Adam Yauch Redefined Hip-Hop Sampling, Wrote Rulebook On Not Selling Out

By Sean Hartnett
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Since bursting upon the scene as a hardcore punk band in the early 1980s, The Beastie Boys were the holy trinity of underground music that powered New York for more than 30 years.

A key piece of that unmistakable trio sadly left us on Friday. Adam ‘MCA’ Yaunch passed after at 47 following a long battle with cancer.

MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock’s legacy will stretch on for the ages as they’ve influenced younger artists to embrace creativity and reject the commercial nature of modern hip-hop.

The Beastie Boys never bowed to selling their musical soul. They achieved fame by keeping their ears to the streets and discovering a style that no group could ever duplicate.

They took hip-hop, rock, funk and punk, threw it into blender and churned it out with obnoxious semi-parody wit. Their style was entirely their own and crossed musical boundaries to provide the innovative soundtrack that New Yorkers deeply identified with and the world embraced.

The Beastie Boys sold more than 40 million albums but they never lost that do-it-yourself nature that separated themselves from all other hip-hop artists. MCA and the Beasties kept them innovating while all others couldn’t match their spontaneous, chameleon-like adaptation to an ever-changing music scene.

Russell Simmons, who formerly managed the Beastie Boys and co-founded Def Jam records, paid tribute to MCA.

“Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist who I loved dearly. I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us,” Simmons said Friday.

MCA always strove for obscurity and rare samples. That proof was evident in 1989’s “Paul’s Boutique.” Critics and fans alike wrote-off the Beastie Boys as a “one-album wonder” after the breakthrough success of “Licensed to Ill.” Capitol Records pulled their promoting of Paul’s Boutique after the album was initially considered a commercial failure.

Eventually, the critics came around to realize their error and took another listen. That’s the beauty of Paul’s Boutique. You discover something new with every single listen. Paul’s Boutique went on to become a landmark hip-hop album with its razor-sharp wit, creative vision and portrayal of New York characters.

Legendary jazz musician Miles Davis even revealed that he “never got tired of listening to Paul’s Boutique.”

Paul’s Boutique will certainly be the highlight of the Beastie Boys’ career but 2011’s “Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2” will be MCA’s everlasting legacy to the world.

MCA and the Beasties pieced it together as MCA’s cancer went into remission. The two-year delay did not hurt the anticipation for the disc.

Yaunch described the direction of the album to reporters in 2009.

“It’s a combination of playing and sampling stuff as we’re playing, and also sampling pretty obscure records,” he explained.

Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2 was a return to the Beastie Boys’ playful roots and sets a standard for others to follow. MCA and the Beasties ignored the music world around them and made a record purely of their own devices.

Nearing age 50 and battling cancer didn’t stop Yauch’s hunger to produce the trademark delivery, distinctive lyrics and unique sampling that forms such a large part of the Beastie Boys’ inimitable sound.

It’s my hope that younger hip-hop artists will follow in this band’s direction by finding their own identity instead of choosing the lazy, instant payday of commercial success that is seen far too often on the hip-hop scene.

MCA was truly a hip-hop innovator unlike any other.

How will you reflect upon MCA the Beastie Boys’ legacy? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.


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