(Reposting on the 2018 anniversary.)
To mark the 3rd anniversary of Adam Yauch’s passing on May 4th, we’ve assembled a list of our Top 20 Greatest MCA lines. These include the ones our generation has committed to memory, and that the next generations ought to know. But we begin with a “hidden track” – a showcase of one set of lines that’s not so often quoted. Hidden tracks: you know, the thing we all lived for and searched for at the end of records, tapes and CDs back in the day? This great solo riff is hidden like treasure in an unusual, long track that’s a mix up of many styles and solo rhymes, with a vocal that is softer than usual and buried a bit in the mix. It happens in the middle of the epic, 12 minute “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” from 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, an album so misunderstood and so far ahead of its time that it was relegated to the bargain bins before the Beastie Boys’ return with Check Your Head, and their subsequent album, Ill Communication, made the world take notice of that experimental sophomore effort. In retrospect, Paul’s Boutique would receive mass critical, peer, and audience acclaim and be embraced as a landmark album in hip-hop. Carried within it was Yauch’s early philosophy of life that would form the basis of many of his ideas, statements and approaches to the world for the next 20 years.
And now, for the rest of MCA’s Greatest Hits:
1. “I Keep My Underwear Up With A Piece Of Elastic /I Use A Bullshit Mic That’s Made Out Of Plastic/To Send My Rhymes Out To All Nations/ Like Ma Bell, I’ve Got The Ill Communications.” (“Sure Shot”, 1994)
2. “If you can feel what I’m feeling then it’s a musical masterpiece/ If you can hear what I’m dealing with then that’s cool at least/ What’s running through my mind comes through in my walk/ True feelings are shown from the way that I talk” (“Pass the Mic”, 1992)
3. “Well I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce/ You’ve got the rhyme and reason but no cause/ Well if you’re hot to trot you think you’re slicker than grease/ I’ve got news for you crews you’ll be sucking like a leech” (“So Whatcha Want”, 1992)
4. “If you try to knock me you’ll get mocked / I’ll stir fry you in my wok / Your knees will start shaking and your fingers pop / Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock” (“Intergalactic”, 1998)
5. “I got more rhymes than I got grey hairs/ and that’s a lot because I got my share” (“Sure Shot”, 1994)
6. “Now my name is M.C.A. I’ve got a license to kill/ I think you know what time it is it’s time to get ill/ Now what do we have here an outlaw and his beer/ I run this land, you understand, I make myself clear.” (“Paul Revere”, 1986)
7. “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue/ The disrespect to women has got to be through/ To all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends/ I want to offer my love and respect to the end” (“Sure Shot”, 1994)
8. “Well I got to keep it going keep it going full steam/ Too sweet to be sour too nice to be mean/ On the tough guy style I’m not too keen/ To try to change the world I will plot and scheme” (“Intergalactic”, 1998)
9. “Pass me the scalpel, I’ll make an incision/ I’ll cut off the part of your brain that does the bitching/ Put it in formaldehyde and put it on the shelf/ And you can show it to your friends and say that’s my old self” (“Make Some Noise”, 2011)
10. “Dear New York I hope you’re doing well / I know a lot’s happen and you’ve been through hell / So, we give thanks for providing a home / Through your gates at Ellis Island we passed in droves” (“An Open Letter to NYC”, 2004)
11. “A puppet on a string I’m paid to sing or rhyme/ Or do my thing I’m in a lava lamp inside my brain hotel/ I might be freakin’ or peakin’ but I rock well” (Shake Your Rump, 1989) (Pretty much perfection in a track, samples, rhymes, and penultimate Beastie Boys video.)
12. “Born and bred in Brooklyn the U.S.A./ They call me Adam Yauch but I’m M.C.A./ Like a lemon to a lime a lime to a lemon/ I sip the def ale with all the fly women” (“No Sleep Til Brooklyn”, 1986)
13. “Bob Marley was a prophet for the freedom fight/ ‘If dancin’ prays to the Lord then I shall feel alright’/ I’m feeling good to play a little music/ Tears running down my face ’cause I love to do it” (“Root Down”, 1994)
14. “A lot of parents like to think I’m a villain/I’m just chillin’, like Bob Dylan/Yeah I smoke cheeba, it helps me with my brain/I might be a little dusted but I’m not insane
People come up to me, and they try to talk shit / Maaaaan, I was making records when you were sucking your mother’s dick.” (“3 Minute Rule”, 1989)
15.“Pay attention, my intention is to bust a move.” (“Posse in Effect:, 1986)
16.“I got nothing to lose so I’m pissin’ on the third rail” (“B-Boy Bouillabaisse”, 1989)
17.”I’m bad ass, move ya’ fat ass, cuz you’re wack son/Dancing around like you think you’re Janet Jackson” (“Professor Booty”, 1992)
18. “Well, I’m long gone, word is bond/Don’t need a motherfuckin’ fool to tell me right from wrong/I don’t think I’m slick nor do I play like I’m hard/But I’m-a drive the lane like I was Evan Bernard” (“Get it Together”, 1994)
19. Everyday I drink a “O.E.” and I don’t go to work” (“Hold it Now, Hit It”, 1986)
20. “Finger Lickin’ Good” (every damn bit of it – a clip is below: MCA & Mike D traded off line for line as Ad-Rock scratches over an instrumental track)
No other loss of a public figure, or musician has ever affected us in our lifetime the way the passing of Yauch did. For the generation that grew up on this, it was a shock like no other. He was too young, too alive, too important; we’d seen those three get old together in beards and hats in their videos, it could simply not be accepted. MCA will always be missed, in a huge way: in the heart of our ideals as writers and photographers, as creators, as fans; in our culture and in our world. His spark and boldness, his humour and his personal artistic evolution will always inspire. MCA will forever live on in the musical landscape and our rotation.
For more of Adam Yauch’s greatest moments (public life, statements, life events) Stereogum did a great piece in 2012 with clips of non-musical greatest hits. (That wedding! Nathaniel Hornblower!)
Beastie Boys Albums: Licenced To Ill (1986) Paul’s Boutique (1989) Check Your Head (1992) Ill Communication (1994) Hello Nasty (1998) To the Five Boroughs (2004) The Mix-Up (Instrumental) (2007) Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011).
All lyrics and music cited are the copyright of their respective owners, short exerpts are intended for the purpose of music review. No copyright is implied. All copyrighted music should be sourced via official sources. Link to Beastie Boys official webpage.
By Jacqueline Howell & Dave MacIntyre (B-boy…b-girl…)