On Friday I was both upset and shocked to hear that founding member and bass player of The Beastie Boys, Adam Yauch aka MCA had finally lost his battle with cancer. He was such a great talent. Not only the music he created as one of the original Beastie boys but also the films and videos he produced.
In 1986 The Beastie Boys burst onto the scene with their hip hop / rock crossover hit single, (You Gotta) Fight For The Right (To Party). At the time they were seen by many as a novelty band. Three white kids hit the UK as part of the Def Jam tour with the tabloid press writing column inches of bad behaviour and a rock n roll attitude. The debut album, Licensed To Ill followed. But with no follow-up hit single, the press moved on to other things, and the Beastie Boys slipped quietly out of the spotlight.
‘(You Gotta) Fight For The Right (To Party)’ from License To Ill
By 1989, they had left New York and Rick Rubin’s Def Jam Records for Los Angeles and a major label deal with Capitol Records. They released their second album, Paul’s Boutique to critical acclaim and showed a maturity in their music. But it was not a commercial success and the label stopped promoting the album. Over the years, Paul’s Boutique has gained popularity and in 2003, the album was ranked number 156 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
In 1992 Capitol Records released The Beastie Boys third studio album, Check Your Head including the singles, So Whatcha Want, Pass The Mic, Jimmy James and Gratitude. The album saw the band playing their own instruments for the first time on record since their early garage EPs; and in doing so successfully blended their hip hop and funk with their more edgy punk / thrash roots.
‘Jimmy James’ from Check Your Head
In 1994 The Beastie Boys released their seminal album, Ill Communication. In January 2011 I wrote an article for Buzzin Music giving it the praise and status it deserved as a classic album. http://www.buzzinmusic.co.uk/classic-albums-ill-communication-by-beastie-boys-1994/3714
Ill communication epitomised several qualities that The Beastie Boys had above any other artist including their ability to produce a collection of tracks covering such varied genres as hip hop, rock, lounge and hardcore thrash. Unlike any other album I have heard, Ill Communication works perfectly with tracks like Sure Shot (hip hop), Heart Attack Man (hardcore punk), the lounge jazz of Root Down, and the awesome hard rock of Sabotage sitting comfortably and working together as a brilliant album that pulls you from pillar to post. Unlike other bands that are great at one genre and dabble in another (see The Clash for rock-styled reggae or Rage Against The Machine for heavy-rock flavoured rap) the Beasties are seriously good at every genre they play; and above all they appear to be having fun and never take themselves too seriously.
‘Heart Attack Man’ from Ill Communication
Hello Nasty was released in 1998 and won two Grammy Awards in 1999 for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rap Performance for Intergalactic. The album received critical acclaim, included great singles Body Movin’ and Intergalactic and introduced DMC champion MixMaster Mike to the group’s line-up with the classic track, Three MC’s and One DJ.
‘Intergalactic’ from Hello Nasty
With To The 5 Boroughs The Beastie Boys paid homage to their beloved New York City. The album was released in 2004 and included the wonderful Ch-Check It Out but in all honesty, I thought it was nothing more ‘okay’ but not ground-breaking. That’s the problem when you raise the bar so high!
Below is a recording of The Beastie Boys appearing on the David Letterman Show performing Ch-Check It Out, singing live as they walk from the New York subway, along the streets and into the studio.
The Beastie Boys eighth and regrettably last studio album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, and was released in 2011. From it came the excellent single, Make Some Noise, complete with another brilliant and funny video brimming with cameo appearances and starring Elijah Wood, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Jack Black & Will Ferrell as The Beastie Boys themselves.
A 30-minute version of the video was written and directed by MCA and entitled Fight for Your Right Revisited was released the following day to commemorate the 25th anniversary of “You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!“
More than any other artist The Beastie Boys were able to merge a variety of styles by sampling the likes of Bad Brains, The Dead Boys, James Brown, Johnny Smith & Led Zeppelin among countless others, to produce a body of work that has often been copied but never equalled.
For anyone reading this who don’t quite get how good The Beastie Boys were, check this live show out from 1999; and for any budding young bands out there…. this is how to start a show!
Adam Yauch (MCA) R.I.P.