Time(line) to Get Ill: The History of the Beastie Boys
The most successful, longest running white boy trio of rappers are back to liven up hip-hop music again! With years in the making, plus a few unforeseen setbacks, the Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part II (What? No part one? We’ll get to that shortly) finally hits the streets on May 3rd. In anticipation, we at COED decided to give all the newbie fans and diehard old schoolers alike a short and sweet hip-hop timeline of all things Beastie Boys. Some things you know… and plenty of little tidbits you probably didn’t.
The collective of Adam Yauch (MCA), Michael Diamond (Mike D), John Berry and Kate Schellenbach began as a punk band, eventually releasing the ep Pollywog Stew and, a year later, the hip-hop flavor of Cookie Puss. It’s been said that Berry came up with the name “Beastie,” but as often happens in burgeoning bands, members move in separate directions. Berry left the Beasties thus making an “in” for Adam Horovitz (Ad Rock), who was friends with the band. A young, but soon to be super producer, Rick Rubin entered the picture and helped refine the sound and image. In light of this new direction, one that a female member didn’t quite fit, Kate Schellenbach was soon out (later to become a member of Luscious Jackson).
With the release of two ep’s: Rock Hard and She’s On It (single also found on the Krush Groove soundtrack) via Def Jam Records, the trio established a more raucous, solidly rap vibe. To promote the eclectic and rowdy rappers, management placed them on Madonna’s Like A Virgin Tour. Suffice to say Madonna liked them, but many of her concert-going fans, well, not so much!
The ground-breaking album Licensed to Ill is released and becomes the first rap record to ever hit the top spot on the Billboard charts. Chock full of references to booze, sex, drugs and rebellion, this record amazed critics (who wished they could, but otherwise couldn’t, find any reason to badmouth the album) and fans alike. Tracks like “Fight For Your Right,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (featuring Slayer guitarist Kerry King) and “Brass Monkey” guaranteed the Beasties a place in musical history. The subsequent tour would get the boys in some hot water, as girls dancing in cages and a giant inflatable penis were common adornments on stage. Two known tracks were dropped from Ill, one of which – “The Scenario” – was briefly played and mentioned by Christian Slater’s deejay character in the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume. The other missing track, “I’m Down,” sampled The Beatles. The Beasties also appeared in the film Tougher Than Leather – starring RUN-DMC, Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons – performing another unreleased song, “Desperado“.
The Beasties had a falling out with Def Jam over royalties and quickly moved to Capitol Records – where they’ve been ever since. Their second release was the critically lauded Paul’s Boutique. A very different sound, though still laced with illicit overtones – and this time chock full off 70s sampling, such as the first single “Hey Ladies” demonstrates. The Dust Brothers produced a gem that wasn’t commercially appreciated until many years later. Some would argue this album was, technically and artistically, their finest work.
The Beastie Boys are known for never staying in one musical place for too long, and the 90s were packed with three releases, each its own musical journey. The first, Check Your Head, marked the return of the boys playing real instruments, and carried the singles “So Watcha Want” and “Pass the Mic.” Ill Communication dropped in ’96 and featured the fan favorite single and video for “Sabotage” plus percussion throughout by Cypress Hill’s Eric Bobo. Both records were steeped in funk, rock and punk influences, paired with the Beastie’s token use of obscure and interesting sampling. Not just in a musical sense, but also socially and individually. The boys had certainly matured from wild and raunchy to quite the charitable and socially active.
The Beastie Boys released Hello Nasty, and this album merged the best of old and new school Beastie Boys together. Popular singles such as “Intergalactic” and “Body Movin’” were interspersed with all-instrumental, sometimes ethereal-sounding, jams. The group’s first “best of”album arrived in 1999 – Anthology: The Sounds of Science. The two disc set culled hits and obscurities from every album up to that date. A year later, while on a tour with fellow musical activists Rage Against the Machine, Mike D suffered a bizarre bicycling accident, bad enough to put the group’s remaining tour dates down for the count.
Not ones to mince words regarding political and social issues, the Beasties released a free download of “In a World Gone Mad” to protest the Iraq war in ’03. The next summer, the group unleashed their first self-produced album – To the 5 Boroughs – which went to #1. In 2007, they released an all instrumental album, The Mix Up, which earned a Grammy. For the 20th anniversary of Paul’s Boutique, the band remastered not only that seminal record, but also Check Your Head, Ill Communication, and Hello Nasty in 2009. Each was repackaged – on disc and vinyl – with loads of rarities, remixes and live tracks. The planned 2009 release of The Hot Sauce Committee Part 1 suffered a setback when Adam Yauch (MCA) was diagnosed with a form of cancer.
Thankfully, MCA was treated and good to go, but during the interim, other oddities akin to the business end of music made the Beasties decide to forgo Part 1 and instead drop The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2. Arriving on May 3rd, the album features most of the content originally slated for Part 1, and then some. Two notable guests artists are featured on the album; Nas and Santigold. In an even more star-studded move, a comical, celebrity-filled trailer – titled “Fight For Your Right Revisited” – was posted on the Beastie’s website as a warm up for a 30 minute music video for the track “Make Some Noise.”
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