Questlove Remembers Adam "MCA" Yauch

there’s a funny story rick rubin once told me about the first time the beastie boys met schooly d.

lemme do a quick side note. “PSK (What Does It Mean?)” came out in the fall of 1985. that song alone (and its followup “Gucci Time”) had timely influence on The Beastie Boys—from cadence to minimalist loud drums to menacing attitude. (sure, the other BBoy blueprint of influence RUN DMC were street smart. but they weren’t thugs. they were cool) Of course the dominos fell and you can EASILY hear the Beastie influence on the debut ‘NWA & The Posse’ album—which of course if you throw Public Enemy’s production in the mix their sophomore followup: Straight Outta Compton becomes a birth of a nation.

all that said……. they were clearly expecting a gangsterized caricature when meeting mr weaver from west philly. after all this is one of the first dudes to personify the “guns b****** & hoes weed & coke” with dead pan seriousness.

instead. they met a polite dude from west philly.

head scratching time.

i first met the beastie boys spring of 1987. —well kinda

my parents took me straight outta performing arts school for a couple of years in hopes of building a better future jeopardy contestant (?!) so off to city center academy i went in 84. it was a small liberal school on 17th street. 22 students taking advanced courses inside a church that also leased space to a quasi anti planned parenthood establishment.

(go head and head scratch)

we were given a solid hour off for lunch. my 70,000 records didn’t expand themselves. so i used that lunch hour (and my lunch money) to high tail it to 13th & chestnut EVERY tuesday (new albums out that day) to Sound Of Market Record Store. normally for something as monumental as me seeing recording artists i admire my normally photogenic mind can recall every detail. its a lil blurry but i “think” i ran to get the (then) new Nikki Rap & Scratch “I Go Rambo” 12 inch (philadelphians into hip hop around 40 are gasping with “OH SNAP! I REMEMBER THAT JAWN!!” thoughts)—i had routing down to a science: 15 mins to walk from 17th/Spruce to 13th/Chestnut if i was brisk about it. 15 mins to browse and have the store play me something i wasn’t up on. 15 mins to run to Space Port real quick and play a video game —but cops would dead that to cut down of kids cutting class—and another 15 to high tail it back in time for chemistry.

around 17th & walnut i saw my first ever tour bus. it was grey and blue. and like blamo right there! mike d & hurricane! it was a thrilling moment for me cause i was a longtime supporter of the group. just like fans do to me now with Organix (they always “best album ever questo!” to me letting me know how far their fandom goes. of course its not the most horrible example of my discography, but clearly its amateur hour for the roots)— anywho i chose my 3 mins with Mike to tell him i was down since arguing with my cousins their ethnicity (“The Beastie Groove” was a LONGTIME staple of Lady B’s Power 99 fm rapshow on sunday afternoon after church in 84—his quip “you just fessin man i don’t even wanna hear it you just fessin!” to their idiot engineer they were “given them long dollars” to clearly woulda had me wagering my left hand that this group was obviously born somewhere in The Heights around
190th street (go to the 2:20 mark). i mean even the up and coming latin rascals were giving their boom bastic magic with their trademark snare patches. THEY HAD TO BE PUERTO RICAN!—mike chuckled a lil somethin and hurricane gave me a “you lil dweeb” pound and i was out. that day i learned there is nothing in the world a straight up music geek could ever say to an artist that will knock that artist off their feet the same way that artist knocks us off our feet when we hear their music. as hard as we try to return the favor, we just better off with giving them dap and keeping it moving.—-damn this is a long parenthesis afterthought—but i was 16! gimme a break!)

The Beastie Boys were kind enough to spread the love to us on their second go round in 95. (86’s license to ill was brilliant albeit perceived novelty masterpiece, their followups 89’s paul’s boutique & 91’s check your head were necessary sacrifice/build destroy exercises that RARELY work in entertainment (they traded in quick fast teen bop stardom in for rebuilding a credible fan base that would prove loyal til the very end). so once again they defied the odds in 94 with ill communication and wound up back where they started from: Stadiums.

we as a group were struggling to get our bearings in america after spending 2 years in europe & abroad in the woodshed playing to empty clubs and bars. the Boys sacrifice move of “art with commerce” pretty much gave us a large fishing net to cast out and gather our future audience (most of the american fans that tell me “i was there during Organix” crew pretty much are universal in the “I’ve seen you 20 times and the 1st time was with The Beastie Boys!”)

that was my first taste in tour life in america. everything that i’ve ever learned and applied to this day started with this tour:

custom backdrops can add a sense of drama to the stage? that tour. lights are just as an important element as the music? that tour. “the opening act cannot be louder than the headliners!!!!” ha ha we heard that EVERYNIGHT. setting the musical soundtrack in the audience with a cool mix of songs or actually djn music before the show starts? that tour. quadrophonic sound and the engineer being just as important as the band itself? that tour. rider?! wait i can have a fresh box of peanut butter capn crunch AND 6 fresh bottles of dr bonner soap everynight?!?!!? that tour. record shopping in EVERY CITY?!?! that tour. you mean each member has his own tour bus?! THAT keeps the peace? that tour. wait you have a separate room to practice music in backstage?!?! that tour. this basketball court goes wherever you go?!?! that tour. you determine the dinner everynight on the rider?!? that tour. you mean this go kart racing track is gonna stay open for us after midnight when the show is over? that tour. you don’t have to do the same songs every night? like a new show every other day? that tour.

man. this was the education that has sustained me into the business i have now. my passion for sneakers? those guys. making my own custom t shirts? (I’ve made about 2000 in the past 10 years) those guys. my passion for funk records and 45s id pay $500 a record for? those guys. now I’m going through my parents basement looking for old Ebony’s from the 70s and now I’m becoming a pop culture junkie scouring the earth for soul train episodes? those guys. standing for what i politically believe in even if its not popular?

all those guys.

i was expecting the most hedonistic party all night sleep all day experience that spring of 95. all the stuff i heard? the “trim coordinators” the making out with madonna backstage madness, the switching places when the bell is rung? i mean I’m straight up….i was ready for some rowdy assholes to give me a gazillion stories id tell my kids for days. instead i got….

nice guys?

Beastie Boys and Madonna

like how did the Roots become the trouble makers of the tour? (weed incident in houston, got maced in austin, “fair warning” in atlanta, almost kicked off in long island) lol yes the most responsible group in hip hop were once lil runts (really i wanna say show business, but once we get to year 30 i’ll brag about that). it took about 14 days but we soon learned that you always show up on time, you never pull a brat/diva move as opening act, and you treat people with respect. by 3rd week we were old pros.

i was constantly begging them cats to do more license/boutique selections. it was like pulling teeth to hear “paul revere” and it was more like “hold it? nah forget it” they’d laugh at my frustration city after city. then one day in st louis:

i kinda eased into a role where i lost the fanboyism and gained the “cool dude” posture that allowed me to gain more access to my heroes.

it was just the four of us. shooting some hoops in the truck storage area (a tradition for those guys before showtime) and they were already to switch up some songs in the lineup. i played the back grabbing rebounds passing it back to them kinda like a ball boy’s role for the team about to hit the court warming up.—they were a song short in the new lineup and were tryna figure out what they could muster up. so then i went for the gusto:

“how about “The New Style”? y’all aint done that in like forever.—-

there was silence….

and then…

“wait who starts it?…..

“center stage on the mic….”

“because your girlfriend is cattin….”

“ahmir what’s my line?……”

“oh yeah ‘Father To Many Married To None…..”

‘should we just do 2 verses?”

i lost it “y’all crazy?!?! the breakdown is the best part of the entire song! why do “New Style” if you don’t let all the fly “skimmers feel the beat…..mmmmmmmm drop!”

i convinced em.

they rehearsed the song like 4 times in a row acapella to an audience of me as Dave Seville meets Doug Fresh (what you thought i was gonna let them do my JAM and me not keep the beat?)

i was less geeking out about being there for a legendary moment more than i was peeking at seeing my future.

is this all what it lead up to? come out the gate rowdy and fightin’….and then gain spiritual enlightenment down the line?

the same guy who had “twin sisters in the bed” was now offering women (wives, mothers, & sisters) love and respect to the end.

and you know what? they actually made being “square” kinda cool. i know the Boys are going down in history as “first white act this” and “video pioneers that” and blah blah blah….

but id like to acknowledge that they are truly rocks most realized group. (not hip hop but all music really)

you really don’t see many audiences willing to go where their leaders take them once said audience gets comfortable with a position—i mean even the beatles imploded 5 years post spiritual enlightenment. i mean did we really expect the most thoughtful mature considerate act in music to be the same brats who gave us Licensed To Ill?

i *gasp?!?!?* like the rest of america reading Paul’s Boutique‘s four star lead review in Rolling Stone the week i graduated high school with Axl on the cover.

i was like “they made an artistic expression that THESE guys are bowing down to? no way!!!!!!!

i was head scratching.

as i do with most of these rants i type now and reflect later. I’m just going off the top of my head and seeing where it leads me.

i just wanna thank the guys for an awesome 28 year run. it was an honor paying tribute to you guys two weeks ago and we are forever enlightened.

-?uestlove in the place to be.


  • p. dom

    Beautiful piece. Thank you, Quest.

  • jb

    very deep & moving. RIP MCA.

  • thank you Q.

  • Jeff

    Great stuff Quest. Beyond sad day, but this put a smile on my face.

  • growler

    Fuck, yeah, beautiful tribute. I spammed my Facebook friends with that.

  • Marc Redix

    Dope tribute. Its great to hear about the things that don’t get reported in the media. I had to listen to “I Don’t Know” off of Hello Nasty after reading this. Those cats make & break the rules. So many sides to their music. MCA will be missed.

  • Mike

    * gives dap, keeps it moving *

  • Stef

    I loved this…thanks for sharing. I was at the Philly show in ’95 and that’s where my love affair with the Roots began!

  • Greg F

    Thanks that was beautiful

  • I’m making this day a tribute day for Beastie boys to get a good dose of MCA. I never got a chance to see him performing live, but the videos!!! shiet the videos were mad! Saw intergalactic first time when I was 8y old and proceeded to freak out on the carpet. It was good growing up with stuff like this all around me!

  • JB

    the first time i ever heard license to ill was in the back of a truck on the way to kings island the spring of 1987. life hasnt been the same since.

  • GV

    Mate, that was a beautiful tribute. The Boys have clearly left you with some great memories, and I wanna thank you for sharing them! Hope to see you in Australia soon.

  • Shimmy

    Man–I always love your stories. This is really lovely….

  • smh

    Congrats on making it about yourself. You’re obnoxious dude

    • HI.

      Congrats on being a negative bitch towards how people choose to mourn and/or honor the dead. Idiot.

  • Jos

    That was great! Thx, Quest

  • One love.

  • Kozmi

    Quest….I can appreciate your love and admiration for MCA but whew….that piece read a bit manic. It was like you had so many thoughts swirling around in your head that the keyboard on your laptop couldn’t keep up. Needless to say, I got through it just because i wanted to see how this abstract dissertation ended. I still have questions….but perhaps you’ll convert your final thoughts into a masterful classics “Roots” piece to pay homage to MCA. So until next time…peace and many blessings.

  • DScheff22

    It’s tough to know what to say. I grew up on hip hop, started playing instruments around 91′, when Check Your Head came out it blew my mind, (in a different way “boutique” did), the album covers captured the vibe perfectly. But listening to the instrumental stuff was amazing, I grew an appreciation for rappers who played instruments, the creative process, and out of the box thinking, from their influence. I remember seeing you guys open for them on long island. I only hope he knew how many people he’s positively influenced.

  • rob

    ?uest, you got the smiles and tears flowing over here. thank you, man

  • wow..great article, great thoughts, great memories..unfortunately..39 yrs old but from philly..and I DO remember that track!! lol..but wow..what an article..thanks ?uesto for sharing that wonderful memory with us.


  • Doris TheFunkasaurus

    Thank you Q. Great piece. My heart still hurts today for his loss, for Adam and MIke, for his parents, his wife, his daughter. The world won’t be quite the same without him. I feel like I’ve lost a friend.

  • Max Benitez

    ?uestlove can write too? This is one of the most touching things I have a ever read by/for/about hip hop heads. It reminds me that everybody in the game whether you rap, produce, paint or dance has mentors. Mentors are everything in hip hop. Losing MCA is a loss for everybody who wont get to benefit from his knowledge.

  • alan

    there is maybe one mention of MCA in this, the rest is all self aggrandizing. am i the only person who cannot stand questlove? RIP MCA

    • HI.

      Yes, you are. Dumbass.

    • LAV

      No…you’re pretty much right. I respect the man (quest) but c’mon…there hasnt been a bigger shameless self-promoter since Thomas Edison. And talk about writing how you hear your thoughts…jeez.

  • Scott

    Great piece and yeah I said hell yeah to the I Go Rambo reference… THE BOSS IS BACK … hahahaha

  • damali

    your shit always leaves me amazed & speechless and just wanting to hug you! LOL i mean not like a pity hug but more like a ‘that was an amazing story’ hug

  • Virg

    I remember checking the BBoys out live at the old Civic center in Philly.. They blew my mind … I mean at that time i didn’t know the dudes played thier own instruments!! CRAZY.. And i’m not sure but i think ?Love was on the drums… Great Times back then.. Thabx BBoys for the REAL.. R.I.P. MCA.. U will TRUELY be missed…

  • VAN CITY Bear

    This piece made me geek out much like i did rewinding ‘do you want more?’.. Exploding.. “thats NOT a DJ!! Its Rahzel! ”
    you have a gift of storytelling and this solidified why i love hip hop, the roots, beasties.. Shit, MUSIC!
    Brooklyn keeps on taking it! Rest well MCA. I love you.

  • Sheldon Taylor

    Dope recollection…..love that Dave Seville reference…..those under 40 don’t know lol…..one love quest

  • fa

    i remember them playing Organix at an empty club in southern Italy for a crowd of barely 50 heads… it was fun tho, a remarkable jam!

  • HipHopSays

    Much luv from questo for this as a philly kid my fav hip hop moment includes the Beasties (they endured a 30 minute interview from kid me for a ‘zine that did not exist)