Joey’s Musical Autobiography: That Funky Monkey…
By: Joey Gruszecki
(Originally posted May 4, 2012 at Flashfact.org)
I was a comedic genius when I was growing up. No seriously! Here’s an example of the kind of rapier-sharp wit that was at my disposal in my younger (~12-16years old) days:
YOUNG, THINNER JOEY: “You can’t spell CRAP without RAP!!! HURR HURR HURR.”
Doesn’t that kid sound like an asshole? Well, that’s because he was. We talked about my adolescent musical snobbery last time and this installment will again focus on a bit of it. There was a time in my life when I would dismiss an entire genre of music, deeming myself “too smart” for it: The Hippity Hops (or rap or whatever the hell the kids call it).
Yep. I would refuse to listen to any and all hip hop (except for Run DMC’s cover of “Walk This Way” because I dug Aerosmith). I can’t even really remember why I was so opposed to rap when I was growing up, I know I wasn’t exposed to it much at all, but neither was I exposed to much jazz and I took to that fairly easily. It probably has to do with a pretty obnoxious character trait of mine (that I’m embarrassed to say I probably still exhibit from time to time), wherein I seem to want to dismiss things that get hype. This isn’t a case of hipster snobbery where anything that is popular must be shitty, but sort of a bizarro hipster snobbery that makes me want to dismiss things that hip people champion. “Oh, you underground cool people have started to like something? Well I didn’t find it first, therefore it is stupid.” I’ve been told this is probably why I refuse to enjoy things like Firefly as much as other people (It’s a great show and I fully intend to stop being a turd and love it like everyone else). This is probably true, and also extremely stupid. Next time you see me punch me in the balls. (Please don’t.)
The other reason may be less obnoxious, but equally stupid. Guitar solos in hip hop are few and far between. I love a good guitar solo.
The really silly part is that despite my hard-line anti-hiphop stance there were hip hop songs I KNEW that I liked! I would memorize lyrics to songs like “Rappers Delight” and sing them on bus rides under the guise of mocking the music, but secretly I think I really liked it. I speak quickly, I like music with fast lyrics, this was a whole genre of people speaking quickly. Whatever my reasons, I would maintain that I hated rap music for my entire childhood.
I was not to remain a hater forever though, for sometime around the age of 18 I obtained a certain hip hop record which is possibly still my favorite: “Licensed to Ill” by The Beastie Boys.
This was something different. The lyrics were fun or funny and the vocals were extremely unique. Plus, there were guitars! Led Zeppelin guitars! There was variety! It was a revelation. I listened to that album over and over while driving around in my truck one summer. Until that summer hip hop and rap in my mind were just boring club beats with mediocre R&B singers talking about 1 of 3 things: Shooting things and/or people, applying sex to loose women and consuming recreational pharmaceuticals. Now I was learning that like any other genre there was no need for those limitations to be put on an entire genre (and that songs that WERE about those things didn’t have to be boring or annoying!).
The Beastie Boys opened the doors for me to discover a genre of music that I would come to count among my favorites: Nerdcore Hip Hop. A somewhat self-limiting title, but a great subgenre nonetheless. Catchy rap songs about things I understood and related to; sci fi, comics, movies, games, social awkwardness etc. I discovered artists like MC Frontalot, MC Lars, ytcracker, Optimus Rhyme, Jesse Dangerously, Adam Warrock, Beefy, The Grammar Club, Wordburglar, MC Chris, Emergency Pizza Party, and more.
There’s not a lot I can say about “Licensedto Ill” (or any of their subsequent records for that matter) that hasn’t already been said better in other venues, but personally for me it was and is a very important album. I have many memories of hanging out or driving around with friends singing “Fight For Your Right” at the top of our lungs or busting out a capella renditions of “Girls” at wedding receptions.
Without the Beastie Boys I might still be that obnoxious kid who had to tell everyone they were stupid for daring to listen to something that he didn’t enjoy. I owe them a lot and especially “Licensed to Ill”. It’s always going to have a spot on my list of most important albums of all time.
I wish that the reasons for my writing this weren’t as sad as they are, but unfortunately I was inspired to write this by the untimely passing of Adam Yauch AKA “MCA” one of the members of the Beastie Boys. It’s a real tragic loss and the entire world and especially the world of music is worse for his passing. He, Mike D and Adrock have made a huge difference in my life and I’ll be forever grateful to them for that as well as for the great music they created.
Go listen to “Licensed to Ill” tonight.