NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- The music world is currently mourning the loss of Adam Yauch, otherwise known as MCA, of the New York hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, who died of cancer on Friday at the age of 47.
When most people think of the Beastie Boys, the first thing that springs to mind is the image of three young, rebellious kids who became famous in 1986 with the singles “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” and “The New Style,” which featured lyrics like: "We rag-tag girlies back at the hotel/Then we all switch places when I ring the bell.”
But the boys grew up, realized that their attitude had been wrong and began to speak up about it. In the 90s, the group became committed to progressive causes and philanthropy. This change included a newly found respect for women, the most explicit example being MCA’s famous like from “Sure Shot”: “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 wives and friends/ I want to offer my love and respect to the end.”
The trio changed their offensive lyrics in concert and began to point out the damaging content in other musicians’ work. During a gig with electronic dance group the Prodigy, the Beastie Boys asked them not to play “Smack My Bitch Up.” The Prodigy played it anyway.
“We just wanted to let the Prodigy know that we felt like that song had a real meaning, has a definite meaning with those lyrics…We were kinda more going to them saying, ’We’ve been through this and we feel weird about this stuff and we’d like to suggest or ask you guys not to play it,” said Yauch.
The Beastie Boys also apologized for homophobic lyrics in their debut album "Licensed to Ill" in a letter to Time Out New York, saying that “time has healed our stupidity.”
That same year, when the band won best hip-hop video at the 1999 MTV Music Awards, Adam Horovitz used the opportunity to speak out about violence toward women during concerts in response to the rapes at Woodstock ‘99.
“I think we can talk to the promoters and make sure they're doing something about the safety of all the girls and women that come to our shows,” said Horovitz. “I think we can talk and work the security people to make sure they know about sexual harassment and rape so they can handle these situations respectfully.”
Horovitz would later marry Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, one of the most significant feminist voices of the Riot Grrrl movement in the 90s.
As Ana Carely wrote for the website the Anti Room, the Beastie Boys are “living proof that being a sexist idiot in your youth doesn’t mean that you can’t grow up and learn something.”
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