Adam Yauch, 1964-2012

Sunday May 6th 2012

I was still at primary school when Napster first hit the internet, so its impact on my musical education went pretty deep. A friend and I would routinely meet at his place after school to while away the hours typing what we thought were ‘funny words’ into the search field and downloading tracks at random. I discovered a lot of bands this way, but none was more formative than the Beastie Boys. From that very first listen of Brass Monkey, to my much-anticipated purchase of Licensed to Ill at the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street (it had a Parental Advisory sticker!) to my very first gig — Wembley Arena on the To The 5 Boroughs Tour — the Beasties always felt like my own little secret. In reality of course, they were selling millions of records.

If I felt a particular affinity for Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA, it was probably because of his devotion to filmmaking. He directed the majority of the band’s music videos, including iconic promos for Shake Your Rump, So What’cha Want and Three MCs and One DJ (see above) under the name Nathanial Hörnblowér. When the Criterion Collection approached the band in 2000 with the idea of putting together a music video anthology, Yauch spent months assembling hundreds of different audio and video tracks to ensure that the disc would be as comprehensive as possible. Produced when DVD was still in its infancy, it remains one of the most inventive, ingenious applications of the format and is — to this day — the only Criterion release available in the UK.

He directed two films — basketball documentary Gunnin’ for that #1 Spot and the incredible Beasties Boys concert movie Awesome, I Fuckin’ Shot That! — and in 2006 founded Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent distribution and production company that’s since brought films as diverse as Exit Through the Gift Shop, Wuthering Heights and Wendy & Lucy to wider audiences. His mega-meta semi-autobiographical short Fight For Your Right Revisited last year assembled an ensemble cast that Robert Altman would find intimidating.

And all of this while continuing to perform with one of the greatest hip hop groups of all time. It’s safe to say the world just got a little bit less dope.