Where were you when you heard about…?

Adam Yauch (MCA) 1964-2012 RIP

Anyone who has ever loved hip hop is in mourning since May 4th 2012 when Adam Yauch, AKA MCA of The Beastie Boys succumbed to cancer aged just 47 years old. How did I hear about the deaths of Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and MCA? On Facebook and Twitter, the same as the majority of people. The immediacy of the internet is unprecedented and I think it is diminishing our ability to have personal memories. Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news about JFK’s assassination, about Kurt Cobain’s suicide, or on 9/11. We can all tell stories about the moment of realisation that changed our world. On 9/11 I was standing in a bank on Wexford Street waiting to lodge a cheque and half-watching Sky News on the TV screens when the image of the smoking Twin Towers flashed on and hypnotised everyone in the room. It gives a world event a personal resonance that is missing nowadays. Social media taking away our ability to tell personal stories and although it’s inevitable I don’t like it.

The Beastie Boys were the third hip hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in December 2011, reflecting their huge impact on the musical landscape. They were the soundtrack to much of my life and I was genuinely sad to hear of Yauch’s death. I remember seeing “Fight For Your Right To Party” on MTV and being both repelled and fascinated by these three obnoxious punks. I adored Check Your Head, especially this KILLER tune. When Ill Communication came out the day before my birthday in 1994 it didn’t leave my Walkman for months and it’s still one of my favourite hip hop albums of all time.

On my travels around the internet I found this comprehensive oral history of the Beasties published by New York magazine on the 25th anniversary of Licensed to Ill. Check out the band receiving the Video Vanguard award at the 1998 MTV VMAs and listen to MCA’s amazing slightly prophetic pre-9/11 speech. Adam Yauch is not just a great loss to music but to political and social activism too.

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