From the Vault: The Rebellion remembers MCA and the Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys as young hip hop artists, Yauch pictured on the right.

The Beastie Boys as young hip hop artists, Yauch pictured on the right.

Amanda McManus

The Beastie Boys as young hip hop artists, Yauch pictured on the right.

Imagine a world where you can actually play a rap album in the presence of your parents and not feel a sense of awkwardness compelling you to turn it off. Well, if you listen to old school hip-hop, you probably can. Iconic hip hop groups or rappers originating in the 80s started it all with quality music; songs that sent a message, and a good one. But now most musicians find themselves tweaking with their style of music as modern technology develops and radio hits sound different than they use to, some more “vulgar” than others. One listens to a song like “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” off LL Cool J’s album “Radio” released in 1985 and then proceeds to listen to a song by the same artist released in 2008 called “Baby” and the difference is very apparent. Old school hip hop is not what it used to be. Modern music lacks class and a purpose. Though amongst these idols of the 80s, there remains one group that has always produced good, clean hip-hop and never wavered in their musical style: the Beastie Boys. And with the recent passing of the founder of the group, Adam Yauch, otherwise known as MCA, the long-time trio deserves a little review of their best work.

What briefly started as a punk band in the 80s, the Beastie Boys eventually transitioned into a hard-hitting hip hop group, with punk influence in each of their distinctly angsty rapping vocals, even up until now. In their most recently released album from 2011, Hot Sauce Committee Pt. Two, the Beastie Boys have maintained that chaotic compilation in each song with heavy bass rhythm and just the right amount of computerized beats. Hot Sauce is respectively different from their first big album released in ’86, Licensed to Ill, yet each song makes the listener think, “Yep, this is definitely the Beastie Boys.” The album features tracks titled just as colorfully as in the past, such as “Funky Donkey”, “Make Some Noise”, “Nonstop Disco Powerpack”, and “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament”. It even incorporates samples of their songs from the back in the 80s and 90s.

Though each rapper can be heard on almost any song by the Beastie Boys, the late Yauch makes his finest debuts on the 1994 album, Ill Communication. He can be heard on songs like “Pass the Mic”, which features MCA opening the song with a rap dramatically different than the raunch produced nowadays. His verse heard on “Sure Shot”, a Beastie Boys classic, refers to disrespecting women, but not in the way that modern rap addresses it. He puts it this way; “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue, the disrespect to women has got to be through”. Old school rap is simply not half as vulgar as radio music today, which probably does not contain one song that doesn’t have to do with sex, drugs, or money.

Adam "MCA" Yauch as an older gentleman before his death.

The Beastie Boys rocketed to fame with their first hip hop album, and have been entertaining the masses with antics and frivolous verses since. The wild and unconstrained character of the group and the downright catchy albums are a trip back in time for adults, and a discovery of what rebellious hip-hop used to be for generations today.  The legend of the Beastie Boys will live on past the lives of any of the members of the famous trio, even Adam “MCA” Yauch. He will always be remembered for that gravelly voice and his reserved yet superior presence as a person and as a musician.