I remember in tenth grade or so, when Mtv showed the best moments of the recently held Tibetan Freedom Concert, Adam Yauch, Adam Horowitz and Mike D, otherwise known as the Beastie Boys, performing their set in a set of Doctors lab coats. For some reason I loved it, and instantly I wanted one, even though I, as a 17 year old kid with no interest in science, and had no need or actual desire to own one. They were only cool because rock stars were wearing them.
Now, in the world of music and fandom, it's not uncommon for fashion to pass between stars and their fans. Plaid sold well during grunge, white kids at my school wore Malcolm X shirts because Tupac did things like that. It just happens one way or another. Anyway, to have worn Beastie Boys shirts would have been better, but in that moment the lab coat spoke to my very weird teenage aesthetic. I was all over the place. My point with this is the band felt like something positive, new and inventive, which is why I gravitated so hard to their music.
From the onset the band was stylish and culturally relevant, with anthems like “Fight for Your Right,” propelling the fixation of young men to take the world and make it what they wanted at the time. They had huge initial success, but the act got old. If you’ve watched last year's “Beastie Boys Story” like I have, all this is discussed in depth, but the early days of the band's enormous success left something to be desired once they figured out they didn’t want to just be characters pretending to be wild uninhibited still growing young men. From that point they struggled with staying relevant, but as the nineties crept closer, so did a trio more focused on musical experimentation and figuring out what really moved them towards being better people.
This happened a lot I think during that time, where the open world idea of music being positive and transformative took shape. Hip hop, still young at age, hadn’t quite made it to the level of eye openness that it has to some extent today. Gone were the days of bashing women in lyrics, or just generally being misogynistic, or gone at least when it came to the Beasties. We’re talking about the past, but even know, the band is the single biggest argument for white people can’t rap ( even though their rhyme schemes and word choices are hella strange) to ever break though as a legitimate Hip Hop juggernaut, but they have some of the best hooks, lyrics, and beats in the genre. People tend to notice that.
Eye opening moments in the BB story also acknowledged the road being traveled by how different the two remaining members are compared to the early days of the 90’s. Growing up and changing sometimes means being held accountable for your opinions and the growth or resistance to growth that could come from holding the mirror up to yourself.
It bleeds through in their music in the best way possible, with engaging and cerebral moments coming on all three of their 90’s masterpieces, starting with “Check Your Head,” followed by “Ill Communication” and ending with the genre defying “Hello Nasty.”
Throughout the way you get classics like “Sabotage” and “So What’cha Want,” which further cement their creativity in the alternative music world of the 90’s. For me, the Beastie Boys don’t get any heavier or in your face than they do on “What’cha”. It’s so in your face it’s ridiculous, and the guitar sample in the beats shows you exactly what type of jam this is gonna be. The video is also really cool, and goes very well with the song. Sadly, I wish Biz Markie would have had a bigger presence here, besides the “You can’t front on that” segment, but we can overlook that. The song kills it, and it’s heavy in many ways that you simply don’t hear in most hip hop songs.
But then “Sabotage” is just another whole type of vibe. With the lyrics written as a very direct tongue in cheek moment of frustration for Ad-Rock, the track is now a classic. I mean really, how can you talk about this song without mentioning the video? This is easily their biggest hit, and it’s their most rocking song. It’s so refreshing to hear a band that’s known for primarily doing one thing to hit you with something completely opposite, but they succeed valiantly. Now, that’s not to say it totally abandons hip hop, but it just brings in everything. The video, with the boys dressed as absurd cops, works in a way that very few videos do. Almost none of the band's videos has anything to do with the song, but when they’re that entertaining and funny, you don’t really give a shit.
Along the journey , the band redefined what hip hop could be, growing in themselves more than most do while in the spotlight of yes men and adoring fans. I was in awe of their cool, easy goi swagger, but by the time “Hello Nasty” debuted, in the summer of 98, music was very different, and the differences were not far more obvious. In that time, Nu metal had started to be more and more dominant, while hip hop was still struggling with the weights of its own effect on culture. The beasties now in 1998 represented a different way of approaching art, through kinder, more mature ways. I mean think about it, in 98 the despair of Korn, Manson and the other rockers was well known, while the rap world was at the height of its sexism and misogyny, only concerned about the bling and little else. MCA, Ad-rock and Mike D had already moved past that, and they were making the best hip hop of their careers, not to mention of the late 90’s.
It's hard to say what could have been had Yauch not passed, but that thought process gets you nowhere fast. I find it's better to remember the music by singing to it, dancing to it, and bringing it up when talking about bands that will never die. That's how music stays relevant. It's still all word of mouth, but in a multitude of different ways
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
Are you looking for the old Wordpress blog posts?