This is difficult.
Not because I can’t think of things to say but because there is so much to say.
How to express both the crushing sadness and endless gratitude for a life?
Adam Yauch, aka MCA (aka Nathanial Hornblower aka Nathan Wind) was our modern manhood’s infinitely cooler older brother. And like an older brother, whether he intended to do so or not, he taught us how to be.
Snotty, raucous, and hilarious, MCA was punk as f*ck and compelled us to revel in our youth. If we were partying, it wasn’t hard enough. It wouldn’t matter anyways, because he was going to make sure to piss everyone off AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, so that later on they wouldn’t think anything we did was nearly as bad. He crashed the car, so that when we burned the house down they wouldn’t be as mad.
He then made it cool to be uncool. To wear thrift store clothes, dig on pop culture arcana and go deep. Moving to L.A., dressing in leisure suits, namechecking Dolemite and sampling disco cuts 2 decades before it was retro enough to even like disco again is seriously deep. Not to mention singlehandedly revolutionizing the art of sampling with the Dust Brothers and creating arguably rap music’s Sistine Chapel.
Then came the exploration of discipline and practice as transcendent. Through spiritual practice and a disavowal of the recklessness and nihilism of youth, he showed us that there is even greater liberation in seeking righteousness. That this change of heart can give one’s life and music an exalted purpose. And this wasn’t hypocrisy or a matter of trying to have cake and eat it too, this was genuine growth and expansion. A human being in 4 dimensions. The sincerity of heart so powerful that it made us want to be like him again, thoughtful and caring.
Part of that entailed investing in his musicianship and showing that he was not only a wicked MC and lyricist, but a fully rounded artist. Seeing him switch it up from a Fender jazz to the upright bass in Madison Square Garden was a moment seared on this brain. Seeing him accept a music video award in leiderhosen another one. I doubt I was the only kid to pick up a bass and then direct an alternate version of Sabotage! (which was actually just a terrible carbon copy of the original just because it looked like so much damned fun.)
That’s the most amazing aspect of it. That it was never NOT FUN. He was still the same MCA…just ever increasingly wiser and wiser and funnier.
He was a shining example of the real difference between righteousness and self-righteousness, the difference between importance and self-importance. He spoke with authority without being preachy.
And he continually vocalized his spiritual quest from a personal perspective, not as something anyone else needed to do (which was all the more inspiring.)
I wish I could’ve met him, but it’s okay that I didn’t because I know and feel his work. And it changed me.
Adam Yauch was our collective older brother. And he was beautiful and amazing and good. And he will be missed intensely and remembered with tears and laughter by millions. And now he is free.