Adam Yauch, who recently passed away after a battle with cancer, has left quite a legacy of influence. Over the years the Beastie Boys music went from making testosterone-induced party anthems to songs with themes regarding their humanitarian interests. In the December 1999 issue of Time Out New York, the rap trio expressed regret over their homophobic past, noting that the working title of their debut album was Don't Be a Faggot: "I would like to ... formally apologize to the entire gay and lesbian community for the sh---y and ignorant things we said on our first record, 1986's Licensed to Ill. There are no excuses. But time has healed our stupidity. ... We hope that you'll accept this long overdue apology."
I caught up with SPORK collaborators Cazwell and The Lady Tigra as they reflected on Yauch's/MCA's career and the role he's played in their lives.
Oh my God. I am so crushed right now. We lost an amazing artist and humanitarian. I never got to meet him, but when I was a kid I wanted to be just like MCA. I had seen him in concert eight times, and I later tried to emulate him on stage.
The Lady Tigra:
I've had such a heavy heart today and haven't quite found the words to express my sadness at his passing. I'm thinking about the first time I met MCA. I was about 15, and Beastie Boys were in Miami touring with Run DMC. He was throwing a football around backstage, wearing heavy gold chains and shell toes, when we were introduced. It was intimidating being surrounded by all these men, especially because I admired so many of them, but what's stayed with me was the intense kindness in his he smile when he shook my hand. He spent the rest of that afternoon checking that we were OK and having fun and introducing us to everyone as if we were old friends, both before and after his set. It was like this every time we met throughout the years: smiles, hugs, and this intense, huge warmth.
Not to get all "back-in-the-day," but when I think of "true" hip-hop, I think of people like MCA who were incredibly fearless (three punk-rock Jewish boys from Brooklyn rapping, for instance) but who made you aware of the world outside yourself. He was one of the first MCs I heard speak on veganism and the fight for Tibetans' rights, and speaking against the violence that was being committed against women at music festivals in the '90s. He also spoke at length about racism against Muslims in the '90s, which resonates so much today. He was a pioneer and a visionary. Adam was the illest, and the world is a better place because he let us in on the party with him.