After the death of Adam Yauch last week, I am almost 100 percent sure that the Beastie Boys are no more. And while that’s a shame, it’s also fitting: After all, it is impossible to imagine them existing without him.
Of course, how the Beasties choose to honor Yauch’s legacy — or carry on with their careers — is ultimately up to them, which is why I can’t say with total certainty that we’ve heard the last of them. And, to be honest, it’s probably too early to even think about it. So instead, I’ll just say that if they truly are done, there will never be another group like them.
And I’m not just saying that because of their legacy, creativity or consistency, all of which have been lauded at length in the days since MCA died (and rightfully so). No, what made the Beastie Boys so unique — and so undeniable — was the magic that the trio possessed, an indefinable quality that can only be honed over decades, and never duplicated.
Part of it was pure skill; the way they bobbed and weaved through verses, often completing each other’s sentences, literally passing the mic. In a lot of ways a great Beasties song was a lot like a Globetrotters’ routine — they’d sling passes into the ether, always knowing that someone would be there to catch it, never letting the beat skip or the ball drop. And you’d just sit there and marvel at it all.
But there was always something deeper about the connection: The Beasties were brothers in arms. From beer-guzzling partymeisters to stony thrift enthusiasts to pop-cult obsessives to downright deep doyens, they grew up together — grew old together — but never lost the joy of youth. And because of that, there was a genuine sense of camaraderie that accompanied them every step of their career. No matter what they were doing, you got the sense that there was no one else they’d rather be doing it with. The Beastie Boys truly loved each other, in that unerring, unwavering way that only old friends can. You know it from the heart-wrenching statements the two surviving members have released since Yauch’s death, but more importantly, you feel it in their music.
It’s there in the goofy boasts of Paul’s Boutique tracks like “Shake Your Rump” and “Egg Man” (not to mention album-closing mega-mix “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”) and the all-in surge of “So What’cha Want,” from the follow-up, Check Your Head, where they took the leap together, expanding their sonic palette with instrumentals … and their collective consciousness on tracks like “Namaste.” You feel them becoming closer — not to mention a tighter band — on Ill Communication and The In Sound from Way Out!, having a blast on stuff like “Intergalactic” or “Three MCs and One DJ” off Hello Nasty, getting contemplative on To The 5 Boroughs. And on last year’s Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, they paused to look back on how far they’ve come … not to mention let it all hang out. It’s the kind of growth that’s inevitable, given their closeness; yet it’s also the kind that cannot be forced in any way, shape, or form.
And while there certainly have been other great hip-hop groups in the decades since the Beastie Boys first blasted onto the scene (Run-DMC, Public Enemy, the Wu-Tang Clan, etc.), none were able to sustain the kind of career — or the connection — that MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock had. Their contemporaries were pulled apart, imploded, faded away or simply lost focus … the Beasties did none of those things. To the end, they were one team, one dream; they were never greater than the sum of their parts.
Which is why I say it’s impossible to imagine the Beasties existing without MCA, and why I’m certain we’ll never see the likes of them again. Many will try to replicate it, of course, assembled by shadowy Svengalis to feign friendship, but they’ll never beat the B-Boys, because they were actually friends. No group will share the kind of bond they did, no group will be as selfless or as tightly knit.
And if this really is the end, then all of that is worth noting, not to mention celebrating. The Beastie Boys were one of the all-time greats, regardless of genre; they went deeper than all that. Theirs was the kind of connection we all strive for and, if we’re lucky, maybe find once in our lives.
Do you think there will ever be another group like the Beastie Boys? Share your thoughts in the comments.