I first heard the Beastie Boys in sixth grade gym class and I had no idea what it was because it was the song "Cookie Puss." From the very beginning it stuck in my mind, and shortly after that I saw the video for "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)" and I loved it. As a little kid, there was something that resonated with me. I could tell they were the real deal, the full picture, they weren't these one-trick ponies, they weren't the token white rappers. They were real musicians and real artists who cared about every facet of their art from the textures of the music to the lyrics to the videos. It ended up having such a large influence on me. When I was 13, I was like, "I want to start a rap group with all girls, like the girl Beastie Boys."
I remember watching the video for "Fight for Your Right" and MCA was the coolest looking. Mike D had his cool outfit, but MCA still had the punk-rock look going on, and I chose him as my favorite from early on because his voice was so tough and raspy and cool. He was the embodiment of the blend between punk rock and hip-hop.
They were always on the edge of the next cool thing and it was always boundary-pushing. Every album, it was like, what are they going to do next? That was back when between albums you could take four, five years, and they'd come back and you'd be like, oh my God! They were always introducing everyone to something new. I remember when "So What'cha Want" came out, everyone started wearing hats.
I always gravitated to groups who seemed funny and real, and you could get a sense of their personalities and humor. That's why I liked De La Soul and the Beastie Boys. They seemed to really love each other and the way they interacted was so comfortable and funny and they had so much style onstage. I think that's what it was like back in the era when there was still mystery around people — you wanted to be their friends.
Eventually, when I finally did meet them, it was exactly as it seemed. And that never happens. I went to their studio every day for four or five days [while working on Hot Sauce Committee Part Two's "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win"], and I just remember our lunch times. It was almost like lunch period at school. We'd sit at the lunch table, and I think Adam Horovitz would bring peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches from home in tin foil, and they'd tell jokes the whole time. They still had that dynamic, and it was so natural, and so comfortable. I think that's what's really special about Adam Yauch. He had that quality, he was so down to earth, and inclusive, and warm. He had that instant-friend quality.
I think they were geniuses from the very beginning. They were children, so we watched them grow and become better and better. They weren't trying to be hip-hop — they were actually doing something hugely important for hip-hop. They were pushing the art of what hip-hop was. So they weren't just the white hip-hop guys, they were actually redefining what hip-hop was and questioning that boundary all the time. And the way they incorporated their live instruments and retained that live-band quality throughout their career, and Adam directing all those videos — he was a complete package as an artist. I don't think they have one bad video, and this is all the way to the video for the song we did. That was one of my favorite videos in years, and that was Adam's idea. He was going to direct it, but then he wasn't feeling well, so Spike Jonze stepped in. It was genius.
I'm just so glad I got the chance to do that with them. There were so many more things I would have loved to do with them. We were going to make a Beastie Boys-Santigold collaboration punk-rock EP. I went on the road with them for a couple of dates to get people to vote for Obama. It was me, them, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, and Jack Johnson. It was the most weird group, but it was so interesting watching how they interacted with everyone — they were genuinely friends with all those people on the most real level. And because of that, it seemed like the most obvious group. And that is a huge task.
A lot of people are afraid to embrace the spiritual lifestyle because they don't want to become cheesy. I'm all about spiritual elevation, but I think it's really cool when you can master the balance of not taking things too seriously and keeping a sense of humor about everything. Yauch was so grounded in who he was and what his mission was here. What he accomplished during his time here is absolutely legendary, and he's made an impact on so many people, on music, and on art, and on film, and on the betterment of the world. I just think, What more can you ask? That was a beautiful life lived, and I'm so grateful to have met him.