The Beastie Boys are an American hip hop group from New York City consisting of Michael "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "MCA" Yauch, and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz. Since around the time of the Hello Nasty album, the DJ for the group has been Michael "Mix Master Mike" Schwartz, who was first featured in the song "Three MC's and One DJ".
They started out as a hardcore punk group in 1979, and appeared in the compilation cassette New York Thrash with Riot Fight and Beastie. They switched to hip hop with the release of their debut solo album Licensed to Ill (1986), which enjoyed international critical acclaim and commercial success. The group is well-known for their eclecticism, jocular and flippant attitude toward interviews and interviewers, obscure cultural references and kitschy lyrics, and performing in outlandish matching suits.
They are one of the longest-lived hip hop acts and continue to enjoy commercial and critical success in 2008, more than 20 years after the release of their debut album. On September 27, 2007 they were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
John Berry left the group (later forming Thwig, Big Fat Love, and the San Francisco booze rock band Bourbon Deluxe) and was replaced by Adam Horovitz (Ad-rock)—who had previously played in the punk band, The Young and the Useless in 1983. The band also performed its first rap track, "Cooky Puss", based on a prank call by the group to Carvel Ice Cream. It became a hit in New York underground dance clubs upon its release.
In 1985, the band opened for John Lydon's post-Sex Pistols band Public Image Ltd. , as well as supporting Madonna on her North American Virgin tour. Later in the year, the group was on the Raising Hell tour with Run DMC, Whodini, LL Cool J, and the Timex Social Club. With their exposure on this tour, the track "Hold It Now, Hit It" made Billboard's national R&B and Dance charts. The track "She's on It" from the Krush Groove soundtrack continued in a rap/metal vein while a double A-side 12", "Paul Revere/The New Style," was released at the end of the year.
The band recorded Licensed to Ill in 1986 and released the album at the end of the year. It was a smash success, and was favorably reviewed by Rolling Stone magazine with the now-famous headline, "Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece." Licensed to Ill became the best selling rap album of the 1980s and the first rap album to go #1 on the Billboard album chart, where it stayed for five weeks. It also reached #2 on the Urban album charts. It was Def Jam's' fastest selling debut record to date and sold over five million copies. The first single from the album, "Fight for Your Right," reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video (directed by Ric Menello) became an MTV staple.
The band took the Licensed to Ill tour around the world the following year. It was a tour clouded in controversy featuring female members of the crowd dancing in cages and a giant motorized inflatable penis similar to one used by The Rolling Stones in the 1970s. The tour was troubled by lawsuits and arrests, with the band accused of provoking the crowd. This culminated in their notorious gig at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool, England on 30th May 1987 that erupted into a riot approximately 10 minutes after the Beasties hit the stage and the arrest of Adam Horovitz by Merseyside Police on assault charges.
After the success of Licensed to Ill, the Beasties parted ways with Def Jam and ended their relationship with Rick Rubin to sign with Capitol Records.
A bootleg album entitled "Original Ill" features original demos of all the tracks from the final version of Licensed to Ill plus deleted tracks "I'm Down" (A Beatles Song) and "The Scenario" was released in 1998.
The follow-up album, Check Your Head, was recorded in the band's own "G-Son" studio in Atwater Village, California and released on its Grand Royal record label. The band was influenced to play instruments on this album by Dutch group Urban Dance Squad; with Mike D on drums, Yauch on bass, Horovitz on guitar and Mark Ramos Nishita ("Keyboard Money Mark") on keyboards. Mario Caldato Jr. ("Mario C") engineered the record and would become a longtime collaborator. Check Your Head was released in 1992 and went double platinum in the U.S., reaching a peak of #10 on the Billboard 200. The single "So What'cha Want" reached #93 on the Billboard 100 and made both the urban and modern rock charts while the album's first single "Pass the Mic" became a hit in dance clubs. The album also introduced a more experimental direction, with funk and jazz inspired songs including "Lighten Up" and "Something's Got To Give." Hardcore punk even made its reappearance with "Time For Livin'."
The Beastie Boys signed an eclectic roster of artists to the Grand Royal label including Luscious Jackson, Sean Lennon and promising Australian artist Ben Lee. The Beastie Boys owned Grand Royal Records until 2001 when it was then sold for financial reasons. Grand Royal's first independent release was Luscious Jackson's album In Search of Manny in 1993. The Beastie Boys also published Grand Royal Magazine, with the first edition in 1993 featuring a cover story on Bruce Lee, artwork by George Clinton, and interviews with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and A Tribe Called Quest MC Q-Tip. The 1995 issue of the magazine contained a memorable piece on the "mullet." The Oxford English Dictionary cites this as the first published use of the term, along with the lyrics from the Beasties' 1994 song "Mullet Head". The OED says that the term was "apparently coined, and certainly popularized, by U.S. hip-hop group the Beastie Boys. Grand Royal Magazine is also responsible for giving British band Sneaker Pimps their name.
The Beastie Boys headlined at Lollapalooza—an American travelling music festival—in 1994, together with The Smashing Pumpkins. In addition, the band performed three concerts (in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C.) to raise money for the Milarepa Fund and dedicated the royalties from "Shambala" and "Bodhisattva Vow" from the Ill Communication album to the cause. The Milarepa Fund aims to raise awareness of Tibetan human rights issues and the exile of the Dalai Lama. In 1996, Yauch organized the Tibetan Freedom Concert, a two-day festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco that attracted 100,000 people.
In 1995, the popularity of the Beastie Boys was underlined when tickets for an arena tour went on sale in the U.S. and sold out within a few minutes. One dollar from each ticket sold went to local charities. The Beastie Boys toured South America and Southeast Asia for the first time. The band also released Aglio e Olio, a collection of eight songs lasting for just eleven minutes harking back to their punk roots, in 1995. The In Sound From Way Out!, a collection of previously released jazz/funk instrumentals, was released on Grand Royal in 1996 with the title and artwork a homage to an album by electronic pop music pioneers Perrey and Kingsley.
During 1998, rumors, seemingly generated by comments from the band, pointed to a possibility that they were to release a country album. Both Michael Diamond and Adam Yauch are credited with interview comments that piqued interest in whether or not an album would be released. Since they had long been notorious for pranking the media it was difficult for anyone to take these comments seriously until tracks became available, most notably on The Sounds of Science anthology album. Adam Yauch published the following in the liner notes; "At some point after Ill Communication came out, Mike got hit in the head by a large foreign object and lost all of his memory. As it started coming back he believed he was a country singer named Country Mike. The psychologists told us that if we didn't play along with Mike's fantasy, he would be in grave danger. Finally he came back to his senses. These songs are just a few of many we made during that tragic period of time." How much is fact or fiction is difficult to determine, but when the album surfaced on eBay fans scrambled to get their hands on what had proven to be a rare album.
The Beastie Boys won two Grammy Awards in 1999, receiving the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album for Hello Nasty as well as the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "Intergalactic" This was the first and, as of 2008, only time that a band had won awards in both rap and alternative categories.
Also at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards they won the highly coveted Video Vanguard Award for their contribution to music videos. The following year at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards they also won the award for Best Hip Hop Video for their hit song "Intergalactic". The Beastie Boys used both appearances at the Video Music Awards to make politically-charged speeches of considerable length to the sizable MTV audiences. At the 1998 ceremony, Yauch addressed the issue of Muslim people being stereotyped as terrorists and that most people of the Muslim faith are not terrorists. These comments were made in the wake of the U.S. Embassy bombings that had occurred in both Kenya and Tanzania only a month earlier. At the 1999 ceremony in the wake of the horror stories that were coming out of Woodstock 99, Adam Horovitz addressed the need for bands and festivals to pay much more attention to the security detail at their concerts.
The Beastie Boys started an arena tour in 1998. Through Ian C. Rogers, the band made live downloads of their performances available for their fans but were temporarily thwarted when Capitol Records removed them from its website. The Beastie Boys was one of the first bands who made mp3 downloads available on their website; they got a high level of response and public awareness as a result including a published article in The Wall Street Journal on the band's efforts.
The 1999 Tibetan Freedom Concerts featured shows in East Troy, Wisconsin, Sydney, Tokyo, and Amsterdam. On 28 September 1999, the Beastie Boys joined Elvis Costello to play "Radio Radio" on the 25th anniversary of Saturday Night Live.
The Beastie Boys released The Sounds of Science, a two-CD anthology of their works in 1999. This album reached #19 on the Billboard 200, #18 in Canada, #6 on the Internet sales charts, and #14 on the R&B/Hip Hop charts. The one new song, the single "Alive", reached #11 on the Billboard's Modern Rock chart.
In the years following the release of Hello Nasty the group launched their official website which underwent several transformations eventually culminating in one of the most popular recording artist related websites on the internet.
In 2000, the Beastie Boys had planned to co-headline the "Rhyme and Reason Tour" with Rage Against the Machine and Busta Rhymes, but the tour was canceled when drummer Mike D suffered a serious injury due to a bicycle accident. The official diagnosis was fifth degree acromioclavicular joint dislocation; he needed surgery and extensive rehabilitation. By the time he recovered, Rage Against the Machine had disbanded.
Under the name "Country Mike," Mike D recorded an album, Country Mike's Greatest Hits, and gave it to friends and family for Christmas 2000. Adam "Ad-rock" Horovitz's side project BS 2000 released Simply Mortified in 2001.
In 2002, the Beastie Boys started building a new studio facility, Oscilloscope, in downtown Manhattan, New York and started work on a new album. The band released a protest song, "In A World Gone Mad", against the 2003 Iraq war as a free download on several websites, including the Milarepa website, the MTV website, MoveOn.org, and Win Without War. It became the most downloaded track during April 2003. The 19th and 20th Tibetan Freedom Concerts were held in Tokyo and Taipei, the Beastie Boys' first Taiwan appearance. Beastie Boys also headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
To The 5 Boroughs was released worldwide on June 15, 2004. It was the first album the Beastie Boys produced themselves and reached #1 on the Billboard album charts, #2 in the UK and Australia, and #3 in Germany. The first single from the album, "Ch-Check It Out", reached #1 in Canada and the US Modern Rock Tracks, #2 on the world internet download charts, and #3 on a composite world modern rock chart.
The album was the cause of some controversy with allegations that it installed spyware when inserted into the CD drive of a computer. The band has denied this allegation, defending that there is no copy protection software on the albums sold in the U.S. and UK. While there is Macrovision CDS-200 copy protection software installed on European copies of the album, this is standard practice for all European releases on EMI/Capitol Records released in Europe, and it does not install spyware or any form of permanent software.
The band stated in mid-2006 that they were writing material for their next album and would be producing it themselves.
"OK, here's our blurb about our new album -- it spits hot fire! -- hot shit! it's official... it's named The Mix-Up. g'wan. all instrumental record. "see i knew they were gonna do that!" that's a quote from you. check the track listing and cover below. you love us. don't you?"
To support the release, a string of live dates was announced that focus on festivals as opposed to a traditional tour, including the likes of Sónar (Spain), Roskilde (Denmark), Hurricane/Southside (Germany), Bestival (Isle Of Wight), Electric Picnic (Ireland) and Open'er Festival (Poland). The Beastie Boys performed at the UK leg of Live Earth July 7, 2007 at Wembley Stadium, London with Sabotage, So What'cha Want, Intergalactic, and Sure Shot.
They worked with Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization, on their 2007 summer tour.
The Beastie Boys were featured on the cover of Beyond Race magazine for the publication's summer 2007 issue.
The band, along with co-producers The Dust Brothers were leaders in the use of sampling techniques, with Paul's Boutique being notable for its effective use of samples. The Dust Brothers in turn sampled So What'cha Want on the song E-Pro from Beck's 2005 Guero album.
Furthermore, although rarely credited, the Beastie Boys were one of the first groups to identify themselves as "gangsters", and one of the first popular rap groups to talk about violence, drug and alcohol use, possibly an influence from their time as a hardcore punk group. According to "Rolling Stone" magazine, their 1986 album Licensed to Ill is filled with enough references to guns, drugs, and empty sex (including the pornographic deployment of a Wiffle-ball bat in "Paul Revere") to qualify as a gangsta-rap cornerstone." In their early underground days, the seminal gangsta rap group N.W.A. rapped over Beastie Boy tracks for songs such as "My Posse" and "Ill-Legal", and the Beastie Boys' influence can be seen significantly in all of N.W.A's early albums. Their 1989 album Paul's Boutique included the similarly-themed tracks "Car Thief," "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" and "High-Plains Drifter."
The Beastie Boys have had four albums reach the top of the Billboard album charts (Licensed to Ill, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty and To The 5 Boroughs) since 1986. In their November 2004 issue, Rolling Stone Magazine named "Sabotage" the 475th song on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. In their April 2005 Rolling Stone Magazine ranked them #77 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time On September 27, 2007, it was announced that the Beastie Boys were one of the nine nominees for the 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions.
A controversial concert in Columbus, Georgia in 1987 led to the passage of a lewdness ordinance in that city.
Sal Governale, a comedian on the staff of the Howard Stern Show, indicated on air on July 25, 2007, that he was the president of the Beastie Boys fan club in the 1980s on the Prodigy computer network.
Other contributing members: