On Adam Yauch

It’s taken me a moment to formulate words about Yauch’s passing, I think cuz though we see celebrities who we love and respect die suddenly all the time, there’s usually something expected about it even as we’re still shocked and it comes outta nowhere; they’ve led messy lives publicly, lives filled with addiction and DUI charges and mental illness and domestic abuse and prison sentences, their laundry has been front page of the tabloids, they’ve been controversial for their “gangsta” and for their beefs with others… or they’re just elderly, and it’s their known time to leave the planet. Yauch didn’t fit these categories. He was the Buddha of the Baffoons, self-effacing, could somehow manage Hip Hop cred and Tibetan rights activism, spirituality and the goofiest of rhymes all at once. The Beastie Boys were fearlessly willing to grow up and evolve in public, in large part due to him. They went from fighting to call their first album Don’t Be A Faggot to taking out a full page apology of their own will to the gay community in the Wall Street Journal years later, they became outspoken activists for so many of the causes we hold dear… And yet… never stopped being the awesome juvenile pranksters that they always were, never became boring and self-serious and dogmatic. Their humor was still 15-year-old boy fart jokes. How did they do that? And I believe a ton of it came down to MCA. With that gravelly voice, he was the most soft-spoken of them in ALL ways, and yet his solid energy always pervaded through everything. As an emcee, he was always the one I wanted to be most. Actually, my Juha song “Dip Dip” started as a remix of the Boys’ “Alive” for a remix contest they threw, but instead of using their a cappella in the end I ended up doing my own rap instead… cuz I saw a chance to try and imitate him without looking like I was trying to imitate him (- I’ve always hated imitation unless done ironically, and prided myself on being “unique,” so it was hard for me to admit to myself that I was, in effect, being influenced by someone else). He could do a mix of deep and funny in his rhymes that few could rival. He fuckin made friends with the Dalai Lama and brought the world to global consciousness around the issue of Tibetan rights in a way no activist group had the possibility of doing… he was a rock star, and he used that status brilliantly and humbly and in a way that cracked me up. The Beastie Boys were definitely not the Hip Hop I fell in love with first, but a band I came to respect and then accept into my view of the pantheon and then just adored with full passion. There’s no “lead” in the Boys, but he was the lead for me. Though I’m no longer a Buddhist, I send him all the blessings of this faith that I still respect so much, and his passing has made him even more alive in my heart than ever. And that’s, for now, what I have to say about Yauch.

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