The Beastie Boys were founded by Adam “MCA” Yauch, Mike “Mike D” Diamond, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz as a result of a heavenly alignment of right location, right time, and right common interests. Over the course of a 30-year existence, The Beastie Boys have remained one of the most disorganized, humorous, and significant rock and hip-hop bands ever.
The Young Aborigines, a punk band, and The Beastie Boys were punk bands when they first met in 1979. When MCA joined the group in 1981, they decided to alter their name to the Beastie Boys on the advice of their guitarist John Berry. At that time, their lineup was Mike Diamond (also known as Mike D) on the mike, guitarist John Berry (of Big Fat Love), bassist Adam Yauch (also known as MCA), and drummer Kate Schellenbach (later of Luscious Jackson). The Pollywog Stew vinyl 7″ by the Beastie Boys, their first EP, was released in 1982.
The New York group had the most fun pushing the limits while also creating some ice-cold hits. Here are some of their best hits.
The Beastie Boys’ song “Sabotage,” which has a killer bassline and Ad-Rock’s legendary opening shriek, is an example of how they blur the boundaries between rap and rock rather than just toeing them. What would cause such rage?
Since the group was unsure about which songs to finish for their fourth album, “Ill Communication,” producer Mario Caldato Jr. pushed the members to finish some tracks. According to Horovitz in their new book, “I decided it would be funny to write a song about how Mario was holding us all down, how he was trying to mess it all up, sabotaging our great works of art.” I’m glad they went with this one.
From the song’s opening robotic voice to the song’s incisive lyrics and the funny concept and execution of the music video, “Intergalactic” actually looks and sounds like it came from another world.
3. Fight For Your Right
When a song inspires a sense of moral outrage, you know it’s a smash. In 1986, The Beastie Boys released a song about partying and battling for the right to do so. It launched a battle with radio stations in the US over censoring, and by the time the group arrived in the UK in 1987 for a tour with Run DMC, the tabloids were calling for a boycott of them. Only a song this seismically rock-rap could incite such wrath.
4. Get It Together
The leader of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip, takes the stage for what may be a rare appearance in a Beastie Boys song. Although the Boys’ vocals are often grating, Q-Tip’s smooth delivery of his verses and the understated production ensure that both strands of East Coast rap are well-represented here.
5. No Sleep Till Brooklyn
The band’s most remembered ode to their home city, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” was produced by the group’s early collaborator and co-founder of Def Jam, Rick Rubin. On top of a crunching metal riff, the band, with assistance from Kerry King of Slayer, yell out the five boroughs of the city, with Yauch’s birthplace across the East River earning the nod as the last destination for the celebration.
6. Ch-Check It Out
The band didn’t show any signs of maturing on this thunderous smash, which served as the first single from their debut album of the 2000s, “To The 5 Boroughs.” This 2004 smash demonstrated that The Beasties could still compete with the greatest while still having a lot more fun, even as the general public welcomed a new generation of rap superstars like 50 Cent and Kanye West.
7. Hey Ladies
For a spectacular journey through pop culture, the band and producing team Dust Brothers combine songs by Deep Purple, Commodores, Kool & The Gang, James Brown, and more in under four minutes. Hip-hop sampling’s inflection point was the song “Hey Ladies,” which is still a remarkably well-crafted success despite being turned around every 45 seconds.
8. So What’Cha Want
After the sample-heavy ‘Paul’s Boutique,’ their third album ‘Check Your Head’ was seen as a return to the fundamentals as the band made significant musical contributions with Ad-Rock on guitar, Mike D on drums, and MCA on bass. While by no means a difficult piece, “So What’Cha Want” reconnects the group with their punk and metal beginnings.
9. Sure Shot
There are so many pop-culture allusions in the first song of their fourth album, “Ill Communication.” On this frantic hit, which we can only imagine was their unsuccessful audition for the role of crime-fighting heroes, The Taking of Pelham 123, the TV detective Kojak, and, well, Mission Impossible II director John Woo all receive kudos.
10. Make Some Noise
This was the final absolutely outstanding song by The Beastie Boys; it was released in April 2011, a year before Adam “MCA” Yauch passed away from cancer. It also serves as a fitting conclusion for a musical force that, although being in their mid-forties, could still outperform their younger colleagues. They were so pleased with it that they decided to make a follow-up to their classic ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ video for it. It is a feral explosion of swagger and cockiness built around a squelching beat.
A look back to their albums
Licensed to Ill, which was released in the fall of 1986, was the first Beastie Boys album and the first Rap album ever to reach number one. With the help of Fight for Your Right and No Sleep Till Brooklyn, it spent seven weeks at the top and concurrently rose to #2 on the urban chart, making it Columbia’s fastest-selling debut to date and the first hip-hop song to sell more than 5 million copies.
Paul’s Boutique, the second album by Beastie Boys and the Dust Brothers, was released in 1989. Paul’s Boutique went over the collective heads of a country and established the framework for a new generation of emerging genres. The lyrics and melodic allusions in songs like “Shake Your Rump,” “Lookin’ Down The Barrel Of A Gun,” “Car Thief,” “Shadrach,” and the hip-hop “suite” “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” were too many and varied for the typical listener to process in one sitting.
The 1992 single Check Your Head marked the B Boys’ comeback to using live instruments. Check Your Head became double platinum and the Beastie Boys resumed touring with the aid of Keyboard Money Mark, Eric Bobo, and other percussionists. The album was produced by the band and Mario Caldato Jr. (who first served as the engineer for Paul’s Boutique for B Boys). Check Your Head would produce a wave of brand-new B Boys classics, such as So Whatcha’ Want, Pass The Mic, “Gratitude,” and “Jimmy James.”
Ill Communication, which was also produced by the group and Mario Caldato Jr., hit the top of the charts in the summer of 1994. The album included the singles Sabotage and Sure Shot. The Beastie Boys’ first arena headlining tour since the 1980s promoted Ill Communication. After the tour was over, Beastie Boys produced and released Aglio e Olio, an EP that contains eight tracks and clocks in at 11 minutes and harkens back to the band’s early days of hardcore punk.
Their fifth album, Hello Nasty, was released on July 14th, 1998. The “Intergalactic” song and music video’s enormous popularity propelled the record to first week sales of almost 700,000 in the United States and straight to #1 in England, Germany, Australia, Holland, New Zealand, and Sweden. Early on in the tour, the Beastie Boys offered free downloads of live songs to fans who couldn’t make the gigs; nevertheless, they were taken aback when their label took the files down.
Beastie Boys rang in 1999 with awards for Artist, Band, and/or Record of the Year from publications including Rolling Stone, SPIN, The New Yorker, and Playboy, among others. The group had just finished the year by winning the Video Vanguard lifetime achievement award at the MTV Video Music Awards. The now quadruple-platinum Hello Nasty won Best Alternative Music Performance at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards a month later, while “Intergalactic” won Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group, marking the first time an artist had ever won in both the Rap and Alternative categories. In 1999, “Intergalactic” also won Best Hip Hop Video at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.
To The 5 Boroughs, the Beastie Boys’ sixth studio album, was released in the summer of 2004. It was the band’s third straight #1 debut and received Rolling Stone magazine’s lone 5-star review of the year. Talib Kweli and Bob Moore’s Amazing Mongrels (a live dog show, hence the pageant moniker) backed To The 5 Boroughs on their globe tour, which was a traveling pageant.
The motion picture Awesome, I F#ckin’ Shot That! was released in 2006., a concert movie including audience member-shot video that had its Sundance debut in early 2006 and was theatrically distributed the following year.
The Mix-Up, the first full-length album by Beastie Boys to contain just brand-new, original instrumental tracks, was released in 2007. They digitally restored Paul’s Boutique and made it available on their website on February 3rd, 2009.
Adam Yauch, the Beastie’s bassist and singer, passed away from cancer on May 4, 2012. As a promise to Adam Yauch, Mike D said in June 2014 that the Beastie Boys will not continue their careers together.