Celebrity deaths are a strange thing, and then they’re not. To me celebrities from New York don’t really feel like celebrities. It’s like a friend that gets really famous and that happens every now and then in New York – usually the people you´d least expect to be famous. Then it’s like there fame is the unreal thing, not the person.
Adam Yauch was definitely a celebrity, but he was also my mom’s student when she taught high school in Brooklyn. I was alive then and apparently went on a class trip with them. My mom says he did a science project on meditation. This would have been in 1981 or so, back when my family lived near the King’s Highway stop on the N train (I forget the name of that neighborhood).
In high school Check Your Head definitely got heavy rotation with the kids I knew from downtown Manhattan. Aesthetically it seemed – and still does to me – tied to that cultural milieu – Coney Island High, The Pyramid, ABC No Rio – that didn’t see contradictions between punk and hip-hop. It was about the process or other times it was about the themes or sometimes lack thereof. There was some kind of subculture going on that seemed to have more to do with space than any other attributes.
I saw him like ten years ago at the Film Forum. I wish I would have seen him perform live somwhere.