Those Shepard Fairey-Designed MCA Billboards? Here's How They Came to Be

Billboards at Sunset and Las Palmas, also at Fairfax south of Santa Monica

Art: Shepard Fairey Photo: Glen E. FriedmanBillboards at Sunset and Las Palmas, also at Fairfax south of Santa Monica

See also: Adam Yauch, RIP: A Life in Photos

Shortly after the death of Beastie Boy MCA in early May, a billboard appeared on an industrial stretch of Venice; designed by Brooklyn artist Kaves, it was mostly black and white with a Beastie Boys photo and lyric. (It has since moved to Sunset.) This week another MCA billboard popped up on Fairfax, and then another on Sunset. Designed by Shepard Fairey, the latter two are black and red and feature an iconic Glen E Friedman photo.

Pretty sweet, but what's the deal?

Billboard at Sunset and San Vicente

Art: Kaves Photo: copyright Glen E. FriedmanBillboard at Sunset and San Vicente

After the death of MCA (who was born Adam Yauch), a local fan named Jason May was heartbroken. He wrote email tributes and reminisced with a friend about seeing the Beastie Boys at the Cal Expo Amphitheater in 1986, but it wasn't enough.

Having recently purchased a Kaves painting at an Exhibit A Gallery show earlier this year, he was inspired to contact the artist, who agreed to come on board for a tribute. After negotiating with CBS outdoor for some remnant space, May rented the billboards, and Fairey was brought on board. Both artists wanted to use Glen E. Friedman images, and the famed photographer was glad to be a part of the project.

"These are three great artists who were fast, willing and got what it was about with not a lot of questions asked," says May. "The billboards just came together, just happened. I took my own money and just did it."

Adds Friedman: "The artist renditions of the photographs are very cool. I like that they included the other guys, that was very respectful -- the Beastie Boys are a team."

Beasties at Loyola Marymount, 1985

copyright Glen E. FriedmanBeasties at Loyola Marymount, 1985

"Ironically both of those photos are from the same roll of film," Friedman continues. "One photo was taken on the Loyola Marymount Campus and the other on Pacific Coast Highway. It was a fun day. Rick Rubin once said it was his favorite photo session ever at Def Jam -- it was the first one I ever did for them."

There's been a great response to the works so far, Friedman goes on. "I put the billboards on my personal Facebook page and a bunch of people who actually knew Adam got to see them and wanted to know who did it," says Friedman. "They couldn't believe it was just this dude who wanted to show his respect. DJ Hurricane demanded his email so he could thank him personally."

Beastie Boys, PCH 1985

copyright Glen E. FriedmanBeastie Boys, PCH 1985

Indeed, what's most shocking about the project is that May (who declines to give out any personal information) seems to have no self-promotion agenda at all. "Adam Yauch was someone who deserves a public memorial, so now he has it -- at least in L.A.," he says. "I'm proud that I was able to do something in the name of great art and great music."

No more designs are planned. Though he would love to expand to Chicago and New York, "I don't have it in the budget," he adds with a laugh.

See also: Adam Yauch, RIP: A Life in Photos

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