RIP MCA

Very saddened to hear the news that Beastie Boy Adam Yauch passed away from cancer today. The Beasties are one of my all-time favorite acts, and MCA seemed like a good dude. For all the misogyny of their early tunes, the Beastie Boys — and Adam Yauch — grew into feminist-minded social justice advocates. Yauch particularly focused on Tibetan freedom, organizing concerts, awareness-raising and co-founding the Milarepa Fund. Rest in peace, MCA.

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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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27 Responses

  1. Andie
    Andie May 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

    This is pretty sad, speaking as a music fan. I’m glad that they managed to clean up their act in later years, because some of the early stuff is pretty bad.

    I’m glad they didn’t seem to go about it in a ‘Look at us, we’re so much more feminist now, like they wanted a cookie for it.

    That’s the impression I got, anyway.

  2. Ryan
    Ryan May 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

    This week’s NYT had a good profile of rapper Earl Sweatshirt, which touched on this subject. I thought he pretty well captured how a young person can have a disconnect between their words and reality.

    As part of the … curriculum he also performed community service, spending time working at Samoa Victim Support Group, a center for survivors of sexual abuse, including children.

    “That was a pivotal moment,” he said one afternoon at Bristol Farms, a supermarket near his manager’s office. One of the things Earl Sweatshirt had been prized for as a rapper was his extreme imagery, bordering on vile. “You can detach imagery from words,” he said, adding that he “never actually pictured” the things he rapped about. … By the time he began working at the center, “I had already come to the conclusion that I was done talking about” that sort of subject matter, he said, but coming face to face with young people who had suffered in that way was overwhelming. “There’s nothing that you can — there’s no — you can’t evade the — there’s no defense for like — if you have any ounce of humanity,” he said, the feeling swallowing the words.

  3. maggiemay
    maggiemay May 4, 2012 at 6:17 pm |

    young men do seem to be harsh—and grow mellower with age–sigh

  4. Alexandra
    Alexandra May 4, 2012 at 7:06 pm |

    It’s the required swagger. Ta Nehisi Coates has written really well about this over the years – about the kind of youth culture that he grew up in that encouraged aggressive, posturing masculinity as a way of dealing with the endemic violence in his community.

    I see the swagger all over the place, though – even the middleclass white boys I grew up with would have pissing contests over who was the baddest, and during my tomboyish phases I’d join in – who could tell the foulest, dirtiest, most offensive joke about child molestation, that sort of thing. We were young enough to still think that the shocking and horrible was funny; even those of us who knew better because of lived experience got caught up in the — desire to be edgy, to demonstrate one’s disdain for social norms.

  5. Sarah
    Sarah May 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

    Were the deaths of Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse mentioned on here?

    I thought this was supposed to be a feminist site.

  6. librarygoose
    librarygoose May 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm |

    You know, perhaps Jill is a Beastie Boys fan? Or is that not feminist?

  7. Matt
    Matt May 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm |

    Jill stop being a feminist wrong, Jesus.

  8. Alison
    Alison May 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm |

    Damn, trolls. Is nothing sacred?

    Also, RIP MCA. I admit to a totally non-feminist guilty pleasure of still loving the early stuff, as bad as it is on that front. It definitely helps that as they got older they realized they were basically being douches, and turned into pretty awesome men.

    And damn, just too young.

  9. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 5, 2012 at 10:25 am |

    The Beasties provided me an early feminist awakening. I went to their show at age 16 and they were passing out fliers that said that women were in the pit to dance and have fun, not to be groped. Men telling men to watch themselves was a new experience for me; I wasn’t aware that it could even happen. Eye-opening. The notion that mourning them is somehow not feminist enough (though shit, are we allowed to have anything if it’s not political? am I bed feminist for looking at cat pictures?) is simply incorrect. They are men, but they are feminist men, and they had an impact.

  10. number9
    number9 May 5, 2012 at 11:38 am |

    This is the first celebrity death that’s been truly devastating for me. When I was in high school, it was hip hop or rock, and the two could never meet. And it was racialized, of course, although in Brooklyn we crossed those lines. But the Beasties showed that the line doesn’t (or doesn’t have to) exist. And they did it with respect and reverence for all genres. They are the only band I listened to in high school that is in my regular rotation today. It’s a tragic loss. So, yeah, fuck you trolls for thinking that setting a quota on mourning makes one a feminist.

  11. Claire K.
    Claire K. May 5, 2012 at 11:49 am |

    I don’t think it’s a matter of setting a quota on mourning. I think people are just frustrated that on here and on several other feminist sites, when a noted feminist dies we look for all the things she did wrong and disown her. When someone who was not a noted feminist dies, especially if that person was a man, we look for ways he was at least ‘feminist enough.’

  12. EG
    EG May 5, 2012 at 11:53 am |

    That was not the impression I got from the initial comment at all–it didn’t mention any notable feminists. It mentioned Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse.

  13. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists May 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm |

    @Amanda Marcotte
    Does logging onto Feministe before I get up in the morning make me a bed feminist too?

    Jill is so powerful, she can ruin feminism with a single paragraph. Literally five sentences, and people still find a way to tell Jill what she wrote was wrong.

  14. S.H.
    S.H. May 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

    @sarah. Yes and yes. There was a post in February addressing Whitney’s death that also mentioned Winehouse and discussed gender issues with fallen celebrities. You can find the post here.

  15. Saruman's Spectacles
    Saruman's Spectacles May 5, 2012 at 1:31 pm |

    This sucks. Beasties Boys were awesome. I don’t think they were ever really feminist so much as just conscientious. Which is great.

  16. Bud
    Bud May 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm |

    You don’t have to use the label “feminist” to be a feminist: i.e., representing the values and virtues of feminism, like equality, fairness, respect, et al. NPR had an interesting article about Adam Yauch in which the writer notes:

    “Along the way, Yauch became the group’s most outspoken member on social justice issues. For a rapper that once rapped about how “we rag-tag girlies back at the hotel” in 1986 (“The New Style”), by 1994, he was insisting, “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / the disrespect women has got to be through” (“Sure Shot”). That contrast invoked a moment of cognitive dissonance for me but it also was a reassuring sign of the possibility of growth and maturity in hip-hop.” [Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2012/05/04/152053809/how-adam-yauch-grew-into-his-voice

    Positive change and an evolution of awareness is a good thing, and MCA embodied that concept.

  17. Sarah
    Sarah May 5, 2012 at 8:03 pm |

    Sorry for the offence I caused. I was drunk when I posted my comment. I don’t know much about Adam Yauch or the Beastie Boys so I don’t really feel any negative feelings towards them.

    R.I.P Adam

  18. Kathy
    Kathy May 6, 2012 at 8:44 am |

    The Beastie Boys were a big part of the soundtrack to my jr. high school years, back when their music was still pretty misogynistic. I can acknowledge that (and their evolution), and still mourn the death of a musician I liked without losing feminist points, I hope.

  19. Dao
    Dao May 6, 2012 at 9:43 am |

    I think people are just frustrated that on here and on several other feminist sites, when a noted feminist dies we look for all the things she did wrong and disown her.

    When I read this Mary Daly came to mind, yes she was a noted feminist but she was also a virulent transphobe and we can acknowledge the good she did while also noting how damaging her transphobic and racist remarks were to the feminist movement and to the people she did not acknowledge as human.

    I hate this black and white approach….we can acknowledge the spectrum of gray of feminist heroines/heroes.

  20. DaisyDeadhead
    DaisyDeadhead May 6, 2012 at 11:31 am |

    Alarming young, too… RIP MCA.

  21. DaisyDeadhead
    DaisyDeadhead May 6, 2012 at 11:31 am |

    alarmingLY young, sorry about that.

    But seriously, the cancer deaths seem to get younger and younger.

  22. samanthab
    samanthab May 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

    Milarepa also organized benefits to address violence against women. I think he was probably comfortable with the word feminist. Do we have to assume the worst of people? Give (RI) peace a chance!!

  23. zuzu
    zuzu May 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm |

    Sarah, have you considered using the search box before you start throwing out accusatory comments?

  24. garconniere
    garconniere May 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm |

    i’ve found it really interesting to learn about the beastie boys feminist side in the days since yauch’s passing – i’m a bit young (26) to have really been marked by the group, but it’s slightly disappointing to only see the space for these conversations after someone has passed away. rest in power.

    also, while i don’t think it’s necessarily appropriate to have this conversation in a short RIP post, i’m going to recommend a few other articles about MCA’s passing here since i thought some readers might want to take a look at them:

    jessica valenti (once again) completely ignores race in this love letter to his legacy: MCA’s feminist legacy

    a lot of people are already responding online about how we can’t just forget how three white boys helped make a genre (created by black men) palatable for the mainstream. even though they were conscious of that to a certain extent, and were critical about sexism, there is still tons of work to be done – and legacies of whiteness to not forget.

    let’s remember and respect MCA, but let’s not distort him into some kind of white feminist saviour hero figure.

  25. S.H.
    S.H. May 8, 2012 at 11:50 pm |

    a lot of people are already responding online about how we can’t just forget how three white boys helped make a genre (created by black men) palatable for the mainstream. even though they were conscious of that to a certain extent, and were critical about sexism, there is still tons of work to be done – and legacies of whiteness to not forget.

    .

    I understand why people are annoyed with Valenti’s take in that article but I also get a little uncomfortable with the concept that the Beastie Boys “made rap palatable for white folks”, I think that’s revising history as much as Valenti has in her article. When the Beasties came out they were signed to Def Jam and their album came out right around the same time as Run D.M.C.’s, and also L.L. Cool J and the Fat Boys (everybody always forgets the Fat Boys!). It all had a very similar sound and it was clearly identified with Def Jam in that it was a fusion of rock with the rap, featured alot of rap groups with clever lyrics, had alot of scratching etc, and all had huge success.

    That being said, if you listen to Run D.M.C.’s Raising Hell, or L.L.’s Radio, both of which came out around the same time as Licensed to Ill, neither contains a fraction of the misogyny that Ill does. So that blows Valenti’s thesis pretty much out of the water. Not only do the Beasties’ early work feature some heavy duty misogyny, it was not a feature of the rap scene at the time, it was actually unique to them.

    What Valenti mistakenly is doing in her piece is comparing the Beasties later work like Check You Head and Ill Communication, and comparing it to rap music popular at that time, like Dre’s The Chronic. In doing so, she’s misrepresenting both the Beasties Boys’ legacy and rap music’s as a whole. The Beastie Boys didn’t evolve from rap music’s inherent misogyny, they evolved from their own.

  26. samanthab
    samanthab May 9, 2012 at 10:49 am |

    Well, except that he became a feminist, is white, and is a hero, in a musical sense. It actually is his audience’s fault, and not his own, if they ignore black musicians of the genre. And if you think there’s any form of art that, in the big picture, doesn’t involve influences across racial and cultural lines, you’re not looking carefully.

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