By Carter Maness
It is with immense sadness that we mourn the death of Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch. Known to the music world as MCA, Yauch, who died today at age 47 after a battle with cancer, was more than a hip-hop trailblazer. He was a cultural icon; a gigantic influence on a generation; a trustworthy cultural curator when it seemed like everything was being controlled by corporations.Yauch has already left a massive mark on rap, and we thought it would be appropriate to list-out our most essential Beastie Boys tracks for those who want to revisit his work or get up-to-speed with one of the most influential rap groups of all time.
“Paul Revere” [Licensed To Ill, 1986]
Perhaps the most outlandish and memorable song from the first rap LP to top the Billboard 200, “Paul Revere” is a wacky origin story for the Beastie Boys. While the rhymes and Rick Rubin-production are bare bones, MCA and crew excel with the trademark humor that would never leave their arsenal.
“Egg Man” [Paul’s Boutique, 1989]
This “Superfly”-sampling track from the most sampledelic album ever created finds the Boys rocking intricate routines and passing the mic while flipping punchlines like no one could touch them. “Which came first, the chicken or the egg,” MCA asks with a philosophical snicker. “I ate the chicken, and then I ate his leg.”
“Pass The Mic” [Check Your Head, 1992]
An old school cipher pushed to the future, “Pass The Mic” nails the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink ethos that would define the group’s influential ’90s point. Samples from hardcore pioneers Bad Brains and rap peers EPMD meet with live instrumentation to create an intoxicating combination for pure bravado.
“Get It Together” [Ill Communication, 1994]
If you had any doubt about how three Jewish white boys were viewed by the hip-hop world, “Get It Together,” a collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest maestro Q-Tip, shows that the Beastie Boys can talk that talk with the best of them. Packed with Knicks references, disses, battle raps and everything in-between, this is a cold New York classic that still makes parties go wild.
“Bodhisattva Vow” [Ill Communication, 1994]
One of the most interesting things about the Beastie Boys’ discography is their growth from bratty youths to spiritual adults with political concerns. “Bodhisattva Vow” reveals Youch’s buddhist foundation in a beautiful way, exposing the trio’s fanbase to Eastern philosophy through rhyme.
“Body Movin” [Hello Nasty, 1998]
When Hello Nasty came out, it sounded like the future of sound had arrived and been filtered through an old school hip-hop soundtrack. “Body Movin,” with its nasally chorus and carousel rhyming about spaceships, computers, robots and party rocking, was a blueprint so advanced no one has come close to it since.
“Say It” [Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2, 2011]
On what will likely be the Beastie Boys’ swan song, this overlooked record shows you can’t even try to bite the group’s style. Booming bass and post-punk riffs combine with all-too-live distorted vocals for another peak in the group’s storied career.