Beauty vs. the Beastie: Why MCA would approve GoldieBlox

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Who invited the smart chick to our dumb guy party? That’s how I felt when my daughter rode shotgun yesterday while my boys and I were bumpin’ to the Beastie Boys classic, Girls.  (The jam is the subject of a recent copyright debate between Boys and girls. More on that in a bit.) But that moment cruising in the station wagon, the first cool album I owned as a boy would prove what a cool Dad I am now. Aww, yeah!

And then it happened. I started to hear the lyrics through my daughter’s ears. I cowered lower in my seat to avoid her judging eyes as her little brothers sang along, “Two at a time, I want girls!”

licensetoillNo, it’s not age appropriate music for my 6 and 7-years-old boys.  But since they’re too young to know what the lyrics mean, I let the untimely death of Adam Yauch (A.K.A. MCA) give me an excuse to buy them the coolest album a wussy white boy could own (for a fourth time). I was right. They love all that shit -from the bandits’ ballad Paul Revere to the quintessential teenage anthem Fight for Your Right (To Party) and the extremely chauvinistic Girls. My boys were just as entranced by the first crossover hip-hop album as my pre-pubescent burb buddies and I were when we played it incessantly, never contemplating the meaningless lyrics. Paaaaaartay!esq-beastie-boys-1009-lgThen you grow up, grow your seed, grow lame, and one day your precocious 11-year-old daughter says “You listened to some ancient music, Dad.” I’m used to her making fun of my music as all kids do to their parents before they develop taste.  But this time she was referring to the lines her naïve brothers were belting. Girls! To do the dishes / Girls! To clean up my room / Girls! To do the laundry/ Girls! and in the bathroom

I suddenly realized why my friends and I celebrated these sexist songs on the daily; Because we didn’t hang out with girls.

My sweet little angel, feeling empowered by her move to the front seat, grilled me, “How old were the Beastie Boys? What century did they live in? Are they still alive? Do they have wives? Do they have kids?”

I could only offer her , “Well, a company for girls’ toys used this song with different words to encourage the development of strong women. GoldieBlox. I’ll show you the cool commercial.”

“Oh, OK.”  She seemed satisfied.

Then I had to add, “That is, until the Beastie Boys told them they weren’t allowed to use their song.” This she wanted to hear all about.

The recent story is over this awesome commercial.

The clever spot captured the spirit of parents and kids alike going viral immediately. The only problem is they never paid, nor even asked the Beastie Boys for the usage of their hit. Perhaps they knew the answer would be “no” since Adam Yauch clearly stipulated in his will that his songs could never be allowed for commercial use. This was gratifying news to fans, sparing us the inevitable Fisher-Price froggy training toilet singing “Fight for your right to Potty!”

The remaining Beasties had their legal team question the company’s use of their song. The young company fearing the repercussions their new fame caused, drew legal first blood suing the Beastie Boys. The band then accused the company of copyright infringement and GoldieBlox conceded . They announced their intentions were never to tuss with the legends and changed their commercial to feature non-Beastie, ineffective music.

The surviving band members did what any artist and friend would do. However, from everything I know about the rapper turned activist, if Adam Yauch were alive, I believe he would make an exception for this one. Hear me out.

My daughter could take comfort knowing that MCA, unlike so many fame-seeking artists, used the wealth and clout earned in his youth to make change as he matured. He was an activist for Tibet, among other political causes. He married, signed the all-girl punk band Luscious Jackson, had a daughter, and the once bad-boy rapper was one of the first to demand the hip-hop culture change its misogynistic ways.  His lyrics then stated:

“I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women has to got to be through / To all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect till the end

I should explain to my wise, outspoken daughter, who I’m constantly proud of, that boys are dumb. Dumb boys think it’s fun to tease girls and treat them as inferiors. But, really, boys wish to love and respect women. Yet we are intimidated by the grace and strength and compassion girls have for us silly boys. When boys mature (though some never do) we wish to make amends. We want our daughters to be strong, independent leaders.

It’s a tragedy MCA/Adam Yauch didn’t live longer to give us more music. It’s more tragic to think of all the changes he would have led us to if cancer hadn’t stopped his climb.

In the end of the GoldieBlox feud, I think everybody won. The Beasties upheld the group’s commitment to never selling out. And a young company trying to make a splash broke a bunch of rules and got their message heard by millions. I wonder if the fact that the ad is still on Youtube means Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond agree with me. They did release this open letter in the heat of the feud:

“we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad. We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission,YOU sued US.”

My music-making friends would disagree that Yauch would ever approve of blatant thievery. But it should be noted the Beasties’ second album Paul’s Boutique is considered to contain the most amount of illegal samples in music history prompting lawsuits and copyright changes by the industry.  It is also hailed by critics as one of the greatest, groundbreaking hip-hop albums of all time. It seems you gotta fight and steal afterall.

MCA also known to say –“Well I got to keep it going keep it going full steam/ Too sweet to be sour too nice to be mean/ On the tough guy style I’m not too keen/ To try to change the world I will plot and scheme”- Intergalactic 1998

“If you can feel what I’m feeling then it’s a musical masterpiece/ If you can hear what I’m dealing with then that’s cool at least/ What’s running through my mind comes through in my walk/ True feelings are shown from the way that I talk” Pass the Mic 1992

Here’s a great link I found from Jessica Valenti after his death in 2012 http://www.thenation.com/blog/167768/mcas-feminist-legacy#

Another good one – http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2012/05/an-appreciation-age-wisdom-tamed-beastie-boy-adam-yauch.html

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