Adam Yauch, MCA, 4EVER

MCA 4EVER, Beastie Boy’s Adam Yauch

A person whom I hold as a dear friend, Adam Yauch 1964-2012, of the hip hop group the Beastie Boys passed away on May 4, 2012 due to cancer. Known as MCA to Beastie Boy fans across the globe, he was one of the people , including Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz, who were instrumental in helping me become a photographer when they gave me the privilege to photograph them for my first magazine cover in November of 2004. The photos in this post come from that cover story in People In Groove Magazine which was published in February 2005.

Adam Yauch ; self-taught Kung-fu master, filmmaker, poet, philanthropist as expressed in the Tibetan Freedom concert series and co-creator of the Milarepa Fund, a musician, was an all around artistic critical thinker. MCA became inspired by the art work of  the American expressionist painter Leroy Neiman, the ember which sparked his idea for the Beastie Boys Video, “Shadrach” .

In the summer of 1992, I had the privilege to sit down and have lunch with Adam in Milan,  Italy and we spoke at length about the video project. The Beastie Boys were on a small venue  and amphitheater tour across Europe in support of their 1992 release , “Check Your Head” it was the band’s third studio album and they were working hard on this tour with band and crew crammed into the same tour bus. The stories from the “Check Your Head” tour were hilarious and numerous but I will save them for another time. This particular day, the rest of the band and crew were headed out on a long over night drive to their next tour dates with Beastie Boy tour manager Bill Rahmy. Yauch, had decided to stay behind to spend the day in Milan and then he would travel to Switzerland to visit his family. Therefore, it is true, Adam Yauch does have Swiss family roots!

MCA took an art book of Leroy Neiman’s to the indie animation company Klasky Csupo in Los Angeles and they facilitated the colorful animation idea Yauch wanted for the video which was an actual moving fine art painting of film imagery . Having a unique artistic vision, which never was congruent with anything having to do with the status quo, MCA went into detail that day how “Shadrach” was shot on film and hand colored, frame by frame, in homage to Leroy Neiman. Every concept of how the film project would be executed originated with Yauch’s passion to make the video how he visualized it in accordance with his band mates.

The film footage of the band was shot at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood, California.  MCA, Mike D and AdRoc were performing the song, live, on stage in front of an audience, with Wendell Fite known as DJ Hurricane spinning records. The concert footage was converted by the actual application of color onto the film itself, which made the film footage of the band appear to be animated. Visual transitions from a concert reality of the Beastie Boys on stage performing then morphed into animated images of  the band and then transitioning to a surreal fiercely toothed bear, to a winged lion emerging from the sea, with moments of subjective artistic imagery intwined . Each frame was like a painting with in itself. “Shadrach” was a master piece of fine art and was the first video of its kind to be played on MTV. All of these concepts were spawned from the imagination of Adam Yauch.

Adam explained “Shadrach” was a monumental challenge, an ambitious film project. The experience on this film motivated Yauch to have all future Beastie Boy videos made in an independent environment, he wanted production to be controlled by the band themselves. A Beastie Boy precedence was set  in the music industry and it was  the very same conviction which laid the future foundation for his independent film and production studio Oscilloscope Studios.

It is not everyday one may say  a creative genre of filmmaking is born by way of a hip hop band during the end of the 20th century. However, Adam Yauch, together with Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz, did for music video and filmmaking what George Braque and Pablo Picasso did when they created the art genre of Cubism. the Beastie Boys put unique story lines with strong visuals into movement and used ‘flowin’ prose’,  smokin’ grooves, rockin’ beats and humor spear-launched at the establishment to do so. No one had been successful enough to convey a visual message and have such a profound effect on so many people in the music video world  like the Beasties Boys. They poked fun at society’s sanctioned hypocrisy in terms of proper social conduct, The Beasties liked to ‘stick it to the man’ in a non threatening way by means of creative expression, wild imagination, humor and a lot of costumes, wigs and removable facial hair. MCA’s knowledge of art, his strong belief in his directorial concepts started with “Shadrach”  and the beginning of the Beastie Boys visual statement which changed the world’s perception of hip hop music videos .

This post is in tribute to the opportunities, respect and friendship given to me by the Beastie Boys and Adam Yauch. I send my sincere condolences to Dechen Wangdu his beautiful wife and his lovely daughter Tenzin Losel Yauch and their entire family. It is so hard to let the thought of him go because of everything he and the band did for me but I wish MCA a peaceful journey into the light.

vanessa forbes

Beastie Boys- Left Adam Yauch, Mike Diamond center, Adam Horowitz right


19 thoughts on “Adam Yauch, MCA, 4EVER

  1. This is such a fantastic tribute…
    Adam just seems like such a creative and genuine soul, and your post really just validates that. The story about the “Shadrach” video is incredible! I had no idea!
    Thank you for sharing these wonderful stores and photos…it just endears me to them all the more.

    • this article was published in an Italian magazine so it was never released in the USA. The Beasties are so sweet and nice and it was my first cover story so i was very nervous. I had photographed them over a 4 day period. They literally walked in front of my lens and made everything happen. Yauch started doing a few kung-fu moves and Mike Diamond and Adroc contributed to the photos too.It was an amazing experience and I am eternally grateful. thank you so much for stopping by!peace, vanessa

    • after hearing about MCA’s passing and feeling so sad, like everyone has expressed on the bloggosphere, reading the thoughts and sentiments of other Beastie Boy fans seems to help. It is such a joy to read how the Beastie Boys influenced so many lives in a multitude of ways which is why I liked your post. From my perspective that was and is the purpose of this band, just giving fans the best of what they had from their hearts in the most creative and inventive way possible. My association with them was fortunate and they always treated me with the ultimate respect, as they did with everyone. there was never an instance where ego took precedence over human dignity. The Beastie Boys are just good people with a lotta love to give and it doesn’t get any better than that in music.We have the music that will keep it real, which is the greatest gift!!! thanks for stopping by Badger and hope you pass by again soon…peace!

  2. I had several wild, but cool friends in my dorminatory my first quarter of college, and they listened and watched (1984) “You Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party” over and over again–as I joined them in this hilarious spectacle. That’s the only Beastie Boys song I can remember–but what fun memories!

    • I just watched the video–and it’s still as funny as it was back then. I was mistaken, however–I just learned the song was released in 1987. But I lived in another dorm at another university that year, and had wild, cool friends there too–and we listened to it, and watched the video! And we loved it!

      • how could you not love that video? it was about being a kid and fighting for the right to be an autonomous adult, well sort of! if you read the lyrics of the song without watching the video it will be more apparent. But how funny is the video! love it !!!

  3. My favorite beasties memory… the day i met mca:

    photoshopped a backstage pass to that SF show… laminated it at kinkos… worked! got in… walked around… found nothing… went outside after show… noone was there cept me… desperate… looked up… MCA hanging out the window of the building they just performed in.. smiled like the buddah… i beckoned him down with my hand… he disappeared… reappeared at the exit door walked right over to me with a backpack on, shook my hand!… WTF … signed my hat… i had time to ask him one question “what is the hiatus”… he paused… “welll .. its kinda like … kinda like… a vacation”…. he started to walk around the back of the auditorium where a big white van pulled up i followed quickly… miked and adrock jumped in from the other exit door… i stood outside the door where mca then went in the van… i showed them my hat with his sig on it… beckoned them to sign too… adrock saw the hat… and the marker… turned and talked to miked… miked was all… “we gotta go… we gotta go… we gotta go” they were headed to the airport for their next show in Australia or something crazy far away… ..shaking his head no…. the door closed and my dreams drove away….. still got MCA’s sign though… mybe the most important… i need to carry that hat with me to find and meet Miked and adrock again for the completion of the trifecta….
    My other favorite MCA memory – went down to see them play in a stadium just south of San francisco… Adam Yauch was killing it that night and was on the right side of the stage – i had KILLER seats that night with my wiffy…. she totally supported my Beastie addiction even when noone else would… i was watching them kill it.. having the time! The seats were so ooo close to the stage that i could ssmell em’… MCA was on the mic i ran over… couldnt resist.. didnt care if i was kicked…. threw up the right hand and he came down HARD on me with the most energetic HIGH FIVE i have ever felt… it was SURREAL! something had taken me over and brought me out there and slammed that high five down on me … second to getting his autograph… this was the coolest moment of my life. The wife somehow got me a backstage pass… it was later… i rushed back there to find their room… they gone… only a ton of Heinekins all over the tables etc…. I could still feel their energy and took a photo… which i will have to find someday soon! thank you MCA

    • THAT IS SUCH AN AWSOME STORY! it fills my heart with so much joy to hear how profoundly the music touched your life. i love how your wife got you the backstage pass too!. so cool!!! do you remember what tour that was? “Check Your Head’ of ‘Ill Communication’? really enjoyed reading your experience 😉

  4. Wow! What a wonderful and heart-lifting piece to read! Thank you for sharing such a special story. I am so charmed by everything I have been reading about MCA in the last couple of weeks. Posts such as yours really affirm the creativity, dignity and all around goodness of MCA. Thanks!

    • Dear Karen,
      MCA, was a very special person who was highly creative and a sincere inspiration to so many people. I feel as you do, when i read the experiences others have shared on the internet about him. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. Peace!

  5. Thank you for sharing your personal perspective. It’s interesting to hear about the real man inside the icon. The artistry and influence of MCA lives on.

  6. Thanks for dropping by and liking my oil paintings and pastel post.
    I was sorry to hear you’d lost someone who meant a great deal to you. I wasn’t familiar with the band except by name, but it is nice getting a feel here for who they are and who your friend was.
    My sympathies to you.
    and keep up the great blog,

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