I was digging some holes in the yard yesterday for moving small trees and planting rose bushes, grape vines and whatnot and Sara comes outside with a surprised look on her face – “One of the Beastie Boys died”. It kinda took me back for a second. No, that has to be some kind of mistake. The Beastie Boys are young, I don’t think they do any drugs and they aren’t ‘gangstas’, so how could one of them have died already? But sure enough, the confirmation came through later. It was the cancer. Took away a great musician and a great man at only 47yrs old. Goddamn cancer.
I remember when I was 13 and there was this 17yr old punk rock kid across the street from me that basically mentored me into the punk scene. At the same time, my sister was finding all this cool rap music that I was starting to get into also. I was surprised to hear the same band/group name on both sides of the fence. I mean, stores can’t claim the same name as another store without risking lawsuit, so how were these two groups running around with the same name? Then I found out – no, they were actually the same people. Not many people know that Beastie Boys started out as a hardcore punk band back in ’79. They were part of the American hardcore punk scene in it’s early days and ran with bands like the Bad Brains, Minor Threat and Black Flag. I can’t say they were a very GOOD punk band, but they did have their own spot on the scene for awhile. Then they released License To Ill in ’84 and really fell into their style. They were one of the pioneers on the rap scene. It was bold for a group of skinny little white guys to jump into an almost exclusively black music scene, but they were accepted and they flourished.
I remember riding the bus home from school and all of us running through an adolescent version of Paul Revere in the back of the school bus (after the bus was almost empty and we were safely back on the west side, of course). There was certain pride that us little whiteboys had when going to almost all black schools and being the group of outcasts. It was like knowing that even in the face of racism, you can be accepted too. There were other white rappers that tried through the years (3rd Bass, Vanilla Ice), but nobody else held their own like the Beasties until Eminem and now, 33yrs later, one of them is gone.
It surprised me that I’m not seeing the same kind of chatter about this as I did when Whitney Houston died. I mean, MCA was a humanitarian (he was involved in the Tibetian Independence Movement), he was an independent film director, owner of his own production company (Oscilliscope Laboratories), he was an influential orignator on 2 completely different music scenes AND he didn’t waste his talent on crack.
We have a light in our bathroom that has a strip of 3 lights on it and when 1 burns out, you can’t help but to notice how much of a difference it makes in the room.
Goodbye, good sir – I pass my gratitude to you.