on the tough guy style I’m not too keen
to try to change the world I will plot and scheme
We at For the Birds were devastated to hear about the loss of Adam Yauch this week after a several year battle with cancer. MCA was a cultural and political force– he was not only a brilliant artist, but was inspirational to many of us during our formative years as budding activists. His commitment to social justice was unwavering. MCA was an anti-racist, a pacifist, a feminist and didn’t shy away from critiquing and subverting power, whether it be Islamaphobia and United States foreign policy or raising awareness and money for Tibetan independence.
Many have remembered his transformation along with Ad-Rock and Mike D in the ’90s. Moving past their frat-like younger years, the Beasties publicly apologized, as well as wrote lyrics about their own, and others’ sexist antics. The Beastie Boys took on topics like masculinity and respect for women, seamlessly rapping about it in their trademark bratty style, or speaking out in more blatant forums, like the MTV Video Music Awards. Watching the Beastie Boys become more outspoken and mindful as celebrities was empowering. It was often MCA at the helm as he increasingly used his fame to advocate for social change throughout the 2000s. Most recently, he has been a supporter of the Occupy movement, marching on the Brooklyn Bridge this past November in between treatments.
While we have been heartened by the Beasties from afar, it’s also great to hear snippets about a young Yauch being “SO COOL” to “teenage all girl brat attack bands” of the early 1990s (recalled by Layla Gibbon of Maximum Rocknroll). The Beastie legacy is not just the one we all know that looms so large, but a real, community-based one. In recent years Yauch’s film company, Oscilloscope, has been yet another vehicle for sharing and promoting renegade cultural work in the world.
You will be missed, MCA. We got your back on the plotting and scheming.
— Roz Hunter & Kate Wadkins