I remember MCA. I never had a chance to actually meet him, but I miss him, every day.
I'll always remember the uncommon goodness of Adam Yauch, de-facto leader of The Beastie Boys, and a man whose rap lyrics and music were something new and different at the time.
Traditional media likes to stereotype rap as a "black thang," but from what I've seen, they have yet to comprehend one slender thread of their own institutional racism, as evidenced by their dismissal of a music genre, and as ever, falsely attributing the "shock" of it to people of color.
The Beastie Boys were hopelessly irresistible to the teenage geek girl I was, growing up in New Orleans, restricted to my room (99% of the time).
When MC Adam died of nasopharyngeal cancer at the age of 46, he had imprinted every teenager of the 90s, and even some of our parents, to see beauty and meaning in the day-to-day we don't even notice.
Brave, brilliant, equipped with a mordant wit, a man who feared nothing, even his impending death, this was MCA.
Adam Yauch was one remarkable human being, and devoted his last years to human rights activism. His primary cause was Tibetan freedom. He was an organizer for New Yorkers Against Violence, a benefits concert for 911 victims who were otherwise denied.
In 1998, when I learned MCA had gone Full Force Tibetan Buddhist, I had to work to suppress my cynical smirk.
People in New York have a tendency to make fun of everything, and that's just a way of keeping their distance from things. I think it was when I was first out in L.A. that I started researching different religions. And I was very shy about it at first.
Now I feel perfectly fine with it here in New York because I don't really care if somebody makes fun of me. I'm not afraid of what people might think.
This, of course, was Adam Yauch's greatest gift to us. He really didn't care about public opinion. (Who has that degree of self-possession as a young man?) He didn't pretend or try to fit into anyone else's cookie cutter mold. In the 90s, MCA spoke for geeks, propeller heads, nerds, and he also spoke to us. He told the quiet, and painfully shy, and unpopular among us that we were okay, and other people's opinions don't define us.
There's an instrumental on Ill Communication called Futterman's Rule. The only lyrics listed in the booklet say: "When two are served, you may begin to eat." It turned out to be a reference to a community ritual that was dear to Yauch.
In a later issue of Grand Royal, there was a short piece explaining that Gene Futterman was a professional chef and a friend of Adam Yauch's family. He was known for his large dinner parties and when he brought food in from the kitchen he would tell his guests: "When two are served, you eat!"
Writing about Futterman's Rule in Grand Royal, Nathan Brackett noted:
The elegance of Futterman's Rule does lend it a hint of spirituality. One eats one's food while it is hot, observing dinner as a natural continuum (instead of the top-down, "no-one-eats-until-the-chef-is-ready" hierarchical model that dominates most households).
At the same time, no one eats alone (it is only once two people are served, and a social base is established for those with food, that one may begin to eat). If form follows function, the Rule is built to travel. So give it a try. And if you like it, tell a friend.
M.C. for what I am and do
the A is for Adam and the lyrics, true
pray and hope and the message is sent
Living the dreams that I have dreamt
I wish for peace between the races
Someday we shall all be one
That's right y'all
Don't get uptight y'all
I'm out and I'm gone