Like an intertwined set of fat laces on an old-school Adidas shell toe shoe, the verbal flow of the Beastie Boys was always seamless. MCA, AD-Rock and Mike D dipped in and out of each others lines and traded off verses like a three-headed hip-hop hydra, their flows unique, but always tightly packed.
With the death of Adam Yauch (aka MCA) on Friday (may 4) at the age of 47, that flow is forever interrupted, but the New York-born rapper’s legacy lives on not just in his rhymes but in his many efforts outside the scope of his MC role. While the B-Boys always presented a united front in the studio and on stage, MCA was a renaissance man whose many interests ranged from direction videos and movies to his decades-long efforts to aid the cause of Tibetan freedom.
Along with lending his indelible, rough-hewn voice voice to the trio’s eight studio albums, Yauch was a cinephile who used the group’s bully pulpit explore his second passion: directing. Under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower (aka Yauch’s mustachioed Swiss “uncle”), Yauch directed a number of the band’s most innovative and eye-popping videos, including the robot attack clip for “Intergalactic,” the Italian spy spoofing “Body Moving,” as well as the 2006 Beasties documentary, “Awesome: I F–kin’ Shot That!”
He also directed and produced the 2008 street basketball documentary “Gunnin’ For that #1 Spot,” which the first title released by his film company, Oscilloscope Laboratories. Since then, Oscilloscope has become the home of a steady flow of interesting and offbeat documentaries and features, including “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Flow,” “Bellflower,” “Wendy & Lucy,” the environmental docu-comedy “No Impact Man,” the Banksy movie “Exit Through the Gift Shop” and 2009 Sundance darling, “The Messenger.”
As Hornblower, he was behind the camera for the 20-minute star-studded remake of the band’s 1996 frat boy anthem “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” in which “Eastbound and Down” star Danny McBride stepped into MCA’s iconic leather jacket.
Oscilloscope is also releasing one of the most anticipated head-trip movies in decades this summer, “Samsara,” an HD visual spectacle that is a sequel of sorts to the 1992 70-MM non-narrative classic “Baraka,” as well as a documentary about LCD Soundsystem’s final show, “Shut Up and Play the Hits.”
Yauch, a Buddhist, was also passionate about the cause of Tibetan freedom. He was one of the co-founders in 1994 of the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization that raised money for and promoted the cause of the Tibetan people’s desire to break free from the People’s Republic of China.
After donating money to the cause through royalties from a pair of songs from the Check Your Head album that sampled the chanting of Tibetan Monks, Yauch oversaw the launch of the annual Tibetan Freedom Concerts. The first one, in 1996, took place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and raised nearly $1 million for Tibetan exile groups thank to sets by the Smashing Pumpkins, A Tribe Called Quest, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, De La Soul and Rage Against the Machine.
Subsequent shows took place in 1997 in New York (U2, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills of R.E.M.), Washington, D.C. in 1998 (Dave Matthews Band, Wyclef Jean, Pearl Jam, KRS-One), Amsterdam, Wisconsin, Sydney and Tokyo in 1999 (Run-DMC, the Roots, Garbage, Alanis Morissette) Tokyo (2001) and Taipei (2003).
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