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MCA's legacy is more than a few rhymes

By Marisa Nadolny

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Published May 04. 2012 6:00PM   Updated March 26. 2013 9:27AM

Koster: I was saddened to hear of the passing of Adam Yauch and pondering what I could possibly say. My good pal Marisa Nadolny, who has huge respect and admiration for the man, volunteered to hop into this space with some remarks. Herewith:

I think I developed a deep affection for Adam Yauch, or MCA, when I learned of his work in support of Tibetan independence. I was an impressionable college student, at the height of my What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love phase, and long versed in the fantastic rise and catalog of Yauch's band, the ever-eloquent Beastie Boys. Yauch had formed the Milarepa Fund, and the Tibetan Freedom Concert in 1996 would soon follow and raise almost $1 million for Tibetan exile organizations.

That's a long way from those three NYC punks throwing pies at Suburbia in "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)." Not that there's anything wrong with that. I have fond memories of screaming for my sister to come into the living room whenever the video for the song came on MTV.

So for MCA to grow into an accomplished musician and champion of peace, well, that just struck a massive chord with me as I went through college and started to learn the ways of the political world, with "Check Your Head" and "Ill Communication" on constant standby in my CD pile.

Part of it might be that the B-Boys remind me of home, somehow. All of us listened to the Beasties as we slugged our way through high school. New Britain isn't Brooklyn, of course, but it's still an urban place where life isn't always fair or pretty; where drug addiction, drive-by shootings and babies having babies are harsh realities. A person could get turned inside out and really cold by those sorts of details, but if people as cool as the Beasties cared — at a time when many fans questioned whether they should've been rapping about things other than girls and beer — I could care too.

Besides, he offered this little gem on the "Ill Communication" track "Sure Shot": "I want to say a little something that's long overdue/the disrespect to women has got to be through/to all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends/I want to offer my love and respect to the end."

How could I not feel a kinship to this man?

Oddly, just this week in our Daybreak meeting, we were talking about the greatest concerts we've all ever attended. The first that came to mind for me was when I saw the Beasties at Madison Square Garden during their tour with A Tribe Called Quest (Tribe broke up not too long after). The album "Hello Nasty," in all its neon-jumpsuit glory, had just come out and blown us all away (I mean, in "The Move," they sample a harpsichord into a rapid-fire rap erse, and it's perfect!). I can still see the Boys working it onstage, switching from straight-up rap numbers to the instrumentals, clad in orange jumpsuits. We all got a huge kick out of seeing them actually play the mad punk rock from their early days and the lilting, hypnotic melodies from "Ill Communication."

It was entertaining, loud, and wild and we felt like we were part of something so very cool and special, right in the heart of the Big Apple.

With MCA gone, I'm not sure Ad-Rock and Mike D can ever conjure such magic again (I suspect they won't go the hologram route). I'm still too stunned by the news to be terribly upbeat about it all. I truly thought if anyone could beat cancer, it was Adam Yauch, a vegan (with money) and a great respect for Eastern traditions, presumably Eastern medicine among them.

But Russell Simmons, a longtime friend and B-Boy collaborator, put things in perspective much better than I can on his website. He wrote: "This experience is tough for all of us to accept, but we know that we have only lost Adam in the physical world. His gifts will live forever. Adam is not dead because we're not."

I'm grateful to have witnessed Yauch's gifts, but I miss him already.

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