It was a joke. At least that's what most people thought when a trio of obnoxious Jewish teenagers who rapped about "wenches on benches" and "bitties with titties" first emerged. Who would have thought they'd transform into one of hip-hop's longest-running and most respected crews? They were whiney brats whose fans joined frats; sexist and obnoxious videos offered perfect accompaniment to their beer-swilling party image. In short, the Beastie Boys were considered a black eye on rap music. But when the joke got stale and the press had a field day, Adam Horovitz, Michael Diamond and Adam Yauch headed for the underground. Since then, they've dropped a series of genre-surfing recordings that have been bronzed as true classics. They founded a record label and a magazine, and raised awareness for Tibet all while releasing jazz, hardcore and bluegrass records. It's been almost 20 years since we were first introduced to the crashing Led Zeppelin break beat that opens Licensed to Ill. With To the 5 Boroughs, the Beastie Boys return – to the studio after a long hiatus, and to their NYC roots. They're pushing 40, but still pushing the musical envelope.
1979 to 1981
Young Aborigines drummer Michael Diamond meets Adam Yauch at a Bad Brains show in New York and the two become close friends through their love of hardcore music. Yauch begins showing up at Aborigines practices; when founding bassist Jeremy Shatan goes home to do his homework, Adam takes over. When Yauch is on bass duty, the Aborigines (including percussionist Kate Schellenbach and guitarist John Berry) call themselves the Beastie Boys, a purposefully stupid name for their joke attempt at being one of New York's first hardcore bands. The new line-up debuts at Yauch's 17th birthday party. Record store owner Dave Parsons asks them if they'd be interested in releasing their first record on his new label, Rat Cage.
1982 to 1984
The Beastie Boys record at Studio 171 A and emerge with their first EP, Polly Wog Stew, in early 1982. Guitarist Berry becomes less interested in the band and starts showing up to rehearsal high on crystal meth. He eventually leaves the group and the remaining members call on Young and the Useless guitarist and Beastie Boys fan Adam Horovitz to take his place just as the band begins to discover Grandmaster Flash and the Sugarhill Gang. This new love for hip-hop results in "Cookie Puss," a recorded prank call to Carvel Ice Cream Cakes with sloppy beats and scratching, over which Diamond insists on speaking with Cookie Puss, the name of one of their character cakes. The single starts getting some rotation on college radio; the group decide to incorporate more hip-hop imagery into their live show and they ask friend Rick Rubin to DJ for them. Rubin's sexist attitude rubs off on the three male members of the band and disgusts Schellenbach. When she returns from a weekend getaway to find that Rubin has purchased matching Adidas jumpsuits and do-rags for the rest of the crew, she realises she's being phased out. In 1984, Rubin teams up with Russel Simmons to start Def Jam Records, and they sign Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, who've adopted stage names Mike D (Diamond), MCA (Yauch) and the King Ad Rock (Horovitz). The record label is run from Rubin's messy NYU dorm room, which is littered with numerous demo tapes sent in by hip-hop hopefuls. A cassette mailed in by a 16-year-old James Todd Smith is fished out by Ad Rock and brought to Rubin's attention; Smith's subsequent record deal with make him famous as LL Cool J. Mike D demonstrates his business acumen by successfully suing British Airways for $40,000 U.S. for using portions of "Cookie Puss" in one of their commercials without permission. The trio uses the money to move into a dodgy Chinese sweatshop next door to a Korean whorehouse in Manhattan's lower east side.
After failing to get Run DMC as an opener, Madonna asks the Beastie Boys to join her Virgin tour. Excessive use of the word "fuck," crotch-grabbing and on-stage beer drinking are met with constant boos from Madonna's young fans, and MCA has to ask the Material Girl herself for permission to stay on the tour. Being a fan of the Beastie Boys' antics she agrees. While on the road, the trio unveils their first Def Jam release, the Rock Hard EP, but it's withdrawn just as quickly due to an illegal AC/DC sample. The Beastie Boys drop their "She's On It" twelve-inch, which reeks of Rick Rubin's love for cheesy heavy metal. They shoot their own video, a ridiculous story of the boys using Loony Tunes tactics and Spanish Fly to try to catch the eye of a bikini-clad woman on a beach. The b-side of "She's On It" is a discarded Run DMC song called "Slow and Low," which Beastie Boys cover word for word, only changing "D sees real well 'cause he has four eyes" to "White Castle fries only come in one size." With radio DJ Doctor Dre now manning the decks, the crew starts to build a fan base while on Run DMC's Raising Hell tour, finally exposing them to an intrigued yet sceptical hip-hop audience.
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