By now everyone who knew who he was will be aware that Beastie Boy Adam Yauch died Friday.
For those of us whose knowledge extended little beyond that he was one of the three Beastie Boys (which one is hard to say) it’s probably a good time to give the pioneering trio a second look.
I must admit to never having been much of a fan of the Beastie Boys.
I own none of their albums, I think I’ve listened to “Paul’s Boutique” once, and whenever the video for “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” would come on Fuse or VH1 (oh, the days when those channels were watchable) I would see what else was on.
Nevertheless, the Beastie Boys were always there, and only now that one of them is gone do I realize how oddly comforting they were.
Sure, I never could get into their yappy, Straight-Outta-Long-Island vocals, and their arch, parodic tone.
But it’s obvious how much of their attitude can be seen in Eminem in his more Slim Shady moments and in the super irony of LMFAO.
Not to mention, “Paul’s Boutique,” with its emphasis on sampling, is now regarded as a landmark in the history of rap. With its eclectic mix of musical clippings, it paved the way for a lot of the more interesting rap production out there now.
Then there are the more ambiguous achievements.
According to the New York Times’ obituary of Yauch, protégé and music producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin credited the Beastie Boys with bringing rap to the suburbs.
One could go on forever about what the mainstreaming of rap did for its artistic credibility, but for all rappers out there reaping the rewards of big record deals, it’s undoubtedly a good thing.
And if the Beastie Boys’ success can in any way be linked to rise of fellow white rappers Insane Clown Posse, their place in the annals of music history is marred.
In any case, whether they can be linked to some of the more regrettable phenomena in the history of hip hop, their positive contributions surely outweigh the bad.
And if there’s any good that will come out of Yauch’s death, perhaps it will be inspiring a bunch of people (myself included) to make the effort to reacquaint themselves with a band that they’d taken for granted for so long.
My earliest memory of anything Beastie Boys is seeing the video for “Intergalactic” on MTV when I was a kid. Its deliberately cheesy send-up of Japanese monster movies certainly piqued the interest of my Godzilla-fanatic, 9-year-old self.
Though I’ve still got that vocodered refrain of “Intergalactic planetary, planetary intergalactic” stuck in my head, it’s probably a good time to go back and have another listen and appreciate a group that was out to fight for our rights to party.