Pete Nice from the 80s hip hop group 3rd Bass had beef with the Beastie Boys back in the day – their 12-inch single ‘Hold it, Now Hit It’ off the Licensed To Ill album was the cause. “The record got major play on Kiss FM and WBLS with tons of spins by Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, Mr. Magic and Marley Marl. For any MC at the time – white or black – recognition like that on a Friday or Saturday mix show was the epitome of success.” Twenty years since the Beastie Boys were heralded as the biggest selling rap group since 1991, the music world mourns the passing of MCA in April.
Born Adam Yauch, MCA was co-creator of the Beastie Boys and had been undergoing treatment for a tumor found in his salivary gland in 2009.
MC Search from 3rd Bass is quoted in a book of Def Jams profound hip hop history, “I fuckin’ hated the Beastie Boys. Can you imagine me being the only white boy in the Latin Quarter every week, then ‘Hold It, Now Hit It’ comes on and everyone goes crazy? Can you imagine what kind of mood that put me in? But let me tell you something – that record was dope although I wouldn’t have admitted it in 1986.”
Beginning their musical careers as a hardcore punk band, it wasn’t until their 1984 track ‘Cooky Puss’ saw them signed with hip hop entrepreneur-genius Russell Simons and create License To Ill that they rapidly acquired success in the hip hop scene; which was predominantly a black genre at the time.
Mike D was quoted in a Washington Post article in February, 1987 saying, “Russell was the first person to take us to black clubs where virtually no one had seen a white person rap before, and we were going in front of the worst b-boy crowds. This was real hardcore b-boy, up in the Bronx and the worst part of Queens. It was intimidating at first, but once our singles started to come out and they began to know us, it was like we were just another rap group. It was almost like, ‘Oh, those are those ill white kids.’”
Simmons remembers, “I was such a fan of what was developing with the Beastie Boys and the way it was integrating the rap audience. I loved their collaboration with Run DMC and their collaboration together on the Together Forever tour in the summer of 1987. Racially, I thought it was very important.”
Famous political rapper and activist from Public Enemy, Chuck D was quoted in Rolling Stone Magazine, “Adam and the boys put us on our first tour 25 years and 79 tours ago. They were essential to our beginning, middle and today…I am a strong man and my father says be prepared to lose many in your post 50 path of life. Still, I am a bit teary eyed…”
Earlier in April, the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Raising Hell tour peers, LL Cool J and Chuck D, a status achieved by only two other rap groups – Run DMC in 2009 and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in 2007.
In Perth, event promoter Andrew Ryan organized the tribute to Yauch, who was remembered as a rapper, musician, songwriter, director and human rights activist with the help of friend Diger Rockwell. Local artists were invited to to share their favorite Beastie Boys story on-stage on the night. The line-up featured Mathas, Felicity Groom, Diger Rockwell, Charlie Bucket and Joe Byrne.
Diger Rokwell said that he thought the Perth artists who turned out “encapsulated the different movements that were the Beastie Boys: punk, hip hop, straight raps, party, weirdness and instrumental music.”
Mathas told the audience, “I have this memory of listening to ‘Heart Attack Man’, we used to listen to Ill Communication like every day…I remember hearing it kind of slow down and go kind of jumpy and thinking at the time that I’d sort of seen and spoken to God. I look back at that now and I think that was hilarious.” He cracks a sheepish smile.
Diger Rockwell recalls the trio as “prolific without sounding outdated…where consciousness meets style…attitude meets gratitude. They were the glue that combined many sub-cultures together. MCA had the heart of a Buddhist, the mentality of punk, the soul of jazz and the spirit of New York. Hearing about one of your heroes dying so young is always depressing but it gives you a kick in the arse to continue to live in the best way possible.”
For Charlie Bucket, “the first time I saw them live in the 90’s, it was the Hello Nasty tour. They were insanely good. Mix Master Mike played an incredible opening set and they came out in these fluoro jumpsuits with crazy “devo” style hats doing their infamous figure-eight floor formations. I was a teenager and I can honestly say it changed my life.”
“If not for the Beastie Boys, hip hop wouldn’t be what it is today. I’m not saying that all the great hip hop artists wouldn’t exist; I’m saying it wouldn’t be as popular. They definitely brought hip hop to a wider audience, introducing white kids to hip hop, punk music fans to hip hop, hip hop fans to punk and kids to funk.”
All funds raised on the night through the tribute were donated to The Cancer Council. Diger Rokwell expects there to be a larger show commemorating MCA later in the year, “with a full band and more expansive representation from the Perth music community.”
By Aleyna Martinez.