At one of those dismal, dull annual music industry seminars in the mid '80s a well known Rap producer was asked, during a panel discussion, whether Rap and/or Hip-Hop artists would have to modify their approach to reach a "broader" audience. The gentleman shrugged and pointed out that there was no need for artists to change anything. White performers would come along soon enough to handle the mainstream. Just as they had with Blues, R&B and Soul. Those words were certainly timely, if not prophetic. Three New York Punk Rockers, Adam Horovitz (King Ad-Rock), Adam Yauch (Master of Ceremonies Adam - 'MCA' for short) and Michael Diamond (Mike D) were incorporating Rap elements into their act and even using DJ RR (Rick Rubin).
Diamond and Yauch formed the Beastie Boys with various members coming and going, including Kate Schellenbach, who later joined Luscious Jackson (the group recorded for the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label). Eventually, Horovitz signed on completing the line-up. The Beastie Boys made their first dent in '85 when "She's On It" appeared on the "Krush Groove" soundtrack.
With the hooded sweats, Adidas sneakers and baseball caps in place, the Beastie Boys, veterans of New York's CBGBs, hit the road opening for Madonna. Soon they were signed to Rubin's Def Jam label and released the single "Rock Hard," which was followed by their full length debut in '86, "Licensed To Ill." The album was a symbolic line in the sand. The Rap community considered the Beastie Boys interlopers ripping off their music. The right wingers checked in, complaining about the group's violent and sexist lyrics. Like most lines in the sand, this one too washed away quickly thanks largely to the undeniable "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right To Party" which became a frat mainstay for the better part of a decade. At the end of the day, "License To Ill" was the top selling Rap album of the '80s. Ponder that one.
A falling out with Rubin caused some serious nastiness terminating the relationship. The Beastie Boys second album backed away from the party-hearty mode and featured a more layered sound. With extensive sampling and a Funk/Rock vibe, "Paul's Boutique" was a commercial disappointment though it subsequently became a cult classic.
While still mining old school Hip-Hop and Funk, the Beastie Boys returned to Punk with "Check Your Head." Early Punk recordings were packaged as "Some Old Bullshit," while "Ill Communication," rolling out in '94, continued "Check Your Head's" stylistic blend.
For the next few years the Beastie Boys focused their efforts on their label & magazine and only managed to release a blistering EP "Aglio E Olio" and a Soul, Jazz, Funk instrumental collection "The In Sound From Way Out." "Hello Nasty" hit in '98.
The Run DMC/Aerosmith "Walk This Way" may have been the first stab at a Rap/Hard Rock combination, the Beastie Boys, who early on toured the U.K. opening for Run DMC, made a career out of it and influenced countless musicians.
In '92, Yauch married Iona Skye, the daughter of '60s folk singer Donovan. On a slightly more pertinent note, the Beastie Boys regularly contributed their talents to various charitable/political causes including the Free Tibet movement and the fight against AIDS.
Now, jump ahead decade-and-a-half or so. '09 opened with a tribute. Gallery 1988 in L.A. showed an exhibition of art revolving around the Beastie Boys titled Under The Influence. From there, the group celebrated Barack Obama's inauguration by playing D.C.'s 9:30 Club for the Hey, America Feels Kinda Cool Again concert. On a roll, they reissued their '89 album "Paul's Boutique." "After years in the making, on its 20th anniversary, [the artwork is] going to finally be correct," said Mike D. "We remastered it too. So now it actually does have enough bass to shatter your one frozen testicle," added MCA.
Yauch announced that the Beastie Boys next studio album would be titled "Tadlock's Glasses." Tadlock being the band's former bus driver who had also driven Elvis Presley's back-up singers. Elvis had given Tadlock some glasses that he was very proud of. Apparently, that working title didn't work (though it became a song title) because just a few months later the band stated the album would be called "Hot Sauce Committee."
With the album in the works, Yauch revealed he had a cancerous tumor in his parotid gland and a lymph node. His treatment forced the cancellation of several shows and put "Hot Sauce Committee" in limbo.
Yauch also spent a chunk of '10 working on the documentary, William S Burroughs: A Man Within, about the beat generation icon and Naked Lunch author. Directed by Yony Leyser, the film featured previously unreleased Burroughs footage.
Now two albums were being discussed, "Hot Sauce Committee Part 1" and "Part 2." The band toyed with alternate distribution methods for one of the albums (making a set available only via downloads or issuing a series of 7-inch singles over a short period). Then it was decided that the songs on "Hot Sauce Committee Pt.2" would go on "Pt. 1" and that would be the first release. Actually, "Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 1" was shelved, for the time being, with "Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2" being issued on the previously scheduled release date.
"Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2," the Beastie Boys eighth studio effort, made its debut at #1 on Billboard's Alternative Albums, Rock Albums and Hip-Hop Albums charts. It was #2 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart (behind Adele's "21").
That success was tempered by concerns about Yauch's health. His three-year battle with cancer finally ended with his passing on May 4th, 2012, at age 47.
One stipulation in Yauch's will was that the Beastie Boys' music would never be licensed for commercials or related activities. That clause would prove significant within a couple of years.
The Adam Yauch Playground was dedicated on the eve of the first anniversary of this death. Formerly known as Palmetto Playground, the recreational area was near Yauch's childhood home in Brooklyn Heights.
In what has become an all too familiar coda for many bands, there was a dispute in '13 over unauthorized use when the Beastie Boys shared an open letter with The New York Times regarding toymaker GoldieBlox's inclusion of the song "Girls" in a viral video ad.
Founded by Debbie Sterling, an engineer, GoldieBlox, attempted to inspire the next generation of female engineers. "Men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math... and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation."
In a preemptive lawsuit, the toy company claimed what they did constituted fair use. The Beastie Boys countered writing that were "impressed by the creativity and the message" but the song had been "used without our permission."
The surviving Beastie Boys were put in a difficult position. Namely, how do you deal with a company, whose mission you support, when they are suing you? By the way, the viral ad generated over eight million views.
In the end, GoldieBlox agreed to an undisclosed monetary settlement and proffered a public apology to the group.
But shortly after the GolieBlox fiasco settled the Beastie Boys were headed to court yet again. This time they won a $1.7 million verdict in their copyright lawsuit against Monster Beverage. The company used the group's music in a promotional video. Monster called the case "illogical," but admitted an employee inadvertently believed Monster had permission to use the music. Monster promised to appeal. And that was a problem.
In early '15, the Beastie Boys sought approximately $2.4 million in additional restitution from Monster claiming the company engaged in unethical and evasive legal tactics that generated excessive legal fees. The Beastie Boys legal team stated that Monster had failed to engage in good faith negotiations and attempted to overturn the verdict with a costly appeal.
The group's label, Capitol Records, and publisher, Universal-Polygram International Publishing, filed their own suits against Monster.
1986 Licensed to Ill
1989 Paul's Boutique
1992 Check Your Head
1994 Ill Communication
1998 Hello Nasty
2004 To The 5 Boroughs
2007 The Mix-Up
2011 Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
The Beastie Boys' debut "Licensed To Ill" successfully merges Rock and Rap, which became a major '90s trend. However, for a more Rock vibe jump to the '90s for "Check Your Head," "Ill Communication" with "Sabotage" and "Hello Nasty." The group's Punk core comes roaring through.