In 1986 I was halfway through my first year at a new school after getting kicked out of the old one at the end of 5th grade. My parents were separated and on their way to divorce. I was getting in fistfights, skateboarding, and starting to drink a little.
And then I discovered rap music.
UTFO, Whodini, RUN-DMC, BDP and the Fat Boys were my first exposure to the genre that would define me musically for the rest of my life. I knew there was something in the poetic braggadocio mixed with funky beats and jazz. I was raised on Motown and the Beatles and this seemed like a natural evolution.
But nothing could have prepared me for the Beastie Boys. Somehow they mixed in juvenile aspirational lyrics about all the things everyone’s older brothers were doing (drinking, smoking, fucking), musical samples everyone’s older brothers were listening to (Zeppelin, Sabbath, Clash, Steve Miller) with the rap-driven beats some of us younger brothers had started to love. They were rap my friends could listen to.
I was the first kid at school to buy the Licensed to Ill tape. Girls all of a sudden wanted to borrow my Walkman or better yet just an earphone. Guys started inviting me over after school to hang out a little more often. I was easily the biggest fanboy in school. I remember when they made the cover of SPIN magazine and I brought it to school and recited from the ill interview (including a pot-loaded “Buzzbee” and a titillating “double dong dildo”), to a rapt audience of 12 year olds trying to act 16. The Beasties gave me the beginnings of a new identity.
Yauch was the elder statesman of the group. While Ad Rock screeched frantically and Mike D kicked his dusted cruise control flow, MCA gruffly carved out the band’s foundation with a low end, off kilter, purposely un-smooth style. I’ll admit Yauch wasn’t my #1 Beastie. I have always been a Mike D guy. But just do yourself a favor and listen to this track, where Yauch absolutely KILLS the Isley Brothers, and tell me you won’t miss him. This is affecting me way more than it should.