We remember Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch.
Photo: Getty Images
It is the end of the era. That Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died today of cancer at the heartbreaking age of 47 is awful news. I’ve read a slew of obituaries and tributes and revisited interviews with the Beasties over the last 25 years and the photos alone are devastating. These guys were such weirdos. Seriously, the swag with which they gave not one shit between them is captivating and wildly empowering. Chromeo tweeted (and I love that A-Trak RT’d it because I know the brothers Macklovitch held the Beastie Boys in high regard and likely discovered them together [or in that order]):
They taught us how to dress, they taught us that it was ok for skater kids to listen to rap, they taught us about graf, record digging…
— Chromeo (@Chromeo) May 4, 2012
Here’s the thing. I recognize that it’s often inelegant to look to something as inert as clothing or shoes when remembering someone who created decades worth of invaluable art but the significance of their role in how kids use style to signal their fealty to what they loved and what music resonated with them is vital. It’s important to every kid I grew up with while working in New York and has had a hand in how most of us chose our careers. I very much believe it’s what gave me a pass to work at a graffiti magazine as an Korean chick who was born on the other side of the world. Just as it relieved unholy sheepishness or debilitating self-consciousness when I went to work at a rap magazine years later. It’s weird but MCA’s death makes you reflect on what the Beasties personally meant to us.
As my office-wife Tamar of Buzzworthy wrote in her essay: “This wasn’t a group with a frontman… this is about losing an inseparable piece of the whole.” And as a group they irrevocably altered what you had to look like in order to listen, love and identify with rap. They allowed kids who pulled up their socks in adidas Campuses or Puma Clydes and hung out at the X-Large store to learn about the pillars of hip-hop and blurred racial lines of what young people who adored the same stuff were expected to dress like. I believe it has a lot to do with why A$AP Rocky loses no credibility and looks just wonderful in Givenchy, Jeremy Scott, and Supreme. Sometimes all at the same time.
The Beastie Boys are the godfathers of streetwear. They are pioneers of a youth culture that taught derelict children and outliers from the mainstream to use their passion and alchemize it into music, magazines, videos, documentaries, and art. I do not know The Beastie Boys personally—though I know those who do—and I appreciate how perverse and gleefully moribund humans can be when fetishizing proximity to death like some tragedy gadfly but I’m sad. Sad and grateful. R.I.P. MCA.