ADAM YAUCH, MCA: AUGUST 5, 1964 – MAY 4, 2012; R.I.P.
[Before we begin I’d like to note that this past month state senator for the 25th district of the New York State Senate, Daniel Squadron, wrote up J4637-2011, which was a resolution that officially called for a pause of deliberations on the legislative floor to honor Adam “MCA” Yauch. Text and video below:
WHEREAS, It is the sense of this Legislative Body to honor and pay tribute to those individuals whose commitment and creative talents have contributed to the entertainment and cultural enrichment of their community and the entire State of New York; and
WHEREAS, Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, the rapper, musician, activist, film director and founder of the pioneering New York hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, died on Friday, May 4, 2012, in Manhattan at age 47;and
WHEREAS, Adam Nathaniel Yauch was born on August 5, 1964, and raised in Brooklyn Heights; he was the son of Frances Yauch, a social worker, and Noel Yauch, an architect and painter, and attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood; and
WHEREAS, Adam Yauch taught himself the bass guitar while growing up and joined the Beastie Boys, originally a hardcore punk outfit, playing his first show with the group when he was just 17 years old in 1981; and
WHEREAS, The Beastie Boys became well-known in the innovative music scene in Manhattan’s East Village and Lower East Side with a sound and a style all their own; and
WHEREAS, The album “Licensed to Ill” was the first hip-hop album to top the Billboard chart; and
WHEREAS, The music and message of the Beastie Boys evolved over the years, but they can’t, they don’t, they won’t stop changing the face of hip-hop, of music, and of our culture; and
WHEREAS, The Beastie Boys exemplified New York through a period in which grassroots creativity and a community of iconoclastic artists helped redefine and rejuvenate a city on the ropes, with iconic imagery from Brooklyn to Ludlow Street; and
WHEREAS, Having consistently produced multi-million selling albums and receiving Grammy awards, in April 2012 the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Adam Yauch was unable to attend due to deteriorating health; and
WHEREAS, In addition to his contributions to music, Adam Yauch was an activist and founder of the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness about abuses in Tibet and against Tibetans, and later in life became a successful filmmaker, founding Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film distribution company; and
WHEREAS, A man of colossal talent and charisma, Adam Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen Wengdu, and their daughter, Losel; he will be missed by his family, his fans and all who knew him; his dedication to his music, his activism, and his heritage leaves an indelible legacy of inspiration for all other artists; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to mourn the death of famed rapper and activist Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch; and be it further
RESOLVED, That a copy of this Resolution, suitably engrossed, be transmitted to the family of Adam Yauch.”
SIDE A: THE INITIAL SPIN
[It must be noted that this post would have been impossible to write without the invaluable resources of Dan Leroy’s Paul’s Boutique for Bloomsbury Academic’s 33⅓ series, and Soopageek’s website, http://www.beastieboysannotated.com/]
July 25, 1989: George H. W. Bush has just recently become president, Tim Burton’s Batman has just been released, the airwaves are being dominated by New Kids on the Block’s “Hangin’ Tough” as well as by a slew of songs off of Madonna’s Like a Prayer LP, and it’s been nearly three years since those NYC assholes and party animals the Beastie Boys released an album—and you’ve just acquired their follow-up to the #1 selling Licensed To Ill:
You press the horizontal triangle on the play button (or drop the needle into the groove) and wait for the opening track “To All the Girls” to begin. And you wait, and wait, and wait…finally you hear faint drums and electric piano fading in on a slow, open, buoyant groove—it’s the moody intro to jazz drummer Idris Muhammad’s “Loran’s Dance” off of his ’74 LP Power Of Soul (keyboards supplied by Bob James*) but most likely you don’t know that. You were maybe expecting a guitar riff supplied by Kerry King* of Slayer, or something of that sort.
——————————————–(Click To Listen)
Like it? Buy it.
* Bob James is perhaps best known for the 1978 instrumental “Angela,” which was used as the theme music for the sitcom Taxi. He’s also the man behind ’74 track “Nautilus,” which has been sampled numerous times, most prominently in “Daytona 500” from Ghostface Killah’s 1996 solo debut Ironman.
* Kerry King supplied guitar for the sixth single off Licensed to Ill: “No Sleep till Brooklyn.”
As the music grows louder you can begin to make out what the mumbling voice has been saying; it’s MCA doing a Barry White-like spoken paean to the ladies. This makes sense as, with his George Michael combo of stubble and black leather jacket, he’d been known as the ladies’ man of the Beastie Boys. Although, the latest magazines have shown that his stubble had now grown out to “a beard like a billy-goat.”
To all the Brooklyn girls
To all the French girls
To all the Oriental girls
To all the Swiss girls
To the Italian women
To the upper east side nubiles
To all the Jamaican girls
And to the top-less dancers
To the southern belles
To the Puerto Rican girls
To the stewardesses flying around the world…
And then there are the vocals. You hear those three familiar voices: the two adenoidal whines of Ad-Rock and Mike D (although each inhabiting either end of that spectrum, with Ad-Rock pushing a hard sneer, Mike D’s voice richer) contrasted against MCA’s hoarse baritone. Yet, they’re different—looser. They no longer seem so rude, but happy. Line after sinuous line darts out every which way over the music, and the three play hot-potato with the rhymes—beginning and ending each others sentences, sometimes all three ganging up on one word. They seem so exuberant while hollering out these hilarious lyrics that are just flat-out ridiculous. A procession of images fly by: something about having a lava lamp inside their brain hotel* and schlepping around a disco bag; driving around bare foot Like Fred Flintstone. If you are paying attention it will leave you “staring at the radio, staying up all night.” All together, it’s the sound of frantic precision. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before, and you only wanted a Beastie Boys record.
The dense, lush vinyl sounds of “Shake Your Rump” were meticulously assembled, as with the rest of Paul’s Boutique, one layer and loop at a time, and culled from the massive record collections of seven audiophiles. An arduous labor of love, “[…] the team behind Paul’s Boutique was testing the absolute limits of still-embryonic technologies like computer recording and automation” (Leroy, 2006). Co-producer (and one half of Grammy Award winning* producers the Dust Brothers) “E.Z. Mike” Simpson later recalled:
“Basically, we would find a groove, and we would loop it, and then
we would print that to tape, and we would go for five minutes on
one track of the tape. And then we would find another loop, and we
would spend hours getting that second loop to sync up with the first
loop, and then once we had it in sync, we would print that for five
minutes on another track. And we would just load up the tape like that.
And once we had filled up the tape with loops, we would go in, and
Mario [C.] had this early, early, mixing board that had this very primitive
form of automation. It was pretty complex, but if you knew which tracks
you wanted playing at any given time, you typed the track numbers into
this little commodore computer hooked up to the mixing board. And each
time you wanted a new track to come in, you’d have to type it in manually.
It was just painful. It took so long. And there was so much trial and error…
there was no visual interface to show you what was going on”
* In June of ’89, just prior to the album’s official entrance into the marketplace “Shake Your Rump” was released as the b-side to Paul’s Boutique’s first single “Hey Ladies.” The two tracks along with the remixes “33% God,” and “Dis Yourself In ’89 (Just Do It)” were released as a 12” EP entitled Love, American Style. The title was a throwback to the Garry Marshall produced ABC show from which Happy Days was a spin-off, and the cover art (credited to one Nathanial Hörnblowér) is a photo of the kitchen in Ad-Rock’s Los Angeles apartment. If you look close you’ll find three hidden women.
* This image closely echoes those of “Epistle to Dippy,” the 1967 single by Scotland’s psychedelic-troubadour Donovan, with its line: “Elevator in the brain hotel.” At the time of Paul’s Boutique’s recording, Donovan’s daughter, Ione Skye was in the midst of leaving Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis for Adam Horovitz, who she would go on to marry.
* Oddly, despite the overwhelming merits of their other work they would win this award for their contribution to Santana’s 1999 album, Supernatural. Their contribution being a song featuring Eagle-Eye Cherry entitled “Wishing It Was.”
It all begins with that rapid roll on the tom-toms: snipped from the opening seconds of drummer Alphonze Mouzon’s “Funky Snakefoot” off his 1974 album of the same name for Blue Note. Mouzon had been the drummer for McCoy Tyner before joining the initial ’71 lineup (alongside Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Miroslav Vitous, and Airto Moreira) of jazz-fusion pioneers Weather Report.
———————(Click To Listen)
Drums – Alphonze Mouzon
Clavinet – Harry Whitaker
Piano – Leon Pendarvis*
Saxophone – Andy Gadsden
Trombone – Barry Rogers
Trumpet – Randy Brecker
Like it? Buy it.
Then, as Ad-Rock informs you that he can “[…] rock a house party at the drop of a hat” the sample that will serve as the backbone beat for the majority of the song kicks in: 1979’s “Dancing Room Only” by soul vocalist, songwriter, and arranger Harvey Scales*. Raised in Milwaukee, Scales spent the early ’70s recording singles for Stax and the Cadet Concept division of Chess Records before signing with Los Angeles based Casablanca Records. Taken from his second LP for that label, the disco-funky Hot Foot: A Funque Dizco Opera, the track’s drums supplied by Jeffrey Williamson serve to propel “Shake Your Rump” right on through to the other side of its dozen-plus samples, just as they urge the listener to comply with Scales’ command to “shake your you-know-what.”
* Leon Pendarvis has been a member of the Saturday Night Live Band since 1980 and now works as Co-Musical Director as well.
* Scales is noted as the first songwriter to have a single certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for the ’76 hit by Johnnie Taylor “Disco Lady,” which featured Parliament-Funkadelic members bassist Bootsy Collins, keyboardist Bernie Worrell, and guitarist Glen Goins (RIAA, 2012).
———————(Click To Listen)
Produced, Arranged, and Written By – Harvey Scales, Melvin Griffin
Vocals – Harvey Scales
Bass – Robin Gregory
Conductor [Strings & Horns] – Melvin Griffin
Drums – Jeffrey Williamson
Guitar – Cedrick Rupert
Keyboards, Saxophone [Alto] – Melvin Griffin
Percussion – Shondu Akiem
Piano – William Scott Harralson
Saxophone [Baritone] – Ben Petry
Saxophone [Tenor] – Kenny Walker
Synthesizer – John Eidsvoog
Trombone – Kevin Lockett
Backing Vocals – L. C. Coney, Thomas Causey
– Harvey Scales, Melvin Griffin
With MCA’s emphasis on the word pimp in the line he shares with Mike D—“so like a pimp I’m pimpin’/I got a boat to eat shrimp in”—enters the cleverly sped-up and looped layer of Roland Bautista’s* funk-scratch rhythm guitar from saxophonist Ronnie Laws’ 1975 instrumental rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Tell Me Something Good*” Released by Blue Note, the album from which this track originates—Pressure Sensitive—would be Laws solo debut.
———————————(Click To Listen)
Producer – Wayne Henderson
Saxophone – Ronnie Laws
Guitar – Roland Bautista
Clavinet – Joe Sample, Mike Cavanaugh
Electric Piano – Mike Cavanaugh
Synthesizer – Jerry Peters
Bass Guitar – Clint Mosley
Synthesizer – Jerry Peters
Tambourine – Joe Clayton
Like it? Buy it.
* Bautista was also a featured member on Last Days and Time, the 3rd studio album by American R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire, as well as playing on Tom Waits’ Blue Valentine and Heartattack and Vine.
* A year earlier, “Tell Me Something Good” had been a hit for the Chaka Khan incarnation of Rufus.
A clatter of cymbals and descending drum rolls spill into the frame as Ad-Rock and Mike D divvy up a single line, each taking only a few chunks out of the syllables before spitting it back and forth:
“Routines I bust and the rhymes that I write”
They then alley-oop the vocals over to MCA who steps up and rasps:
“And I’ll be busting routines and rhymes all night”
——————————————————–(Click To Listen)
The break-beat clatter that bestows the Beastie Boys’ rap with buoyancy has been clipped from the opening section to “Supermellow.” Composed and originally performed by Paul Humphrey as the title track for his ’73 solo debut released on Blue Thumb Records, the version utilized here however comes from 1975 when he rerecorded the song for The Drum Session LP, which featured a line-up partly comprised by three other all-star percussionists: drummer for Duke Ellington’s big-band, Louis Bellson; Spanish Harlem’s greatest conga player, Willie Bobo*; and the man who has played with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Tom Waits, Shelly Manne. Humphrey himself was a renowned studio musician who played with preeminent jazz artists like Wes Montgomery and Charles Mingus, as well as on Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats LP of ’69 and on the seduction masterpiece that is Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On. The Drum Session also features Chuck Domanico on bass, Mike Wofford on keys, Jerome Richardson on sax and flute, and the incredible trumpet player Bobby Bryant whose cover of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” I discussed here.
“[…] rhymes all night”
MCA has hardly finished his sentence when Ad-Rock returns to the mic to rapidly deliver:
“Like eating burgers or chicken or you’ll be picking your nose
I’m on time, homey, that’s how it goes”
MCA and Mike D jump on the next line in unison:
“You heard my style I think you missed the point”
Then (extracted from Diana Ross & the Supremes’ ’69 single “No Matter What Sign You Are”) there’s the crude thap-thap-thap-thap-thap of a drum announcing The Bronx’s own Funky 4 + 1*, their marathon nine-minute party jam here boiled down to the three essential words needed to conclude this verse: IT’S THE JOINT!
* William “Bobo” Correa’s son, Eric, would end up joining the Beastie Boys’ touring line-up, as well as contributing percussion to their albums beginning with 1994’s Ill Communication.
* Funky 4 + 1 are noted not only for having a female MC, (Sha Rock) way back in ’76, but also for being the first hip hop group to appear on a national television show: a Valentine’s day episode of Saturday Night Live in 1981, hosted by Deborah Harry.
“6 O’Clock DJ (Let’s Rock)” by Rose Royce
———————(Click To Listen)
Like it? Buy it.
Suddenly the whole song is swallowed up by one of the thickest (and certainly the most tweaked out) bass notes you’ve ever heard. It rolls its sinuous weight across the steady backbeat, writhing its attenuated tail end until it twitches directly into another roll of the drums, which transports the Beastie Boys right back to front-and-center. Fattened and warped, this bass note is the brief but ominous Moog intro to Rose Royce’s 1:14 long instrumental “6 O’Clock DJ (Let’s Rock)” on their debut double album, the soundtrack to the 1976 comedy Car Wash, which guest starred both Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Creatively helmed by legendary Motown producer Norman Whitfield*, Rose Royce were in the process of recording their 1st album when Whitfield was hired to supply the score for director Michael Schultz’s follow-up feature to his “urban” high school comedy, Cooley High. Whitfield convinced the group to abandon their work-in-progress and allow him to compose new music for them that was closely tied to the film. They obliged and the world was rewarded with two discs of Rose Royce’s classy brand of funk.
* Whitfield is the producer and co-writer behind what Bob Dylan once characterized on his radio show Theme Time Radio Hour as “a jumbo jet of a song”: The Temptations’ #1 epic soul/head-trip, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” A former coworker of mine, Ms. Walker, once turned to me half-speaking, half-singing the chorus “Papa was a rolling stone/Wherever he laid his hat was his home/and when he died, all he left us was alone,” before stating, “that’s some sad, fucked-up shit right there.” Really, who couldn’t help but agree.
As Mike D declares that he’s “back from the dead,” Rose Royce return with Lequeint “Duke” Jobe’s roundabout bass lick from another track on the Car Wash soundtrack: “Yo Yo.”
“Yo Yo” by Rose Royce
———————(Click To Listen)
Like it? Buy it.
The guitar groove of “Tell Me Something Good” reemerges as a series of parabolic frames for the clipped, rising and descending cadence of MCA’s insolent declarations of psychedelic independence despite the edicts of perception imposed by both the dollars behind him and the audience in front. Full to capacity with internal rhymes, the lines are all defiance with a smile:
A puppet on a string I’m paid to sing or rhyme
Or do my thing, I’m in a lava lamp inside the brain hotel
I might be freakin’ or peakin’ but I rock well
As the three recite a brief list of dance-steps the break-beat clatter alerts you that that monstrous Moog spawned bass is about to arrive, but first, to close MCA’s announcement that he’s “got the peg leg at the end of my stump,” comes the sample from which the songs takes its title: Afrika Bambaataa’s command that you “Shake your rump!”
In 1984, Afrika Bambaataa and James Brown released their six-part drum-machine-funk duet “Unity” for which the above video was made by Tom Pomposello, Marcy Brafman, and Peter Caesar by utilizing footage of the duo recording the song in Studio A at Unique Recording Studios, NYC. However, the video is for “Unity (Part 1: The Third Coming)” while the “Shake your rump” sample is actually snipped from “Unity (Part 2: Because It’s Coming).”
When the trio returns it’s to shout out the song’s original title of “Full Clout,” when it existed only as a Dust Brothers’ audio experiment, never imagining anyone would ever attempt to place vocals atop this insane, dense mosaic of disco funk. The sound of a bong-hit supplied by co-producer Matt Dike then introduces the third contribution by Rose Royce, again from the Car Wash soundtrack: “Born to Love You.”
- “Born To Love You” by Rose Royce
——————–(Click To Listen)
Like it? Buy it.
As Mike D states that he’s “running from the law, the press, and the parents,” a security guard at the Record Plant is brought in to ask, “is your name Michael Diamond?” to which he snidely replies, “No mine’s Clarence.” After the three share a hometown shout out of “downtown, Manhattan, the village,” the track is overwhelmed by the hoots and hollers of an entourage crowded vocal booth. Suddenly, save for the backbone drumbeat and the washtub-rub sounds of Afrika Bambaataa and the Jazzy Five’s “Jazzy Sensation” from 1981, the song becomes relatively quiet.
—————————————————————(Click To Listen)
Like it? Buy it.
Then, descending into the wind tunnel of “One of These Days” (the opening instrumental rave-up from Pink Floyd’s ’71 album Meddle), “Shake Your Rump” is just gone—. Dumped onto the folky strip-show swamp of David Bromberg’s “Sharon,” which serves as the primary musical element for Mike D’s tale of a washed-up rockabilly star now turned Manhattan vagrant by the name of “Johnny Ryall,” you’re still reeling from what you’ve just heard. You’ve just been gleefully bumped this way and that along the seamless series of dovetail joints that construct “Shake Your Rump” and now for you the art of music has been changed forever. “Changed into what?” You are not quite certain of the answer but you’re sure that something momentous had just occurred. Yet, the entire thing only lasted three minutes and eighteen seconds.
[I must note that after the completion of the writing of the above section, I came across this video in which Long Island’s DJ Funktual performs a similar vivisection, albeit a much more entertaining one:
As the album goes on until its full run-time of just seven minutes shy of an hour, your brain is delighted through a mosaic array of cultural references, associations, and intimations; both real and fictitious:
Pentecostal evangelist (and cousin to Jerry Lee Lewis), Jimmy Swaggart.
American business magnate, and somehow celebrity, Donald Trump (pictured here on the night of June 27, 1988 for the Tyson Vs. Spinks Fight).
And these are only some of the references made through the lyrics; the music itself floods your mind with a concurrent ribbon of references and associations. For a culturally inquisitive kid growing up in NYC, the album presented a map for certain chambers and corridors of your mind–and it presented signposts suggesting where to look next. Although steeped in nostalgia, the album utilizes this nostalgia as a platform with which to leap forward; and it compels you to laugh as you leap. It is in fact this sort of informational mosaic that is alluded to in the faux-erudition of this blog’s tagline: the product of an upright hominid with a palimpsest encephalon.
Furthermore, for the same snotty kids behind Licensed to Ill, the album is noticeably devoid of insults. Exuberant, the Beastie Boys are “cool,” but with none of the exclusivity that typically is associated with that label. They are still fighting for their right to party, but it is a party that they truly want you to attend with them.
“Every now and then a clear harmonic cry gave new suggestions of a tune that would someday be the only tune in the world and would raise men’s souls to joy.”
——————— from On The Road by Jack Kerouac.
Art has many purposes, innumerable reasons for being, and The Beastie Boys here fulfilled a function like that of Louis Armstrong, or Charlie Chaplin—in the words of a master of this art, Mark Twain—they: “[…] excite the laughter of God’s creatures.”
Paul’s Boutique is a masterpiece of modern music, with a modern sense of acceptance and inclusion of both the high- and low-brow, both the stars and the intestines; and its poor reception would nearly end the Beastie Boys’ career.
—TO BE CONTINUED—
Stay tuned for Side B of I’VE BEEN COMING TO WHERE I AM FROM THE GET GO: Part II! Where we will further explore the creation of Paul’s Boutique and the architects behind the Sounds of Science!
REST IN PEACE