May 14, 2012

As the one-time mayor of New York City, Abe Beame would like everyone to take a moment of silence.

As a kid, Paul’s Boutique was my favorite record to zone out to. Even more so than the Wu-Tang Multiverse, B.I.G. or Nas and Jay’s debuts, it’s an ALBUM in the classic sense. It remains one of the most unique and distinct experiences  in the canon. And of all its fun and innovative moments, my favorite was always “Year and a Day,” the MCA showcase mid-way through “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” — the incredible 9 song suite that closes the album and constitutes an EP in and of itself.

It’s a two and a half-minute distortion-heavy flow exhibition for Yauch. While several lines always stuck out to me: the Black and Tan, the Old Schoolist nut grabbing, the quasi-religious reflection, I’ve always allowed the song to pleasantly wash over me. It took his tragic passing for me to actually go and look up the lyrics.

Built around an Isley Brothers’ guitar lick, “A Year and a Day” is a B-Boy’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” It mixes the poetry, philosophy, winter sports and spiritual exploration that would define the rest of MCA’s life. The term “A Year and a Day” has significance in several realms that may have had bearing on the song’s title. It’s a standard prison term, the statute of limitations on the amount of time that can be attributed to an act that causes a death, a Haitian voodoo period of grieving, and an initiation period in the Wicca Craft. It’s hard to say what aspects of the term have bearing on the song.

In the context of the verse, Yauch first outlines an ascetic, spiritually driven existence: “Preaching his word in the B-Boy sing/I AM one with myself as I turn to The/I prefer the dreams to reality/I prefer my life don’t need no other man’s wife/ Don’t need no crazy lifestyle with stress and strife.”

Followed by: “But it’s good to have turn to be a king for a day/Or for a week or for a year or for a year in a day/Come what may.”

What MCA seems to suggest is the need for brief respite from discipline and spirituality to revel in the riches of earthly pleasure. To take a moment from the burdens and sorrows of the world and questions of the universe, and simply celebrate the joys of life.

Here’s Adam performing the song at a concert in Miami in 1992, followed by the lyrics.

M.C. for what I AM and do
The A is for Adam and the lyrics; true
So as pray and hope and the message is sent
And I AM living in the dreams that I have dreamt
Because I’m down with the three the unstoppable three
Me and Adam and D. were born to M.C.
And my body and soul and mind are pure
Not polluted or diluted or damaged beyond cure
Just lyrics from I to you recited
Arrested, bailed but cuffed and indicted
Enter the arena as I take center stage
The lights set low and the night has come of age
Take the microphone in hand as that I am a professional
Speak my knowledge to the crowd and the ed. is special
For I AM a bard but not the last one
I’m my own king and this is my castle
Dwell in realms of now but vidi those of the past
Seen a glimpse from ahead and I don’t think it’s gonna last
And you can bet your ass

I drop the L. when I’m skiing
I’m smoking and peaking
I put the skis on the roof almost every single weekend
Can’t stop the mindfuck when it’s rolling along
Can’t stop the smooth runnin’s when the shit’s running strong
Broke my bindings the lion with wings
Preaching his word in the B-Boy sing
I AM one with myself as I turn to The
I prefer the dreams to reality
I prefer my life don’t need no other man’s wife
Don’t need no crazy lifestyle with stress and strife
But it’s good to have turn to be a king for a day
Or for a week or for a year or for a year in a day
Come what may
I’m fishing with my boat and I’m fishing for trout
Mix the Bass Ale with the Guiness Stout
Fishing for a line inside my brain
And looking out at the world through my window pane
Every day has many colors cuz the glass is stained
Everything has changed but remains the same
So once again the mirror raised and I see myself as clear as day
And I AM going to the limits of my ultimate destiny
Feeling as though Somebody were testing me
He who sees the end from the beginning of time
Looking forward through all the ages is, was and always shall be
Check the prophetic sections of the pages

MP3: The Beastie Boys – “Year & A Day”

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