The Beastie Boys: a trio that endured more than three decades as a prominent group in the rap and music business, and ultimately evolved into one of the most globally influential music groups in history. Made popular by their unconventional, experimental sound and wild personalities, the boys dominated 80’s and 90’s music and culture. The group was made up of three tight-knit friends from NYC: Adam “MCA” Yauch, Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Adrock” Horovitz.
The Beastie Boys played their first show as an experimental hardcore band at a party in 1981, then began floating around the Lower East Side punk rock scene. They eventually crossed paths with a young DJ attending NYU, Rick Rubin, and his classmate, Russel Simmons, who together formed Def-Jam Records and signed the boys. In 1983 they released an experimental EP Cooky Puss, but their career didn’t really start gaining traction until they briefly toured with Madonna and got to open for Run-D.M.C., one of the most popular rap groups at the time. Not long after came the release of their first mainstream success in 1986, Licensed to Ill, made wildly popular by the smash-hit, Fight for Your Right. The Beastie Boys erupted, touring all over the world and making daily appearances on MTV, which was also in its peak. They released multiple albums after that, up until their last album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Shortly after, Adam Yauch passed away from cancer, and the Beastie Boys were no more.
The Beastie Boys drew inspiration from many other artists, notably, the Clash, Bad Brains, Led Zeppelin, Kool & the Gang, and the Beatles; however, their biggest influence was Run-D.M.C., which is obvious in their sound. Getting the opportunity to tour together and even become friends furthered their influence on the boys.
While they drew influence from many places, in turn they inspired so many more artists including Eminem and Kid Rock. The Beastie Boys were central to the explosion of hip-hop, and there truly was no one like them at the time, or ever. They were so authentically themselves, and brought something so fresh, so different, to the music scene that it was impossible not to get excited about them. Probably the most interesting part about the group is the clarity in their evolution: each new album was so different from the last. It was like watching them grow up. From their very first wild, profane singles to the offensive and absurd License to Ill to the experimental sophistication that marked Check Your Head, and so on, the Beasties went through it all. Horovitz has remarked many times how uncomfortable he is with some of the things he said near the beginning of their career, especially the very sexist track Girls on License to Ill. “Girls, to do the dishes / Girls, to clean up my room / Girls, to do the laundry / Girls, and in the bathroom.” Although the song was written as a joke, it’s not a good look. Later, on the song Sure Shot, MCA raps, “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women haqs got to be through / To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect to the end.” After the group’s reinvention and character development, they were labelled as hypocrites, preaching respect when their prior lyrics suggested otherwise, but Horovitz admits, “I’d rather be a hypocrite than the same person forever.”
Overall, while the Beastie Boys certainly had their regrettable moments, it is their evolution as people, friends, and a music group paired with their awesome, unique sound that ultimately defined them and inspired generations to come.