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Members include Michael Diamond ("Mike D," born on November 20, 1965, in New York, NY; married to Tamra Davis; children: two), vocals, drums; Adam Horovitz ("King Ad-Rock," born on October 31, 1966, in New York, NY), vocals, guitar; Adam Yauch ("MCA," born on August 15, 1967, in Brooklyn, NY; married to Dechan Dangdu; children: one daughter), vocals, bass. Addresses: Record company--Capitol Records, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028, website: http://www.hollywoodandvine.com. Website--Beastie Boys Official Website: http://www.beastieboys.com.
They started out as a young trio who wanted to fight for their right to party, but the Beastie Boys have grown into socially-conscious rappers in more than 20 years of producing their own rap/punk blend. But even as their lyrics became more mature over time, they still maintained their loud, aggressive, and rebellious sound. The group's success allowed expansion into other business ventures, including owning their own record company, publishing a magazine, and creating a specially designed line of clothing.
Michael "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "King Ad-Rock" Horovitz, and Adam "MCA" Yauch met as teenagers hanging out in New York clubs, and they all grew up in New York in families that were no strangers to creativity. Horovitz was the son of playwright Israel Horovitz. His parents divorced when he was just three years old and his mother Doris, who was a painter and managed a thrift store, raised him. Adam Yauch grew up with a father who was a painter and an architect and a mother who was a social worker. Michael Diamond's father worked as an art dealer, but died when Michael was just 16 years old. His mother was an interior decorator.
The Beastie Boys started out playing in a hardcore band called the Young and the Useless. While still in high school they released their first punk album on Ratcage Records, called Polly Wog Stew, and the following year released a single called "Cooky Puss." Without the band's permission, British Airways used a portion of the single in a commercial. The group won the subsequent lawsuit, and was paid $40,000. The money helped them focus on their music full-time, and a contract with Def Jam Records' head Rick Rubin led to greater exposure. The single "She's On It" was released on the soundtrack for Krush Groove in 1985.
Fought for Their Right to Party
In 1986, the Beastie Boys released their debut on Def Jam Records titled Licensed to Ill. The album included the hit singles "Fight for Your Right (to Party)" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," and earned multi-platinum sales. It later became the first rap album to reach number one on the Billboard album charts. As a result, the Beastie Boys had earned great success with a less-than-respectable image. But soon, the members began to fall prey to their own "party boy" media hype. "It wasn't until "Fight for Your Right (to Party)" came out that we started acting like drunken fools," Adam Yauch told Akiba Lerner and Mark LeVine in Tikkun. "At that point, our image shifted in a different direction, maybe turning off the kids that were strictly into hip-hop. It started off as a goof on that college mentality, but then we ended up personifying it." Their bad-boy image was fueled by reports that the group had made a music journalist cry during an interview, and that they had been banned from the executive offices of CBS Records for allegedly stealing a camera. The group didn't win much respect on the music front either. David Handelman wrote in Rolling Stone, "When the Boys weren't being called Monkees for not playing instruments, they were being called Blues Brothers for plundering a black music form and making more louie off it."
The Beastie Boys vigorously performed a lengthy tour in support of the album, and Licensed to Ill became the first rap album to surpass the four million copies sold mark in 1987. "We started getting sick of each other and of being on the road, even sick of the band and what it represented, like we were ashamed to be a part of it," Yauch told Spin. "We decided to take some time apart from each other." Yauch spent his time away from the group on a side project called Brooklyn, and performed in clubs around New York.
Branched Out in Style and Business
During this same time, the members of the Beastie Boys got into a dispute with Rick Rubin and Def Jam Records over royalty payments. The argument ended in a split with the record label. "Leaving Def Jam was kind of a blessing in disguise," Michael Diamond told Alan Light in Rolling Stone, "because we can make whatever record we want." To further change the pace of their lives and music, the trio moved from New York to Los Angeles and signed a new record contract with Capitol Records.
In 1989, the group released their next album, Paul's Boutique, named after the Brooklyn store that appears on the cover. The Beastie Boys also recorded the store's radio advertisement on the album. On Paul's Boutique, the group moved in a slightly more mature direction. David Hiltbrand wrote in People, "With their second album, the New York trio has created a prodigiously inventive, genre-bleeding, free-for-all style." But this unfamiliar musical mix was not well received by fans, and the group's popularity waned. The album barely sold 500,000 copies---a significant drop from the multi-platinum sales of Licensed to Ill.
The maturation of the Beastie Boys' music also revealed itself in its members' lives. The 'bad boy' party image they had maintained began to slow down to a more low-key pace. "Just as we were finishing Paul's Boutique, we got our own places, and I was going to clubs a lot less," Yauch told Joe Levy in Rolling Stone. "I got a bit more introverted and spent a lot more time on my own, reading. I would just go down to the esoteric bookstore and wander around." After the release of Paul's Boutique, the trio took more time off and entered into some outside business ventures. They started their own record label and began publishing their own magazine, both under the name Grand Royal. They signed artists they wanted to support to their label, and broadcast news about the band, their lifestyle, and their world view in the magazine. They also went on to produce their own line of street wear clothing called X-Large to match their stage image.
Played Own Instruments
In 1992, the Beastie Boys decided to return to the studio to record Check Your Head. This time, in addition to their rap vocals, each member of the band played his own instrument instead of relying on technological wizardry and sampling to provide the music. Adam Horovitz played guitar, Adam Yauch picked up the bass, and Michael Diamond pounded the drums. The singles "Pass the Mic" and "Whatcha Want" helped boost the sales of Check Your Head beyond platinum.
But critics had a mixed response to the album. Hiltbrand wrote in People, "The sound is murky and messy, the music sloppy and uninvolving. The lyrics certainly contain none of the smartass cleverness that marked the trio's earlier work." Light had a different outlook in Rolling Stone, "They won the fight for their right to party, and then, while no one was looking, the Beastie Boys turned into one of today's most consistently creative bands."
Maintaining an easy-going recording pace, the Beastie Boys waited until 1994 to release their next effort, Ill Communication, which included "Get It Together" and "Sabotage." They reclaimed their popularity and high sales when the album debuted at number one on Billboard's album charts. David Browne wrote in Entertainment Weekly, "Call it novelty, slacker rap, or sheer white urban noise---whatever the tag, it's the most tantalizing ear candy in years, the incessantly inventive sound of brats dismantling pop and trying to reassemble it in their own ingeniously klutzy ways." During that summer, the Beastie Boys co-headlined the popular Lollapalooza tour with alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins. The trio also released a compilation of the group's earliest recordings, including their lucky charm "Cooky Puss," titled Same Old Bullshit.
Fought for the Rights of Others
In the early 1990s, Adam Yauch began exploring Buddhism, and eventually exclusively studied Tibetan Buddhism. He co-founded the Milarepa Fund to raise the awareness of China's oppression of the Tibetan people. The Beastie Boys donated all the publishing proceeds from "Shambala" and "Bodhisattva Vow" on Ill Communication to the Milarepa Fund. Following the tour for the album, Yauch organized several Tibetan Freedom concerts and a film documentary to increase awareness of Tibet's struggle.
The Beastie Boys took nearly four years off before they returned to the studio again. All three members moved back to New York, and each spent their time pursuing their own interests. Yauch worked on the Milarepa Fund, Diamond managed Grand Royal Records and the magazine, and Horovitz sought out talent to sign to the label and produced and recorded with other artists. "It's been four years between records, but it wasn't like we were sitting at home," Horovitz told Light in Spin. "We basically saw each other almost every day."
In 1998, the trio returned with the release of Hello Nasty and the single "Intergalactic." Within the first week of its release, the album soared to number one on Billboard's album chart and sold a whopping 681,500 copies. "Hello Nasty jumps from rap to easy listening to Latin to noise to soul to opera to rock without pausing for a breath," wrote Neil Strauss in the New York Times.
The members' individual personalities also made their distinct mark on the album as Ann Powers noted in the New York Times, "Attentive listeners will notice an unresolved split between the group's attempts at egoless expression and the consummately ego-driven boasts essential to its raps."
Michael Diamond explained how their personal divisions worked into their own cohesive style to Levy in Rolling Stone. "On this record, we went back to the three of us just getting together and sharing ideas, then piecing something together and spreading it out," he said. "So it's much more of a collective where we're all saying each other's lyrics, like on Paul's Boutique."
Closed Grand Royal
Aside from the requisite touring that followed the release of Hello Nasty, the Beastie Boys remained relatively quiet over the next few years, focusing their attention away from the band and more towards their label, Grand Royal, Grand Royal Magazine, and their X-Large clothing company. Over the years Grand Royal, headed up by Gary Gersh, John Silvam, and Mike D, had put out countless releases by the likes of Sean Lennon, Luscious Jackson, At the Drive-In, and Beastie Boys side projects like BS2000. In 2000, the label even inked a deal with Virgin Records for American distribution. In 2001, however, the label was put to rest. In a statement made on the Grand Royal website, Diamond explained that, "Our intentions were always simply to create a home for exciting music and the people who were passionate about it. It really sucks that we can't continue to do that." The last release, At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command sold over 1 million records.
Though the loss of the Beastie's label was an obvious blow, the group began to show up on the musical map a bit more often, starting in 2003, when they released an instrumental version of Hello Nasty. In 2004, they issued an expansive coffee table book, entitled Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science, which featured photos and commentary by the boys on various songs and subjects.
It would be almost 6 years, however, until the Beasties finally returned with an album of new material. In the summer of 2004, Capitol Records issued To the 5 Boroughs, the Beasties' open love letter to their hometown of New York City. The new album also questioned American foreign policy and the war in Iraq. Besides political commentary, however, To the 5 Boroughs was a chance for the Beastie Boys to return to the more simplistic days of being three MC's rapping over straight up hip-hop beats. The Cincinnati Post said the album "isn't just a love letter to New York, it's also a love letter to old-school hip-hop. Compared with Hello Nasty, or the instrument-laden Ill Communication and Check Your Head, the new album is a sparse affair built on break beats, drum loops, samples, scratches, and keyboards."
After nearly two decades of making music together, the Beastie Boys continue to push the limits of rap and hip-hop music into new directions. They took their musical influences and blended them into their own style, ignoring the praise and the criticism to pursue their own creative path. "It would be nice to look at ourselves as innovators," Horovitz told Chris Mundy in Rolling Stone. "I think we are creative, but in terms of being masterminds, no. We're just making music that we like."
by Sonya Shelton and Ryan Allen
Beastie Boys's Career
Group formed as Young and the Useless in the early 1980s; changed name to Beastie Boys and released Polly Wog Stew EP on Ratcage Records, 1982; signed record contract with Def Jam Records, 1985; released multiplatinum Licensed to Ill, 1986; signed record contract with Capitol Records, 1988; released Paul's Boutique, 1989; released Check Your Head, 1992; founded Grand Royal Records and Grand Royal magazine, 1992; released Ill Communication and Same Old Bullshit, 1994; released Hello Nasty, 1998; closed Grand Royal record label, 2001; released To the 5 Boroughs on Capitol Records, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Licensed to Ill Def Jam, 1986.
- Paul's Boutique Capitol, 1989.
- Check Your Head Capitol, 1992.
- Ill Communication Grand Royal/Capitol, 1994.
- Same Old Bullshit Grand Royal/Capitol, 1994.
- Hello Nasty Grand Royal/Capitol, 1998.
- To the 5 Boroughs Capitol, 2004.
- Billboard, November 14, 1987; April 18, 1992; April 23, 1994; August 1, 1998; August 5, 2000.
- Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH), October 14, 2004.
- Entertainment Weekly, March 18, 1994; June 3, 1994; July 22, 1994; July 17, 1998; July 31, 1998; June 18, 2004.
- Hollywood Reporter, September 4, 2001.
- Interview, August 1994; August 2004.
- Newsweek, August 3, 1998.
- People, August 28, 1989; June 1, 1992; July 20, 1998.
- Playboy, April 1987, June 1987, July 1987.
- New York Times, July 14, 1998; July 19, 1998.
- Rolling Stone, February 12, 1987; December 17, 1987; August 10, 1989; May 28, 1992; June 2, 1994; August 11, 1994; October 30, 1997; May 28, 1998; August 6, 1998.
- Spin, September 1998.
- Tikkun, November-December 1996.
- Time, May 18, 1992; July 4, 1994; August 10, 1998; June 14, 2004.
- "Beastie Boys," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (May 19, 2005).
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