MCA Was With It, and He’s My Ace

The 1985 film “Krush Groove” features a 30-second clip of a bunch of skinny white boys belting out a rap song that could possibly feature the chorus, “She’s on it!” It was my first glimpse of the Beastie Boys, and I was captivated. I wanted to see more.

Later that year, Thrasher Magazine ran a short article about the Beastie Boys, a hardcore group out of New York that had switched to pure hip-hop and would be releasing their first album soon. I was thrilled. When I ran down to Tower Records (remember them?) to pick up my copy of “Licensed to Ill” I told the the clerk that I’d been waiting for this album. I had no idea how right I was.

My first introduction to hip-hop was hearing “The Rapper’s Delight” on Y-100 in Miami when it first aired. I loved hip-hop, but at the same time felt distanced from it. Growing up a white boy in a small town in Northern California, I had little in common with the stories being told by the likes of Kool Mo Dee, Grand Master Flash, or the Sugar Hill Gang. But I still loved ’em.

The Beastie Boys, however, bridged that gap. They were white! And if they could make rap music this damn good, then I could like *all* rap music and not feel like I was an outsider stealing my way into the show. And their shit was good. Dope, as we would learn to say.

I’m not talking “Fight For Your Right to Party” dope. I’m talking “No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn” dope. “She’s Crafty” dope. Sampling Led Zepplin, laying down their own electric guitar samples, witty, and totally fresh. The three Beasties managed to play off of each other well as Run-DMC but with stories that were relevant to me.

Of the three, MCA was my clear-cut favorite. His voice was the throaty balance to Ad-Rock’s nasal whine and Mike D’s everyman tone. He got the lines I loved most, had the best voice of the crew, and looked like he was having the most fun without being a total MTV Spring Break douche (sorry, Ad-Rock). I instinctively sang his lines whenever I sang along with their albums – which was every time.

“Paul’s Boutique” came out when I was in college, and like any sequel I was simply hoping it wouldn’t suck. I was shocked when it sounded completely different from their first album, but fell in love instantly. If hip-hop is about sampling, “Paul’s Boutique” is the Bible, Koran and Torah of that technique all rolled into one album.

“Paul’s Boutique” contains upward of 300 samples, all of them immediately accessible and relevant to the music I grew up with. Go back and listen to “High Plains Drifter” right now. Everything from Hendrix to “Mr Big Stuff” to “Out of the car longhair!” It’s fucking brilliant.

I was floored then and I’m still in love with it now, 20 years later. It wasn’t the first time the Beastie’s would re-invent themselves between albums. The more musical albums of the 90’s led to my first chances to see them in concert, and remain staples of my rotation.

“Hello Nasty” came out in the middle of a particularly nasty breakup, and the first time I heard “Intergalactic” on Live 105 it practically saved my life…

The Beastie Boys were constantly a defining force in my life. I listened only to the Beastie Boys while warming up for wrestling matches. Every mix I made for spring break included at least 3 Beastie songs.

And through it all, MCA remained my man. Yesterday’s news that Adam Yauch had passed away hit hard. I don’t usually cry at news of strangers dying, but then again, he was hardly a stranger. MCA had held a place in my heart and home for over 27 years, and now I’ll never get a chance to thank him in person for all that he brought to the world.

Good travels, brother. Should you find yourself parched, I know a fly spot where they got the champagne.

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