MCA: Who Let the Beat Drop?*

*The title does NOT insinuate the subject dropped anything except amazing albums, forward thinking, and proving a man [or band] can embrace a past just as much as denouncing parts of it without needing to be defensive; along with unabashedly making a difference in this world.  Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA created the beat and passed it along to us: making it our responsibility not to let it drop…or fall silent on the turntables of today or the future.

It was downtown Chicago in the year 2000.  Rush hour as I remember it, but there was always some form of constant congestion; far as surface streets were concerned.  I couldn’t say there was any cruising on that occasion, but it sure did feel like it at points.  Blame/Praise the music for that.

There were two of us in a freshly battle-damaged Budget [rent-a-]van.  Going  between locations for a feature film, I was riding shotgun and intermittently wincing from the rays of “golden hour” whenever the sunlight slipped between buildings and connected with a direct hit to either eyeball.

Both windows were down and the sonic libations flowed freely – forming a sound loop engulfing a lane’s worth on both sides of the truck, which was rented on the dime of the “production company” as the duo referred to themselves.  Loud as it was, the driver could still shout over musical firepower of this magnitude: known as the Beastie Boys.

A delightfully sweet and hilarious (depending on who you were) female was on the other side of me.  She commanded respect behind the oversized steering wheel; which at least I thought she handled with ease.  Her curved pigtails of naturally multishaded blonde strands swished to-and-fro just above her shoulders while the shocks and spring in the driver seat reacted to the road.  Throughout this trip (like many others) she called targeted drivers and pedestrians things a seadog would report to the FCC.

While heading to our next location, I was practically lost in this tapestry of music.  I would have been fully immersed, but felt the need to stay vigilant: making sure someone outside wanting to get defensive with words or New York City hummingbirds stray bullets in response to her vocal and lewd evaluations.  I kept on listening to the cassette tape: sure of the artist but not the origin of these songs.  I would have asked earlier, had it not been for me enjoying the sporadic way she sang along – and not wanting any of her driver’s fury raining down upon me, whether accidental or intended.

Enchanting as it seemed, I know her singing would have been much more spot-on, if not for the film shoot taking such a toll on her voice.  On a few occasions she mentioned starting smoking cigarettes at the ripe age of ten, but I knew her vocal cords would have been in much better shape if those who hired her for the production had more respect for her as an assistant director.  I couldn’t cite a source, but felt the problem was higher-ups not having enough respect for females…since I found her to excel at her position (and all the others she got recruited to cover or fill-in for).

Random lyrics came from her mouth in a funny-yet-serious way — her style having a candor and bravado akin to the two MCs and one DJ: each time sporadically punching in.  She had the album memorized in its entirety, but I assume she was resting her pipes and also trying to drive safely.  The two most memorable singalong portions she treated me to were the belted-out runs from a female artist I really should look up, and this chestnut of a portion which caused me to stifle a mix of chuckles and admiration.

“I took off her shirt…  I took off her bra.  I took off her panties…  You know what I saw…”

When there was more speaker hiss than music on the speakers, I finally jumped in.

“So what album is this?”
“Whatdaya mean?” as her vocal cords caused the words to squeak in and out.  “It’s the Beasties.”
“I know it’s the Beastie Boys, but I thought it was a mix or something.”
“Dooode, Mesnard.  You should totally know that album.  I thought music was your thing.”
“I am, and I know I heard these tracks.  I just never knew the album.  Is it a remix?”
“Mesnard, this is like their most famous album.”
“Then what’s the name of it?”
“It’s Paul’s Boutique, dude.”

Maybe it didn’t seem like much, but that’s an overall favorite memory of the Boys who hate to Sleep Till Brooklyn.  [If it wasn’t so memorable, I could have wrapped my feelings up in a single post.]  As a footnote, I did end up buying that disc after I got home from the production wrapping, and know I still need to buy the twentieth anniversary edition.

My worst one would be when I brought two of my discs into my high school production class and someone stole them.  I had it narrowed down to at least two people; one male, one female.  I think they were both in cahoots on it, or she was covering for him.  It bummed me since I liked her.  She said she found one of them…only to be the Ill Communication jewel box, but inside was the disc Some Old BaloneySandwiches.  I was perturbed to say the least; especially since I checked the area she said she found it (though I already scoured the place it was “found” the day before and also not long before it was “found”).  The story got more spotty as I asked questions.

Knowing the situation wouldn’t improve, and being close to the end of the schoolyear), I let it go – before I knew the name Milarapa or took stock in the reasoning behind the track Shambala.  If I presented my case before the deffest court in the land, the Beastie Boys probably would have told me to take hold of my disc/case causing issue, then “throw it in the gutter, and go buy another” so I can help make the band more money, the monks more residuals to aid the cause, and making peace with myself and others by letting go; resolving any transgressions in the process.  If true, I hope the kid finding that disc was a hard music fan feeling punk destiny smiled upon that spot beside the curb.  [Footnote: I replaced my copy – twice over.]

Of course those aren’t my only memories of the Bea-stie-Boys.  Since I’m “old” and all that, I remember seeing “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Plunder Party!)” when it first appeared on MTV (I was in elementary school).  That was easily my first memory of the group.  I remember segments similar to MTV News – or there was some way Kurt Loder, the world’s oldest owner of an underage fake ID MTV persona was helping us keep up with the Beastie Boys before MTV even had the news, so there was lots I was inundated with stories regarding the band (not that I ever complained).  Though, as said of apples – “the first bite tastes best“.

Hearing the names of athletes in tracks cracked me up as much as the sophomoric humor dashed throughout their first official release – especially regarding its context: Rod Carew and Bill Laimbeer amongst others.  In the same juvenile portion of my brain, I still can’t associate “So What’cha Want”  (at least when watching the video) without hearing Beavis say “gardenia” – which I also saw first run…since I’m out of MTV’s key demographic.

If my buddy Mike was still around, I’m sure his best memory was not only getting to see the Beastie Boys live, but during the Quadriphonic Stereo tour.  He had a shirt to prove it.  I saw Pink Floyd in quadraphonic, but I was still a tad jealous of Mike.  It would come up when we talked about great albums, the Beasties, or favorite live shows not consisting of the “AZ big three” (aka the “Tempe sound” or Long Wongs crew) as they’ve been labeled – and their spinoffs.  What envy I had.  Despite those emotions, I felt much empathy when he returned from a camping trip without that shirt. I found out it was buried somewhere in the woods for a reason one wouldn’t need to go too far on a ledge to figure out.  I probably mourned the loss of that shirt more than he did.  At least a valuable lesson was learned by all to wear clothes when camping that can later be seen as disposable.  [For the record, if he did bring it home in a plastic bag or something, I would have gladly laundered it for him – not that it would have been an easy task for me.  He was told the same when I went slack-jawed knowing he could leave such a valuable/memorable shirt in the wild.]

One shared memory with Mikey was listening to dozens of tracks because he needed to know which song had “Let me clear my throat…” on it.  No sport in using the internet of course.  We went track by track and ended up on Licensed to Ill.  I think it was because we wanted a better journey than destination (or something to do while combating sobriety).  The aural road trip would have been a whole lot shorter otherwise.  There’s also the story of when he joined the “century club” to the beats of the Beastie’s debut album – but I didn’t participate in that.  Should I have?

Many visions came to me when I first heard of the East Coast trio being on the ballot for this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class. The group has always been a united force; and the loss of any of them made me think even more about how much of an influence they’ve been – separately, and as a band – when it comes to experiences I had, music I enjoyed, and a force that can instantly alter my mood for the better whenever heard on the radio.  I don’t want to live in a place that doesn’t have “Brass Monkey” playing somewhere on the local airwaves after 10pm on a Saturday.

So you made it this far?  Congratulations!  Here’s your reward: here’s a compilation of Beavis and Butt-Head watching Beastie Boys videos.  This is also my way of slipping the “Sabotage” music video into my tribute.

My wind has been long, so enough reminiscing.  If you want more, here’s where you can find part two.  Heavier on the visuals and [a tad] lighter on the words.

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