History Is What Happens to Other People

I found myself musing about the death of Beastie Boys’ founder Adam “MCA” Yauch after seeing the reactions on Twitter from various sectors. Growing up in the 80s, of course I listened to the Beasties and still sometimes find myself nodding my head to “Fight for Your Right to Party.” Who among us didn’t? I think it’s sad that he passed so young and hip-hop has lost yet another of its pioneers.

However, I also began to think about what Yauch’s death meant specifically to me when I mostly stopped listening to the Beastie Boys after the 80s and a large portion of rap music/artists by the time I went to college. I didn’t take it quite as hard as I did the passing of Whitney Houston, Donna Summer or Robin Gibb. Even with them, I only did my “this was one of their best” tributes by posting a YouTube video and letting everyone else handle the real tributes.

All this just may be a very long way for me to say how detached I feel from many cultural movements even though pop culture is my life and my love. I still do not feel like a part of it. I experience most of my pop culture privately in a private space and most of the time do not have interactions with others about it. Exceptions would include Curtis Mayfield to whom I was introduced by my father when we used to drive up to see relatives in Kentucky on the weekend. Then there was my brief intellectual crush on Ben Harper during my college years that I got to share with a friend with a mutual relationship with Dave Matthews. (They were touring together that year. How cosmic was that!)

Otherwise, I may discuss movies with my mom and television with my aunt who introduced me to Touch. But at the end of the day, I still feel disconnected to it all. I had the same reaction when Obama was elected. I understood why Oprah Winfrey and Jesse Jackson shed tears as they watched him give his speech. I knew why my parents and grandparents celebrated to see something they never believed they would see in their (nor me in my) lifetimes. However, the next day, I wrote a blog about it being business as usual for me as I needed to find work and get on with my life. (For a similar reaction, see Huey Freeman’s comments in “It’s a Black President, Huey Freeman,” The Boondocks season three, episode 1).

I’ve never felt like part of any cultural movement or time. It has never felt like a moment belonging to me. I was not a part of the history any of these people made. I simply consumed it, used it for my own release and made it essential to my life. While I’m sure there are lots of people who felt a personal part of themselves taken when those like Yauch die, I don’t feel the same way. Life will be the same for me. My life has to continue regardless of the cultural shifts around me and whether or not I feel a connection. I still have to do my thing while history happens to other people.