Beastie Boys

  • Hip hop group formed in 1981 from New York City. Members of the group were Michael Diamond (aka Mike D – vocals, drums), Adam Yauch (aka MCA – vocals, bass guitar), and Adam Horovitz (aka Ad-Rock – guitars, vocals). Kate Schellenbach was a founding member and original drummer – when she left in 1984, Mike D took over the drumming duties. John Berry was a founding member and guitarist – he left after 1 year. All members contributed to songwriting.
  • In 1979, Diamond founded a hardcore punk band called The Young Aborigines, along with Schellenbach, Berry and bassist Jeremy Shatan. In 1981, Shatan left and Yauch was brought in to replace him, with Berry renaming the band Beastie Boys. They played their first gig on Yauch’s 17th birthday, and they performed with punk rock bands at clubs throughout New York City. In 1982, they signed with an independent record company and they released an EP titled Polly Wog Stew.
  • Horovitz was a member of another punk band, The Young and the Useless, which often performed concerts with Beastie Boys. In 1982, Berry left, and Horovitz became the guitarist for the group, at the age of 16. They began their transition to hip hop music, and in 1983, they released their first single – Cooky Puss (actually, a 12-inch single that contained two versions of Cooky Puss and 2 other tracks). One of the other tracks, titled Beastie Revolution, was sampled in a British Airways commercial without the group’s approval. They contacted a lawyer, and they won $40,000 in a lawsuit. They used the money to rent an apartment which they used for rehearsals and recording, which ultimately kick-started their career. Cooky Puss was a hit in underground New York dance clubs. In 1984, Schellenbach left, and Diamond took over drumming duties. By this time, the band was fully converted to hip hop, and the trio converted to their stage names – Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock.
  • They started to incorporate rap into their live performances. They hired a New York University student to be their DJ – Rick Rubin. Rubin began to produce their records, and he formed a record label, Def Jam Records, which signed them to a recording contract (Rubin emerged as a huge force in the music industry, winning 8 Grammy awards for producing, and producing albums for artists ranging from Beastie Boys to Johnny Cash to Tom Petty to Weezer to U2 to Neil Diamond to Josh Groban to Adele).
  • Speaking of sampling, Beastie Boys started sampling music by other artists in their songs. Their first single with Def Jam was Rock Hard, released in 1984it contained an unauthorized sample of AC/DC’s Back in Black, which quickly led to the single’s withdrawal from the market. They toured in 1985, opening for acts like Public Image Ltd, Run-DMC and Madonna. With their increased exposure, they released their debut album, Licensed to Ill, in 1986. It became the best selling rap album of the 80s, certified 10x platinum, and it was the first rap album ever to be #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The album included their highest charting single, (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party), which peaked at #7 on the Hot 100 and its video became an MTV staple.
  • After falling out with Rubin, the band signed with another label, and their second studio album, Paul’s Boutique, was released in 1989. While not as commercially successful as their first album, it was considered their breakthrough achievement – the songs contained over 100 samples from other artists (this time with permission). Critics called it “the Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop,” and Rolling Stone ranked it at #156 on their Greatest Albums of All Time list.
  • During the 90s, Beastie Boys released 3 studio albums – Check Your Head, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty. All were multiplatinum, and the latter 2 topped the album chart. Three singles from these albums landed in the top 20 of the Alternative Songs chart, with Intergalactic reaching #4, Body Movin reaching #15, and my favorite, Sabotage, which made Rolling Stone’s Greatest Songs of All Time list (#480). The video to Sabotage pays homage to the classic 1970s crime drama shows – no doubt this is why it’s my fave. Hello Nasty and Intergalactic each won a Grammy for the band.
  • In 1998, Beastie Boys won MTV’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, recognizing their accomplishments in music and film. Only 30 artists have received this award.
  • In the 00s, the group released 3 more albums. To the 5 Boroughs was released in 2004 – it topped the album chart and was certified platinum. The single Ch-Check It Out peaked at #1 on the Alternative Songs chart. 2007’s The Mix-Up was an entirely instrumental album, winning a Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental Album – no rap/hip-hop here, the songs are full of funky/jazzy/rock beats. Their final album was 2011’s Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. The single Make Some Noise peaked at #7 on the Alternative chart. In May 2012, MCA (Yauch) died from cancer at the age of 47. With that, Beastie Boys ended their 30+ year run as a band.
  • Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, less than 3 weeks before Yauch’s passing. No gangsta rap here – their songs are danceable ditties, full of tongue-in-cheek humor. Here is the video to my fave, Sabotage.

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