I was really saddened to hear today that Adam Yauch, better known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, has lost his fight with cancer. I’ve long been a fan, and I’m old enough to remember the exhilarating rush of the bratty, adolescent, punky white-boy hip hop on their controversial 1986 debut album Licensed To Ill – all the boys in my class at school secretly coveted the VW badge chains the Beasties wore in their videos!
Most critics saw the early Beasties as a bit of a joke, but after the release of their astonishing and hugely influential second album Paul’s Boutique in 1989, a fair few of those critics were forced to eat their words.
And since then, the Beasties haven’t stopped creating amazing, era-defining music – I DJ’d for a while at uni in the mid 1990s, and vividly recall the chaotic dancefloor reaction every time I dropped ‘Sabotage’, the massive lead-off single from the 1994 album Ill Communication…
And it wasn’t just the music. MCA, who was a practicing Buddhist, and the other Beasties took a principled and cultured approach to what they did, involving themselves in activism for social justice causes as well as creative projects including film production and distribution.
After a life like that, it is sad to think that a man who inspired so many, who produced some of the most memorable and groundbreaking music of the last 25 years, and who tried to live his life as he believed to be right should die at the stupidly young age of 47, leaving his wife and daughter behind.
He fought for his right to party – and inspired several generations in the process. That’s a pretty cool legacy.
RIP MCA – you will not be forgotten.
It’s events like this that make me believe that there is a good future for British music. Organised under the auspices of the Octavia Foundation, the recent Hip-Hop History event in west London was, first and foremost, a great idea. For a music geek like myself, the idea of having an evening devoted to the history of a genre as fascinating and eclectic as hip-hop was an intriguing prospect in and of itself. Add to that discussions and performances featuring some of this country’s most interesting established and up-and-coming MCs and I’m so there…
The evening started with a trip back in time with local boy Kevin Davis, who was part of Ladbroke Grove’s earliest hip-hop crew, thirty-odd years ago. Explaining that hip-hop in the UK goes back a lot further than many people would think, Davis discussed the tight-knit connections between the London and New York scenes of the time and talked about the parties his crew put on in the west London area.
(Incidentally, I was interested to learn from Davis’ fascinating talk that the dancer and actor Danny John-Jules (better known to most of you as the Cat in the cult TV comedy Red Dwarf) was also a hip-hop DJ on the west London scene in the 1980s and owned the UK’s first set of Technics 1200s – the decks of choice for every DJ worth their salt these days!)