and most successful rap music entrepreneurs, and this placed them right at the centre of the 90s golden age of both hip-hop and music videos. And there steering the helm of most of those awesome Beastie Boys promo clips was Yauch himself, often in the guise of Swiss director Nathanial Hornblower.
My God, looking back now it’s startling to think of how these videos have influenced my life and my addiction to (and perception of) pop culture.
I caught the raunchy video for ‘She’s On It” on TV when I was about 8 years old and the image of Mike D sliding an ice cube down a bikini-clad model’s back has been seared into my brain ever since. I didn’t quite understand what was going on in that shot at the time (hey, I was too young and too sheltered) but there was naked flesh and it was naughty and exciting. I still remember that tingly feeling of not wanting my parents to walk in and see me watching the video. Even though that’s a feeling that returned often in my teenage years, I guess I can say that seeing “She’s On It” was one of my first childhood sexual experiences.
When I was 13 the promo for Check Your Head‘s opening track “Jimmy James” was a staple on late night European cable music channels, the kind I would creep downstairs and watch on low volume while my parents were asleep. It was hard to keep the volume on this one down, and the visuals themselves were a hypnotic template for everything I thought rocked in the world at the time - New York subways, vintage go-go strippers, dope looking rappers filmed in fish-eye lenses, burning 8mm film, Jimi fucking Hendrix. At this point the Beastie Boys were a bit of an unknown quantity in the UK press, as their reputation stemmed largely from the License To Ill “frat” period (Paul’s Boutique was still being seen as a costly, if interesting, flop.) Still, “Jimmy James” (and “So Watcha Want”) was THE SHIT, and helped spread the word of mouth amongst listeners and the journos alike about how great Check Your Head was.
Early 1994 saw the release of “Sabotage”. Sure, the clip was directed by Spike Jonze, but Yauch’s fingerprints were all over it. I don’t think I need to write much about this video, only to say that it really was a cultural milestone for people my age. Almost single handedly it ushered in a new era. Out went heroin-chic and woe-is-me grunge, and in came a new sense of fun (with a healthy dose of irony.) Here was an appreciation of pop-culture’s bargain bin that tied in nicely with Tarantino, some new looks that were equal parts vintage and street, and most importantly of all an incredibly broad musical palate where anything went.
Beyond the stone cold classic video, “Sabotage” pushed boundaries musically. Yeah, so it may be a straight forward punk song, but how many ‘rap groups’ had ever done something like that? In fact, me and my friends didn’t really perceive the Beasties as strictly a ‘rap group’ per se, even though (obviously) they rapped. They were more than that. Presumably because they were white and played actual instruments on occasion, they weren’t talked about in the same hallowed tones as Cypress Hill or Public Enemy. But they were very much a gateway to those bands, and the more commercial hip-hop that followed, and their blessing of the above mentioned acts with tours and remixes made it feel ok for middle-class white kids to define themselves as “rap fans.”
Last year’s video for “Make Some Noise” brought the band back in to the limelight, not least for the starry cast list: what other modern act would be able to convince Seth Rogen, Danny McBride and Elijah Wood to play them in a clip AND THEN rope in Ted Danson, Kirstin Dunst and Will Ferrell for additional cameos? But the real fan treat was the clip for “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win”, which featured G.I.Joe-style puppet versions of the band doing battle underwater, on ice, and even at a music festival.
Adam Yauch was a visionary, and should be remembered for his film work just as much as his music. In fact, he brought music and film together better than anyone else up to that point, and for that has to be counted as a huge influence and inspiration on the artistic endeavours of myself and my peers. I probably wouldn’t do what I do now if it weren’t for him.
And he did it while wearing a ginger wig and lederhosen. Here’s a strange (and strangely touching) short film of Yauch David Cross [? - what’s going on here?] as Hornblower, shooting the shit on a NY Street and engaging in a game of chess with a labrador:
Adam Yauch, aka MCA, aka Nathanial Hornblower (August 5, 1964 – May 4, 2012.)
Rest In Peace.
After the jump, videos for the above mentioned Beastie Boys songs, and a 1992 interview with the band featuring Yauch (yes, definitely Yauch this time) in full Hornblower attire…
Adam Nathaniel Yauch, “MCA” (August 5, 1964 - May 4, 2012)
May he rest in peace.
In the video below, the Beastie Boys when they were all about 19 or 20 years old on the Manhattan Cable cable access program, The Scott & Gary Show on Valentines Day, 1984. Kate Schellenbach, later of Luscious Jackson, was a Beastie girl, playing drums in the group from 1979 to 1984, when they were basically a lighthearted punk band.
After the jump, an interview with the young Beastie Boys (and girl)
“…Disturbing images of Holocaust atrocities including graphic nudity.” These are the elements cited by the Motion Picture Association of America in giving an R-rating to Israeli director Yael Hersonski’s intense-looking documentary, A Film Unfinished, which opens widely this month.
Produced and distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories, A Film Unfinished centers around the making of the unearthed last reel of Ghetto, a Nazi propaganda film shot in the Warsaw Ghetto and proffered as a document of life there. The reel contains multiple takes of staged, exoticized footage of Jewish life, including a fictionalized depiction of the contrast between “rich” and poor ghetto dwellers.
The R-rating ensures that the film can’t be shown in public school classrooms, a situation ludicrous enough to be called out by Oscilloscope owner and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch a.k.a. MCA. From what I understand, the “graphic nudity” that the MPAA cites refers to female ghetto dwellers entering a mikvah, or Jewish ritual bath. As for the atrocities, well, kids seem to be exposed to plenty of gratuitous and stupid violence on TV, movies and video games. Maybe it would be worth whatever trauma they may go through watching and discussing A Film Unfinished to not only viscerally understand genocide, but also get a classic lesson in media manipulation.
Nice work, MPAA.
Oscilloscope Laboratories will also release the Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl and the doc William S. Burroughs: A Man Within this fall.
Beastie Boy Adam Yauch is rallying the masses, and Yoko Ono, to help in his fight against cancer by engaging in a twice-daily meditation session. From the letter sent out to the Beastie Boys mailing list:
wanted to send this out to you guys in case you were into it, or wanted to give it to anyone who you think might be.
a few friends and i are meditating at the same time twice a day. 9:30am and 6:30pm eastern standard time, for about an hour and half.
we are picturing smashing apart all of the cancer cells in the world.
we are visualizing taking the energy away from the cancer, and then sending it back at the cancer as lightening bolts that will break apart the DNA and RNA of the cells. if you have the time, please join us in whipping up this lightening storm. mind over matter…...
if you prefer to sit then sit, but if you are not used to meditating, or sitting quietly doesn’t sound like fun, put on some music and dance while you do the visualization, and if you want to do it at some other time, or picture curing some other illness that’s fine too. yoko will be joining the meditation by visualizing all of us dancing with joy to celebrate the world without cancer. all variations are welcome. this is really just being done with a wish for all beings to be cured of all illnesses and to find true lasting happiness.
i’ll also be saying prayers for the earthquake victims in tibet, so join in on that if you can too.
please feel free to pass this onto anyone who you think may find it interesting.
with all my love,
I’m running out of time here on the West Coast for that first round of meditation, but I’ll be there for the second. Beyond meditating for Yauch and the victims of the Tibetan earthquake, I do plan on taking it a bit further.
If the world is to be truly washed clean of “all illness,” can we not please link minds and find a way to cure it of this, and this, and oh, yes, this?! “Radio Beastie” follows below: