Hip Hop lost one of its founding fathers, greatest contributers and all time legends this week as Adam "MCA" Yaunch died after a two year battle with cancer.
MCA was the smooth yet scratchy voice of trio rap group "Beastie Boys" who emerged from the New York punk scene to create one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, Licensed to Ill.
It made me instantly go to to my iTunes and re-listen to classics like "Sabotage", "Fight for your right (to party)" and newer mastepieces like "Make Some Noise" which Yaunch helped produce and was too unwell to appear in the music video for.
The Beastie Boys were a group that I feel I can recognise with, mainly through their origins. Three scrawny Jewish boys from New York who began playing punk and then embodied the soul of hip hop and rap throughout the 80s and 90s when society said they shouldn't have. Rap evolved from African-American culture and the gritty bars spoke of hardships within the ghetoo and trying to make a dollar. The Beastie Boys epitomised the breakthrough of white America who began listening to rap and delivered their lyrics about getting drunk, having fun and getting girls over some of the greatest beats ever made.
With such an iconic producer and musician dieing like Adam Yaunch, I fear for the direction rap and hip hop in general is headed. MCs and Rappers who used to have so much integrity and personality, as well as an image of being street and dangerous, have turned into chasers of Billboard popularity. It seems Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Sean Paul have all turned their backs on the skill of rhyming and producing heartfelt hip hop for success in the charts by collaberating with dance producers like David Guetta, making dance fuelled club records with no soul.
Modern MCs such as Flo Rida, Drake and British rap group N Dubz have created rap songs which have been amazingly popular and are always party favourites, but Hip Hop they are not. Gone are the expletives that expressed anger; the clever word play and poetry that artists like Nas embodied have all but disappeared and beats struggle to compete with the reverberations of "Paul Revere" and loops of "Still Dre".
There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Kanye West and Jay-Z's collaboration on the album "Watch the Throne" was sublime, almost every song a beautiful construction of beats, vocal ability and attitude that you would associate with a successful rapper from the hood. Rap collective OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) have been called a new Wu-Tang Clan after their immense online popularity and cult following. Their brand of horrorcore hip hop with violent lyrics, graphic images and extreme attitude has exploded over the past two years, turning them from a little known group based in L.A to worldwide superstars.
We may no longer have the street hustlers made good in the forms of Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z and Notorious BIG to remind us of where hip hop came from and to represent its soul, but perhaps that's because music changes and evolves. The old school ideas of Hip Hop and Rap are exactly that, old school. And on May 4th, when Adam Yaunch died, the outpouring of grief from the rap community and messages of love from greats within the genre, made it feel like Hip Hop had really died.