RIP Adam MCA Yauch

Today I woke up to the news that one of my childhood heroes had passed away, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. He had been suffering from cancer of his parotid gland since 2009 and, although he was a fighter the cursed disease got the best of him this morning. Unlike the passing of most public figures this one hit me like a fist to the gut. For some reason, I took to my Twitter to express what I was feeling… Here’s the transcript:

Lord, where to begin… I guess 1985 would be a good starting point. I was a young Philly city punk growing up on the “holy trinity” of cultural references: graffiti, skateboarding, & hip-hop / hardcore music. My sister @zoestrauss was at that time fully immersed in the Philly Hardcore scene, her fledgling career as a photographer was being formed, taking pics at shows by Philly hardcore acts like Trained Attack Dogs, Ruin, Five Story Fall, Electric Love Muffin et al…

(As an aside, my mom is texting me about serving the Beastie Boys tea at our kitchen table in 1986 – I’ll get to that in a few.)

Anyway, Hardcore was Zoe’s thing and by that time I was already in love with rap music. Philly in the city in the 80s, it’s what you did. Run DMC, Fat Boys, Whodini, Newcleus, all that electro breakdance shit. Pulling cardboard out onto Chestnut Street to break in front of Space Port or Supercade (Zounds was too scary – Philly heads know the deal…)

In late 1985, my mom opened up Philly’s first skateboard shop, Spikes Skates. It was the cultural hub of all us kids. 80s skateboard culture was like the Island of Misfit Toys – kids that didn’t really fit into any box whatsoever. Black, white, latino… And us skaters were just as quick to listen to Bad Brains as we were to MC Shan. We really had our distinct style & world and we owned it.

(I may be meandering a little bit as this all comes to me, please bear with me, this is tough…)

One day I came home and my sister was there with some friends & some older cats that just seemed COOL like with a capital “C” sitting around the kitchen table. They were cool to me, treating me like the little brother that I was. “These are my friends from NY, they have a band Beastie Boys.” I was told this was Cookie Puss era but it seems later than that. Honestly I wouldn’t have given it any thought considering how many kids used to always stop by our crib, which was the way it was. But in meeting them briefly at my kitchen table I was, as a young buck, immediately awestruck by their style and “attitude.” I said to myself “See, when I grow older I wanna be JUST LIKE THESE DUDES” and I didn’t even fucking know them. So here’s my mom serving tea to my sister & her friends & their friends, three young dudes from NYC and me I just left to go play ball… Whom I didn’t know would change my world dramatically and forever not too long afterwards.

Skating routine was pretty standard. Roll to Spikes during the day, hit the launch ramp and street all afternoon, pizza, taco house etc… Skate up to Love Park later in the afternoon (AND MAKE NO MISTAKE – IT WAS US DUDES THAT PIONEERED LOVE PARK. #REALRAP.) My dude Yuri Poritko had a forest green Volkswagon Beetle all kitted out with a Blaupunkt system & always would blast the fresh jams. One day he was rocking this shit with this CRAZY beat that was running backwards and was just more hardcore than anything I’d heard before.

“Nooooowwwww, here’s a little story, I’d like to tell.” – Now that was 1986. Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA.

So I don’t know how I got that but I got that song on a dubbed tape and listened to to incessantly front to back memorizing every last lyric, all of which I can still recite word for word to this very day. So this is ’86, and on Sundays the routine was to head to Chestnut St., hit Spaceport, Supercade, The Gallery, Armand’s, Sound Of Market. Ask @SheckyGreen he knows what I’m talking about… Now I knew these dudes here were white but you know it wasn’t even one of those things that you gave much thought too, cause the tunes was just that goddamned hard. But at the same sense there was a facet of validation in a way I am not gonna lie. Cause when I realized HOLY SHIT this record that’s so banging that was these dudes that were drinking tea w/ sister & moms in my kitchen. Three nice Jewish boys from NYC & they were on the pulse of everything my generation was about. The desolation & anger, the liberation. Dead ass it transcended race as much as the media tried to hype it as being that or the second coming of Elvis or some bullshit. Cause everyone I knew loved the Beasties. Black white purple whatever. And in the oppressed Reaganite years when shit was all fucked up License To Ill became the soundtrack to youthful rebellion for ALL OF US. Black kids & white kids at 11th & Market singing together “I did it with a wiffel ball bat soooooo…” and that was what it was STRAIGHT UP.

In May or June of 1987 The Beasties were playing at The Spectrum and my man Jamin got his hands on some tickets so we were gonna go. The opening acts were 2 somewhat unknown groups. First was a really great hardcore act that tore the house down… Murphy’s Law. #NYHC

(Am I going too fast? Do I have time to get a coffee before I speak about the ’87 show?)

Murphy’s Law was up first, OG lineup. Smashed the whole arena to pieces. But I wasn’t ready for what was to happen next… Air raid sirens started blaring and out stepped these soldiers dressed like Black Panthers, smoking Uzis in hand, marching in lock-step. A booming voice from out of nowhere and Philly wasn’t ready for this one. Public Enemy took the stage. I had never heard of them before that moment but I’ve never been the same person since #SeaChange. As @MrChuckD & his ultimate foil Flavor Flav ripped the arena to pieces I knew I was witnessing history unfold by the minute. And PE was the perfect counterpunch to Murphy’s Law for this show to help unlock some sort of frenetic energy of youthful rebellion. But the crowd was ready for Beasties & even though some ass stole my Beasties trucker hat off my head a few minutes earlier, I wasn’t bummed. The lights dimmed, the crowd roared… “Let it flow, let yourself go, slow and low, that is the tempo…” These 3 nice Jewish boys took the stage and had the whole arena in the palm of their hands as they ripped through all their joints, Mike D w/ bucket hat & VW pendant, Ad Rock w/ Bed Stuy Phys Ed tee, MCA w/ flannel shirt, leather jacket and aviators on.

(I know people are pissed I’m flooding their timeline right now but fuck it. I haven’t thought about this shit for years…)

Beasties on stage ripping through songs, and on each side of the stage, two girls dancing in suspended cages. Next level business. And they had on stage a giant flat of Budweiser cans… Cans they would drink, spill, throw, spray on the girls, the crowd, each other. Perfect mayhem, a glimpse into my young heart. It was orgasmic as the show headed towards its grand finale and as “Fight For Your Right” guitars dropped in… The entire crowd of 15,000 kids broke out into a huge mosh pit, fighting for our rights and saying FUCK EVERYONE ELSE THIS IS OUR TIME. We were so engulfed in the energy of the moment it took me a moment to realize what was actually happening on stage… A big box that was on the riser opened and out it rose… A giant erect 20′ penis. So here I am drenched in sweat and drink losing my mind watching these 3 dudes rock us all to death, the same 3 dudes who not long before were drinking tea w/ my fam with moms & sister in my childhood kitchen. 3 dudes on stage covered in Bud dancing in front of an enormous dick saying EVERYTHING THAT WAS IN MY FUCKING MIND! So much beer on stage that MCA slipped, hurt his knee and had to be helped off stage as the show came to a close, then my man said the magic words… “My dad has passes for us to go backstage to meet them.” So we were ushered backstage at the Spectrum and went into the rooms filled with weed smoke & girls & noise. Flavor Flav was cracking jokes in the hallway on some of the girls as the roadies were filtering who and who didn’t enter the inner sanctum. And out come Ad Rock & Mike D to greet us, shake hands & take pics with us. MCA couldn’t come out because he had hurt his knee too badly but 2 out of the 3 wasn’t bad at all. By this time in life I knew I wanted to be a rapper when I grew up and even had my own group with Jamin – we were called “The Def Crew.”

(As an aside, sitting outside a coffeeshop in SP right now, at least 5 cars driven by blasting Beasties. Kinda like when MJ died…)

So here I am, the “rapper” of the crew (Def Crew WHATTUP) and my boys are telling me “Yo, kick a rap for them, Cos!” And right when I had my chance, the only rap I could think of was my “New Jew Rap” & I got embarrassed and I pussied out… But we got the photo of us w/ Beasties backstage. Still got it too. Gonna ask mom to dig that up post-haste. I recall it vividly, Ad Rock, Mike D, us kids looking like deer in headlights all except ME – up front playing Joe Cool flashing the peace sign #BadAss.

Ultimately, Beasties were the living flesh of everything that us kids stood for. The fun and the fury. Safe to say their presence influenced me in a way no other group has before or since. And their evolution as a group and as men mirrored my evolution from a kid to teen to young adult. I grew up WITH them. So it’s sad for me today, cause losing Adam Yauch feels like losing someone I’ve known my entire life basically.

Now this is just my Beastie experience up until 87 and there are tons more obviously, but I gotta end this tale here at this point. I’m just glad to have been there to have witnessed it as it unfolded. These are the moments that helped create the fiber that I’m made of. Thankful for everything Beasties gave to me. Thankful for Adam Yauch to have been a part of my life. #RipMCA. Thank you all for listening / indulging me. I appreciate it a lot. I hope you enjoyed it. Word up. One day I’ll tell my story about me, MCA & Ricky Powell backstage at The Troc 1992 during the Check Your Head tour haha #Sorted. But I have a million stories. Often been called a Forest Gump type – always at the right place at the right moment. Look forward to sharing. But I hope that you listening to my tales was as cathartic as it was for me in telling it. Again, thanks a million #BeastiesForever.

SOOOOOOO, I hope you enjoyed my tales. There’s plenty more where that came from. And, while we’re at it, it would be my honor and pleasure if you, YES YOU, reading this right here, would follow my feed on Twitter. Just. Click. Right. Here. Thanks!


RIP Heavy D

It was a pretty rough and tough day for me in general, kind of from the start. But like one has to do, you just power through it and keep yourself busy so that you can make it to the end of the day, finally rest, and then pick yourself up and dust yourself off the next morning.

Today I took over the SOL Republic Twitter Feed. For those that don’t know, SOL Republic is a new headphone company that is working together with me and a bunch of my buddies, including but not limited to Steve Aoki, DJ Morse Code, DJ Gina Turner, Thee Mike B, Nickodemus, Roxy Cottontail and more… They’re really good headphones and part of the marketing campaign is to have “celebrities” (I know, I’m using that term lightly) do a day’s worth of Tweets from their account. Pretty fun for sure – and peep the SOL Republic Facebook Page and headphones themselves!

Anyway, halfway through my furious barrage of Tweets for SOL I started to notice virtual noise about Heavy D, and how he may or may not have died, and so after I got back to The Lab I logged on to my own account and found the news…

Heavy D was and always has been one of my favorite rappers, and hip-hop personalities in general. His music was fun and engaging but never trite nor did it ever rely on being gimmicky. The Heavster’s music spanned a career of well over 20 years and his music was always relevant, and just outright good. From the early days of “Overweight Lover” where he enlisted some of rap music’s finest producers at an early age (Marley Marl, Teddy Riley) to the early 90s where his sound went through a crucial metamorphosis with “Big Tyme” bringing in elements of New Jack Swing and Hip-House into the mix (as well as introducing the world to his younger cousin, an up and coming producer named Pete Rock.) Then there’s the more reflective “Peaceful Journey” that came about after the death of Hev’s friend and dancer Trouble T Roy, an incident that inspired Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s hip-hop perennial classic They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.). “Peaceful Journey” also contains one of the greatest Posse Cuts of all time, “Don’t Curse” (seen below.)

The jewel in the crown to me is his 1993 release “Blue Funk” which may or may not be his magnum opus. This is a fully realized and fleshed out album that is rock-solid from front to back and is a shining example of music that bridges the gap bewteen the polished sound that he was known for and the more raw and gritty sound that rap music would become in the mid 90s. It didn’t hurt to bring on board producers like Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Jesse West and Tony Dofat to help solidify the sound, as well as givin a new up-and-coming MC from Brooklyn one of (if not THE) first appearance on a record, the one and only Biggie Smalls. Click here to peep the song “A Buncha Ni66as” on my Happy Birthday Biggie post, which also includes the late, great Guru of Gang Starr. Guru, Biggie and The Heavster are all rapping in a cipher in the afterlife together now… I still listen to this album today and it has aged very very well, and is a great snapshot into the emerging change in the sound of rap music.

Hev continued to push himself further with his music, as well as getting involved with discovering new talent, producing music himself, executive producing and even acting (truth be told, he actually was a good actor.) He will be missed. It’s a sad sad day for me. RIP Heavy D… Losing people sucks.

Post script: To me this is kind of the proof in the pudding. This record came out in 1989 and as a young buck when I heard it I was kind floored, by the actual music and lyrics, the all-star lineup, and the message and philosophy behind it. Decidedly not a “party jam” per se, “Self Destruction” actual did get burn at house parties and the like, and to this day is cemented in the annals of rap history as a landmark record. It was an across the board, artist-driven collaborative effort that was unique at the time and actually had a overt socially conscious impetus behind it. Plus that shit is funky as hell, and to this day a record that I can accurately rap every single last lyric of it by heart.  But here’s what I’m getting at – just look at the roster of rappers on this record. KRS-One. Wise, Fruitkwan, MC Delight & Daddy-O of Stetsasonic (one of the most underrated rap groups in history,) D-Nice, Kool Moe Dee, Ms. Melody, MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, Just Ice, Public Enemy & Heavy D. Every last one of them a heavyweight. Every last one of them bringing their A++ Game. Not one weak link – and yes, I’ll even ride for Ms. Melody on this record. But since day one, to me, there’s nobody who brought it harder and more impacting than The Heavster. Since day one I’ve thought that, and even now watching the video and the moment he steps from behind that cherry-red Cherokee, he’s the living embodiment of the Dead-As-Dillinger buzz term “swagger.” So on top of all his accomplishments and accolades, there’s one piece of the puzzle that will never be lost to me, and that is of Heavy D. the RAPPER. One of the finest of this craft in history.

Life is funny, and relentless. And it sucks losing people. But you just have to stay inspired in order to move. We just move and we move and we move and we keep on moving. And then you move some more. Like sharks that move so that they can live, and perish in fathoms below if they don’t. We move. Until the end of the line, when the lights are out and the stools are up, cash is counted and keys in hand. And you look back, everything that came before is what made us. The experience as fiber. Happenstance the very oil that moves this machine forward, none of us in power just along for the ride. Moving. Inspired.

Dwight Arrington “Heavy D.” Myers’ final Tweet. Rest in power, brother.

Edited: Here is a fantastic and well executed tribute mix to The Heavster done by my man Scott Melker. Scott is a terrific DJ and producer, and just an all-around awesome dude. And if there’s one thing that I know about him, it’s that he loves himself some Heavy D. So it’s only fitting that he was the guy to have done this, and he knocked it out the park. Definitely check for Scott and also follow him on Twitter @scottmelker for some highly entertaining rants. Also my man Jesse Serwer published a great, and more in depth article on Large Up going in on the same thing (including some great examples from The YouTubes,) A very cool look at the Quasi-Jamaican oeuvre of The Heavster.. check that article here via Large Up / Okay Player.

Heavy D – Tribute to “The Overweight Lover” – Scott Melker by scottmelker

RIP Gil Scott-Heron

We lost one of our greats. The other night I was not myself. And then I turned to find that Gil Scott-Heron is dead. My hero. Our American hero. Now even more so, not myself.

I spoke on his impact and legacy, both personal and in a broader sense, and shared some of his music here in this post from March of last year. At this point there’s not much more that I can say myself, or that I even feel needs to be said. I’ve been a very big fan of Gil for many years now. That’s the wrong way of putting it. His music was pretty much the music of my teenage and early adult years. He is the voice of the city, he is the voice of the everyman, the voice of struggle and desperation, he is the voice of my youth, the voice of the tragedy of the game. He was our flawed, fragile Superman (although the brother himself would say there ain’t no such thing.) Honestly, I’m still in awe of the honesty and sincerity of his work, not just the body but the depth . I am not worthy to even speak about him. I’m not worthy to write about him. I’m just not worthy, I’m still just standing in his shadow. We all are. And we will not see another like him, not ever.

Ayres wrote a very nice piece on The Rub site, and Chairman Mao wrote a great piece as well as a mini tribute mix on the Ego Trip Blog. And to paraphrase Ayres, this loss hurts more than most because Gil was ours. And today me and Kenan will be doing a very special 2 hour Gil Scott-Heron tribute show on Chances With Wolves on East Village Radio. Tune in at 4 PM East Coast Time.

Peace Go With You, Brother. As-Salaam-Alaikum.

RIP Guru 1 Year Today

One year ago one of my favorite rappers of all time passed away. That morning a year ago when I woke up I reflected on how the dude’s career and artisanship had impacted me as an artist, as a kid, as a fan of not just his but of all music. I’m truly thankful for his contribution to my life, straight up.

During the Redbull 3 Style event at Southpaw last year I was joined on stage by my homeboy the legendary Greg Nice. We did a completely impromptu tribute set to the late great Guru for the crowd, which I all had forgotten until someone posted this video up on the Twitterverse last night. Hope you enjoy it

GURU_RIP from joe cookie on Vimeo.

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    DJ Stuart "Re-Work V2"
    Wet "All The Ways" (Branchez Remix)
    De La Soul "Beautiful Night"
    Phife "Nutshell"
    With You "Ghost" feat. Vince Staples (Major Lazer Remix)
    Tall Black Guy "The Heart Of The Town"
    KRNE "I'll Be Good"
    Hoodboi "Closer"
    Drake "With You" Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR
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    Club Cheval "Discipline"
    Mura Masa "What If I Go"
    Kate Bush "Why Should I Love You?"

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