Considering how important music is and always has been to me, I don’t comment on it much here on joepastry.com. Today I will because MCA from the Beastie Boys died of cancer over the weekend.
I can’t say the Beastie Boys made a great first impression on me when I heard them in college back in 1986. The whole “Fight for Your Right to Party” thing irritated me. I considered myself both an intellectual and an artist then, an elevated sort of person. All that crass frat-kegger nonsense was beneath me. It wasn’t too many months after I’d graduated that I found myself wishing I’d spent a little more time enjoying my college experience and a little less time cultivating my own personal gravitas.
Paul’s Boutique, when it finally came out in 1989, put me in touch with the virtues of lightening up. I was a Beasties fan ever after.
Not that I consider myself a fan of rap, mind you. Certainly not the contemporary stuff. It’s hard to explain to anyone who wasn’t around for the emergence of popular rap/hip-hop — way back in the early 80’s — the difference between what it was versus what it turned into. You had the goofy post-funk grooves of Grandmaster Flash, the serious politics of Public Enemy (like news bulletins from the inner city) and the lighthearted machismo of LL Cool J. The Beasties were the me-too white boys of the bunch who never fully mastered the beats but used the conventions to create splice-n’-dice artworks that were all their own. Everything they did was silly, and they laughed at themselves as much as they did everybody else.
Much after those early days the gangsters took over, kicking off an orgy of profanity, violence and misogyny that continues to this day. But once upon a time it was fun, and MCA was a big, big part of that fun. He was just 47, the poor guy. Do yourself a favor and spin Ill Communication today, or at the very least watch the video for Sabotage, which MCA directed. It’s still hilarious.