The Friday Morning Listen: Beastie Boys – Ill Communication (1994)

You know, I just get so damned tired of people trippin’ all over themselves to pay tribute to these guys when they die. Besides, it’s just friggin’ rap “music.” That’s right, “music.” Don’t give me that garbage about how it was a part of a culture and how they used record players in new ways or whatever. It’s just a bunch of people stealin’ chunks from other records and pastin’ it all together. Sorry, but it ain’t music.

Now we get the coronation of Adam Yauch, rap “musician” and supposed Buddhist. Man, whatever. Was that Buddhist crap supposed to cover up for the beer-swilling and the on-stage blowup penis junk? C’mon, the dude’s dead. I’m sorry for that but that “music”? It still sucks.

So of course that quote didn’t exactly happen. At least, not quite like that. But you just know that there are people out there thinking this kind of thing. It’s sad, if you ask me. Our political environment seems to have broken through the barrier between the civic and the cultural, bringing with it all manner of binary thought, ill will, and just plain mean-spirited yammering.

The death of Adam Yauch made me go back to think about what I felt about early rap music, or at least the stuff I was exposed to. That list can be reduced down to Blondie’s “Rapture” from Autoamerican (1980), the Beastie Boys “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” and the Run DMC/Aerosmith crossover hit, “Walk This Way.” That’s about it. Something else might have made it through from a recent film or whatever, but mostly this is what I knew of rap music. Yeah, not very much to go on.

But what did I think of it? That Blondie tune messed me up. I professed to hating it, 1980 not being too far removed from the “Disco Sucks!” era. “Professed” was obviously the key word here as the direction Blondie had taken was not a huge leap from “Heart Of Glass.” And while I would have identified myself with the Disco-hatin’ side of things, the truth is that I kind of liked quite a bit of it.

By the time License To Ill exploded onto the scene, I’d matured enough to shrug off the weight of peer pressure and just admit that the music was a blast. I might have thought that some of the lyrics were silly and/or sexist, but the music brought together elements from several cultures, forming what we now think of as a “mashup.” It was a good thing.

In a 1994 interview with the Buddhist magazine TriCycle, Adam Yauch was asked if he was hopeful about his generation. Reading his heartfelt reply, I’m saddened to compare his ideas with the current realities of polarized thought that permeate our culture. Maybe he was right. Maybe it’s just not time yet:

I’m pretty hopeful about the evolution of humanity in general. I think that all of us here on the planet at this point have come into these lifetimes and into these bodies because it’s a crucial time in the evolution of the planet and humanity. It’s a transitional phase, and I think that everyone has come in at this time to be a part of that, to be part of the Big Show.

Adam, we miss your physical being’s presense in the Big Show, but know that the rest carries on. Thanks, man.

For: Adam Yauch…and North Carolina

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • http://www.smsjazz.com mort weiss

    WWWHHHOOAAA-MARK. —-CONGRATS!! on the coming of age and joining the ranks of us OLD FARTS—-IT’S NIRVANA-SATORI and dammed nice when you know what one likes and makes sense to you-even all of the un answered questons and you don’t give a dam what others think – and your happy for them and a little envious because-you know what ignorence is—-right! shalom. mort