I was originally gonna write this last May, after the death of MCA. But I figured the internet was full of enough articles eulogizing Adam Yauch at the time so I’d hold off. Plus it’s easy to get oversentimental about celebrities when they pass. When you wait eleven months it gives you a clearer perspective.
I grew up thirty minutes outside of New York City listening to 80’s and 90’s hip hop. Run DMC, Public Enemy and LL Cool J provided the soundtrack for my youth. In the beginning I was never much of a Beastie Boys fan. Like many hip hop purists I thought they were more of a novelty or comedy act.
And quite honestly, I didn’t really know what to make of white rappers back then.
Chuck D said, “In those days hip hop was truly from the streets, and everybody rapping was black. All of a sudden these punk-rock white kids crossed into hip hop with the shock of Jackie Robinson in reverse.”
If you were around at the time you remember that shock and may have had a hard time embracing them at first, like I did.
Eventually the Beasties won me over with their passion, skills and dedication to their craft. They’re greatness was undeniable, their status legendary.
While I’ve always kept the Beasties in high rotation their music has taken on a new meaning for me recently. In the past I nodded my head to the beat and recited the lyrics of the three MC’s.
But then, last May 4th we lost Adam Yauch, better known as MCA.
Since that day whenever I hear a Beastie Boys song it inspires me in a different way. Anyone who knows me can tell you about how I get on music kicks. Some weeks I listen to nothing but Pearl Jam, 24 hours a day, the next week I might drive to the gym with Straight Outta Compton on repeat the entire way there for five days straight ( I still get chills when I hear Ice Cube’s first line).
For the last several weeks it’s been all Beastie Boys. I was in a store in New York City’s West Village shortly after MCA’s death when Sure Shot came on and I just stopped in my tracks.
I heard his verse apologizing to women for misogynistic lyrics they had written earlier in their career:
“I wanna say something that’s long overdue,
The disrespect to women has got to be through,
To all the mothers and sisters and wives and friends
I wanna offer my love and respect to the end.”
In that one moment I thought about what I’ve done in the past that I should be apologizing for or what mistakes I’ve made that I need to fix.
The song got me incredibly fired up to be better, to live a bigger life, to help more people, do something memorable, to leave a legacy.
And that’s what happens every time I put on a Beastie Boys song these days. Because MCA is gone but not forgotten. He helped thousands and inspired millions. He was not only an entertainer but a social activist.
And he will be remembered. Will you?
He left a legacy. Will you?
That’s what I ask myself now every time I listen to Sabotage or Intergalactic.
What is my higher purpose? How is what I’m doing at this very moment helping other people or helping me cement my legacy? Am I wasting time or is this activity moving me forward in a positive direction?
MCA could have taken his money and lived the good life, not worrying about anyone else. But instead he chose to organize concerts to help the people of Tibet and victims of 9/11.
It’s a reminder to me to always be giving back and working toward something bigger.
Now, you may be reading this and thinking that it’s silly for me to derive motivation from The Beastie Boys. Why not some of my other heroes like Martin Luther King or Jackie Robinson?
Why not? They inspire me too.
The guy at the coffee shop down the street inspires me by the way he treats his customers.
Watching friends like Craig Ballantyne, Jim (Smitty of Diesel S&C) Smith and Zach Even-Esh create successful, happy lives for themselves while helping countless others inspires me.
To reach the top in whatever you do you need to be inspired by everyone and everything.
All day, every day.
Each conversation I have inspires me. Every song I hear inspires me. Every sporting event I watch inspires me. Every before and after pic or story you guys send me inspires me. Every workout I put myself through inspires me because I know I’m learning something during that hour than can help all of you guys.
Most people live in a state of constant negativity. They hate their lives, themselves, everyone and everything. They’re stressing, complaining, shit talking, arguing or doing something else to waste time 24/7.
But you don’t want to be most people. I don’t want to be most people.
We want to be better than that. We don’t want to sit around and gossip; we want to talk about ideas.
We don’t want to argue on the internet; we want to find solutions for peoples problems.
We don’t want to train to be average; we want to train to be awesome.
We don’t want to simply just exist or take up space on this planet until we’re gone.
We want to leave a legacy.
That’s what I think about today when I hear a song as seemingly meaningless as No Sleep Til Brooklyn.
“Born and bred Brooklyn, USA,
They call me Adam Yauch but I’m MCA.”
Millions of people will never forget that name and the world’s a better place because of Adam Yauch.
Will they be able to the same about us when we’re gone?