In 1981 a four-piece hardcore punk band from New York were working hard to make a name for themselves in the fledgling underground scene. After some departures and the addition of a new guitarist, the newly formed three-piece decided to make a rap song about a prank call to Carvel Ice Cream; the song was called “Cooky Puss” and the Beastie Boys realized they found their calling. Original members Adam Yauch (“MCA”), Michael Diamond (“Mike D”), John Berry and Kate Schellenbach, later of Luscious Jackson, tried to fit in with the punk scene. After John and Kate left for other ventures, Adam Horowitz (“Ad-Rock” ) joined as the new guitarist and the rest is history.
Taking their new found interest in rap and hip-hop from the likes of Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash, the Boys also incorporated their love of punk and classic rock into their bestselling debut Licensed to Ill in 1986. They had toured with Madonna, partnered with producer Rick Rubin, and were ready to take the world by storm. Painting an image of a trio that drank, used heavy drugs, chased girls, caused riots and weren’t a group you’d bring home to Mother, many pegged them as a novelty act.
However, three years later they would start to shed that old image for one that called for a little more sophistication when they dropped 1989’s Paul’s Boutique. Produced by the Dust Brothers and Mario Caldato Jr, no one expected this album from a novelty band – and the Boys had something to prove. The samples were better, the songs were stronger – but we can get to that later.
From there on, each album seemed like the Boys were determined to destroy their old image and replace it with one of peace, love and some fun. Never losing sight of the original rap and hip-hop aesthetic that birthed the scene, they evolved with the change in climate and stayed as relevant as possible. This is not an easy thing to accomplish but as we go on this month we’ll see how they changed both genres. No one had ever fused punk rock with rap and too many people have tried and failed.
April 14, 2012 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . . . and then on May 4, 2012 founding member Adam Yauch died of cancer. Over the next few weeks I’ll focus on the albums that built the group and made them the legends they are now. Who would have thought three white boys from New York would rock the rap world so hard? My one regret was never seeing them perform live, but their music will live on and on.
This is the first in a new segment where I’ll pick a band and spotlight them for a month, highlighting their history, albums and any shows I’ve seen. I hope you like it and give me suggestions as we roll along.