“There’s three of us but we’re not the Beatles,” Joseph (Run) Simmons declared — defiantly, if confusingly — on Run-DMC’s 1985 single “King of Rock.” There were also three, and they weren’t the Beatles, either. But no rap group charted a more Beatlesesque career arc. They started out as lovable goofballs who still seemed to present a threat to parental authority; they went on to inspire a generation just by growing up in public. And of the three Beasties, it was Adam Yauch — also known as MCA — who grew up the most.
It’s hard to resist the Rip Van Winkle comparison. When Wayne Roberts showed up at a graffiti-art show in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in 2000, after being AWOL for 20-odd years thanks to a heroin habit, he re-emerged to a city that was radically different from the one he dropped out of. According to his biographer, Chris Pape, Roberts brought a new sort of bravado and style to the graffiti world in the early ’70s with his tag, STAY HIGH 149, and Smoker figure — a copy of the logo from the British TV show “The Saint,” adorned with a joint at its lips.