Shambhala Sun Home Free Gift with Order Current Issue Subscribe & Save Half Give a Gift Renew Current Text
spacer spacer spacer


spacer spacer

Adam Yauch: Not originally, though. Early on, hip-hop music was really positive, most of it. Early on, most of the lyrics were about unity and bringing different cultures together. Then around '86, it became a real powerful vehicle. Chuck D of Public Enemy just brought it into a whole different ballpark when he started using it as a vehicle to let people know about the oppression of blacks. He was using it for a combined thing: a voice directly to black youth culture in America and bringing unity and power into that, which was totally needed.

It just switched around—right then—because it was so powerful what Chuck D was doing with it. I think it's really important that that happened. So many people are unaware of the oppression that still goes on to this day of blacks, all of the time. He brought some whole new perspectives on that for a lot of people. Myself included. Affected my thinking a lot.

Jerry Granelli: Your generation of musicians, same as J. Anthony's, making whatever kind of music you want to call it, is fighting the same battle, in some way.

Adam Yauch: It's kinda cool when you KNOW, when you get a feel for right where that boundary is, to push, then you just, (whistles) "PHEW..." That's definitely fun.

J. Anthony Granelli: How did you guys make the progression from a hardcore style into more rap?

Adam Yauch: I think both those forms of music have the same kind of feeling behind them, but they're coming from different cultures. Hardcore or punk is coming from white, western culture, or whatever. Hip hop is coming from African descent, black American music.

So a lot of hip-hop groups just started coming downtown, and were playing at the clubs, and we were all listening to a lot of hip-hop. We would be hangin' out at the punk clubs and they'd be playing hip-hop records, too. So we just kinda started gettin' into rhyming, because we were really into it. Then we hooked up with Russell Simmons, somehow, who is a manager of a lot of hip-hop groups. We started going and playing to more black audiences, going up and gettin' on at The Fever, The Encore and places like that.

So we crossed-over like that. At first when we started rhyming, we were still rhyming in the downtown, hardcore-type scene. Then we started doing gigs with hip-hop groups, like opening up for Kurtis Blow, and we just disappeared from the hardcore scene for a while. Then later it just kind of came back together and started becoming more like one thing. The hardcore and the rap started coming together.

J. Anthony Granelli: And then you made another shift back into playing more instrumental.

Adam Yauch: When we were working on Paul's Boutique, the second album, we started listening to a lot of funk and jazz stuff, looking for samples. We were trying to find records to sample and just listening to that kind of playing gets you back into the "playing" frame of mind. So right around when we finished Paul's Boutique, we started jamming and playing again. I guess that around '89. We started trying to play funk, and kinda' wound up with somethin' else. But that's what we were trying to do. (laughs)

Amy Green: Has the energy changed? What is the difference in what it takes out of you to be playing in front of 200 people or...I don't know how big it gets...THOUSANDS.

Adam Yauch: Yeah. You get more amped off it, with the huge crowds. But sometimes you're in a little room and everybody is going wild. The energy is ALL in there. I just jumped on and played a song at CBGB's the other night, with this friend of mine's band. The Cro-Mags were playing and they asked me to get up and play. We did a cover of a Bad Brains song, and everyone was just going wild at "CB's." And I was remembering that feeling; it is just this LITTLE room and everybody is bouncing off the walls. So it is different now, I guess it's different. (laughs)

Amy Green: How big is it getting now?

Adam Yauch: Well, we just did the Lollapolooza Tour. That's real big, but that's a bunch of bands drawing the people in. That's not just us. I think the biggest it got would be close to 47,000 people. And that's an AMAZING feeling. That's like, "WHHHHHAAAAA...." just seeing them going ALL that way back. But that's not just us pulling in (laughing) that kind of number. (laughter) That's 15 bands.

See also:

The Tao of the RZA

The Wu-Tang Clan rapper talks about his spirituality and his book The Tao of the Wu in 2010. And in this audio interview on Shambhala SunSpace, he talks about the Heart Sutra and Right Speech.

Shambhala Sun Audio: Born I Music

Born I Music, one half of the now-defunct rap duo Shambhala, talks about music, meditation and the next generation in this Shambhala SunSpace interview.

Death and the Rebirth of Patti Smith

The once-rebellious 1970’s rock star sat down with the Shambhala Sun in 1996 to talk about how a period of sorrow in her life had led to an outpouring of new music.

The View from the Stage

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke talks about why he was drawn to play at the Tibetan Freedom Concert.

A Difference You Can Hear

Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo talks about his spiritual journey—from his childhood on an ashram to his discovery of vipassana meditation as an adult.

Click here for more articles on Art and Buddhism

Subscribe | Current Issue | Search Archives | Contact Us | Spotlight | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Employment
© 2008 Shambhala Sun | Email: | Tel: 902.422.8404 | Published by Shambhala Sun Foundation