Dante Ross Picks 12 Great MCA Songs

Adam Yauch's teenage friend-a rap legend in his own right-selects MCA's finest moments on wax.

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Can’t say it was easy picking MCA’s greatest moments. Adam was a friend of mine from the day I met him age 15 at the Rat Cage record shop on east 9th off 2nd Ave. where we would all hang out back in the day. He was great friends with my boy and former Beastie, John Berry.

Me and Adam hit it off right away, taking the train home to BK and talking punk rock and girls the whole way. He was a great dude and a very talented and humble person. As a youth he was a fire starter and he didn’t care what he burned down. As a grown man he was able to raise people’s consciousness and effect some form of change in the world—something I find truly admirable on so many levels.

In the sporadic moments I would see him over the last 10 years or so I was always impressed by his warm smile, his sense of gratitude and PMA. He truly had a grace about him and for that and so many things we’re all going to miss our friend Adam.

When picking a greatest moment from any Beastie I realize that within each song the rhymes are so interrelated it’s virtually impossible to pick a favorite “verse.” Instead I chose songs with moments I really loved, and like all great Beastie songs (which is most of their catalog) moments when MCA shined—just like his fellow Beasties.

It’s a metaphor for the band really: They’re just inseperatable brothers from different mothers. The sum of the parts is always the winner at the end of the day. That said, these are some outstanding MCA moments to me—in chronological order:

Written By Dante Ross (@DanteRoss)

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Paul Revere

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Beastie Boys “Paul Revere” (1986)

Album: N/A

I loved the beat, the song and the way the 808 knocked on this from the first time I heard the demo till today. I especially love when Yauch barks “My name’s MCA and I got a license to kill.” Adam would probably hate that I love this line, but when I heard it 20-plus years ago I thought it was so f’ing cool. I still do all these years later.

Hold It Now

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Beastie Boys “Hold It Now” (1986)

Album: Licensed To Ill

I always loved this song for all the Beasties' rhymes and the go-go feel to the tune. But I most of all loved MCA’s lines “I'm a killer at large and I'm on the loose / Pistol-packing, monkey-drinking, no-money bum / I come from Brooklyn 'cause that's where I'm from.” Just a stellar song and a few memorable lines from Yauch. One of my favorite early Beastie songs.

No Sleep till Brooklyn

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Beastie Boys “No Sleep till Brooklyn” (1986)

Album: Licensed To Ill

I love this, being that Yauch was the only Beastie from BK and I took the train to and from BK with him so many times as a kid. I love the “Trashing Hotels like it’s going out of style” line… And let me tell you, MCA trashed many a hotel room in the early days. These lines are beyond classic to me: “Born and bred Brooklyn, U.S.A./They call me Adam Yauch—but I'm M.C.A” They could be his best lines ever.

B-Boy Boulibase: “A Year and Day"

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Beastie Boys “B-Boy Boulibase: “A Year and Day” (1989)

Album: Paul’s Boutique

Yauch’s 3-minute-plus solo rap over the Isleys “Who’s That Lady?” was beyond fresh—vocal effects and all. “Mix the Bass Ale with the Guiness stout” is just a classic line. This tour-de-force is one of the highlights of Paul’s Boutique.


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Beastie Boys “Shadrach” (1989)

Album: Paul’s Boutique

Another great MCA video, just years ahead of what people were doing at the time. And the line “Got more suits than Jacoby and Meyers” always makes me laugh out loud.

To All The Girls

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Beastie Boys “To All The Girls” (1989)

Album: Paul’s Boutique

Pure genius right here—a man after my own heart!

“To all the Brooklyn girls/To all the French girls/To all the Oriental girls/Chinese, Japanese/To all the Swiss girls/To the Italian women/To the Upper East Side nubiles/To all the Jamaican girls/And to the topless dancers/Australian and Brazilian/To the Southern belles/To the Puerto Rican girls/To the stewardesses flying around the world.”

Pass The Mic

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Beastie Boys “Pass The Mic” (1992)

Album: Check Your Head

The intro of the song with MCA rapping all distored “This is me y’all / I MC y'all / My name is MCA and I still do what I please” is so B-Boy yet so punk rock, all at the same time. This is MCA’s song, dead up—from the skating in the video to the epic Bad brains sample and all. This is also my favorite song on Check Your Head, my favorite Beastie record.

So What’cha Want

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Beastie Boys “So What’cha Want?” (1992)

Album: Check Your Head

This song is just so cool—truly psychedelic hip hop at its finest. And another great Nathaniel Hörnblowér video. MCA’s song-closing rhyme is sick: “So 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 leach” That always cracks me up.


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Beastie Boys “Gratitude” (1992) / "Sabotage" (1994)

Albums: Check Your Head & Ill Communication

Yauch’s bass playing on these two bong-water induced songs is stellar. He was a very good musician—as are all the Beasties, which people sometimes forget. These two Beastie classics confirm this. I always loved the dynamic the fellas had after they picked up their instruments again on Check Your Head. A lot of that was Yauch’s doing. He was always the "musician" in the band, if you will. When the Beasties dusted off the instruments it was inspirational to me and a guy named Everlast.

We used this as one of the inspirations to create Whitey Ford Sings The Blues, thinking that if they could play live on the records and still be accepted maybe we could pull off our own version of the same paradigm.

We approached in a totally different way but without Check Your Head and songs like “Gratitude" and “Sabotage,” I don't think we would have had the balls to try it. Beyond that, these two tunes were the Beasties heshing out at their finest.

Flute Loop

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Beastie Boys “Flute Loop” (1994)

Album: Ill Communication

I love this cause of the story behind it. Yauch spent an evening hanging with me and my partner John Gamble in our crusty old studio, SD50. We must have left at like 4:30 in the morning just smoking weed, chopping up breaks talking shit all night. Just vibing out, catching up—we hadn’t hung in a while.

This was, I believe, right before they started started Ill Communication. We all have a mutual friend Rob Pearlman who’s a legendary record collector and a great guy. He and I used to dig for records a lot. He would always put me up on records. Rob didn’t make beats so he was just happy to turn me and others on to breaks he would unearth. He’s cool like that. I believe Rob threw a few gems the Beasties’ way, as well as a bunch my way over the years.

The lyrics in this song were basically talking about Rob and me and our love of breaks: “Perlman's Got Beats And It Ain't No Secret / Dante Found His Shit But You Know He Freaked It /And So The Story Goes On And On / Down In S.D. 50 'till Early Morning.”


I was always really honored that he mentioned me in a song. Yauch never said anything about it to me, which is so MCA. If you knew him it totally makes sense.


My friend Nadia told me MCA had put my name in a song after Ill Communication was out. Ironically enough, at a Beastie show at the Garden when I saw her there. I was oblivious to it at the time. Though I didn’t know until she told me, I was always really honored that he mentioned me in a song.

Yauch never said anything about it to me, which is so MCA. If you knew him it totally makes sense. He was so cool, I almost never talked music biz with him—it was always just snaps, b-ball, and life stuff, which in retrospect is even cooler today than ever.

Root Down

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Beastie Boys “Root Down” (1995)

Album: Root Down EP

”How ya gonna kick it? Gonna break it on down, gonna kick it root down” MCA’s voice just is so dope on the call-and-response chorus. Just classic B-Boy stuff. I love this song. It always gets me hyped and his voice in the chorus is the key.


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Beastie Boys “Intergalactic” (1998)

Album: Hello Nasty

This is a great song and another great video by Mr. Hörnblowér himself. “Gotta keep it going, Keep it going full steam / Too sweet to be sour, too nice to be mean.” And you know what? He was totally right. He was to nice to be mean.

Adam was just a great dude—totally hilarious, super-talented yet full of grace and humility—a rare combination. We’re all gonna miss Yauch. He was a sweetheart of a man. Hopefully when the grief has passed we can all celebrate his life and legacy in a way deserved of such a great person.

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