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Adam Yauch memories, written by Jill

As a teenager in New York City in 1981, I met Adam and his childhood friend Arabella Field outside a school in Brooklyn. He was wearing a dark trench coat with White Riot (a song by the Clash) written on the back in letters created with white tape. First off, all of us girls were like, “He is sooo cute…is Arabella his girlfriend?” No, she wasn’t. Okay, coast is clear. As one of a handful of NYC underage punk kids, we were smitten. Who were these well dressed teen punks from Brooklyn? Weren’t all of us in Manhattan? How is this even POSSIBLE?

Soon we realized that Adam and his Brooklyn cohorts were COMPLETELY on our level musically and intellectually. How did these five or six Brooklyn teens also learn about all the English punk bands we loved like Stiff Little Fingers, the Undertones, the Clash, and the Slits? I guess they had their ears to the wind like we did…only we thought we were special living down the street from Bleecker Bob’s Records. Adam and co. fell in with our little crew and thus began our underage adventures through the music clubs of Manhattan in the early 1980’s.

Middle and high school for many of us was tense, scary and boring. Along came a new world: MANHATTAN AT NIGHT. With the drinking age still at 18, pre-Giuliani New York was a wonderland of music and art. No ID necessary. With a group of us cavorting from club to club, I had never felt safer walking the streets of New York. Early on we caught the premier NY punk bands of the time …. the Stimulators and the Bad Brains. We explored clubs like Tier 3, Max’s Kansas City (trash glam central), the Rock Lounge, and of course CBGB. The Mudd Club was too sophisticated for us and refused to let us in so a big raspberry to them. No one carded us or asked for payment at the door. How is this possible? We probably added flavor to the scene as young upstarts dancing like maniacs. At the Rock Lounge, we would hit the dance floor as a group and start a huge circle of dancers. When this was done, on to the after hours club Berlin. The sun would rise as a group of sixteen year olds walked home through lower Manhattan. West Coast bands like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks made it to the East Coast and the clubs 171A and A7 became meccas along with Rat Cage Records on East 9th Street. The Beasties were the funniest punk band around. As 1981 became 1982, we all discovered hip hop, a mind blowing addition to our musical vocabularies. It all made sense – the music was real. Sugarhill was the intro and the exploration went on from there. Adam learned early raps and proceeded to blow our minds by actually BEING A GOOD MC with a deep gravelly voice. I remember well the first time I heard him rapping in his room in Brooklyn Heights. No more trench coats. On to the next. Downtown was now full of travelers from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens showing us what was really going on in NYC…break dancing, graffitti and rap. Roxy Roller Disco was the place to be…only now instead of skates the floor was given over to hip hop in all its glory. Adam, Mike and Adam were not afraid to venture into this territory artistically…and the rest is history.

Adam was always at the center, the heart, the creative and fun loving core of all of these adventures in culture. He was someone who made it all feel healthy and legit. People from the scene did fall into drugs and that was never his world. Adam was all about making art. From the earliest days of the Beastie Boys, they were serious about creating and that never went away. Our band and so many others watched and learned from their example. Over thirty years of friendship, we watched Adam expand into activism (Tibetan Freedom)and film (Oscilloscope Laboratories). We saw him create a life that included family, creativity and curiosity. A life way too short.

Jill Cunniff

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Adam and Jill, 1994 on tour

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