Things change. In 1987, the Beastie Boys were the first group ever to make a #1 charting rap album. The hit “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” had a punk feel to it, but the beats were pure hip-hop. Their frat boy attitudes and fanny-pack/medallion outfits were unprecedented in both hip-hop and rock-n-roll.
The Beastie Boys were teenagers when they started out. Mike Diamond and Adam Yauch created the band with money from their parents. Working with Kate Shellenbach (who’d later be in Luscious Jackson) and Adam Horovitz. And despite their Neanderthal beginnings, the Beasties started to show real promise on the album Paul’s Boutique in 1989. This record had a funkier feel. And the guys kept putting out records. But it was 1998’s Hello Nasty that really broke the mold, with styles ranging from electronica to salsa, soul to bossa nova. Hello Nasty also had a guest appearance from reggae great Lee Scratch Perry!
But the Beastie Boys would further evolve. Darwin would be proud. In 2004 they released To The Five Burroughs — a politically-conscious collection of hip-hop that was written in reaction to the attacks on the Boys’ beloved Manhattan on 9/11.
Even more impressive, the lyrics were a heartfelt call-to-action.
If you don’t like the news then press eject
Baby Davis getting older can’t take a rain check
It’s time to let’em know what we expect
Stop building SUV’s strung out on OPEC
Hold up wait up you know we come correct
You wanna change things up, well hey just get set
It’s easier to sit back than stick out your neck
It’s easier to break things than build it correct
We’ve got a president we didn’t elect
The Kyoto treaty he decided to neglect
And still the US just wants to flex
Keep doin’ that wop we gonna break our necks
It takes a second to wreck it
It takes time to build
You gots to chill
But it was 2007’s The Mix-Up that changed the Beastie Boys forever. Following the lead of organ-player Money Mark, the original Beasties dropped the mics and walked over to the bass, guitar and drums. And even though they were not pros at those instruments, after years of musical performance they were able to create a soul-funk album of instrumentals that is completely different from any of their other work, and top-notch. The Mix-Up earned them a Grammy for best pop instrumental album in 2008.
This sends home the lesson that a friend taught me so many years ago. “Do work that you love.” She said. ” Cause whatever you choose you’re going to get really good at it.”
Here’s the Beastie Boys (now men) with the album “The Mix-Up”.
Join DJ Michele Myers Fridays at 9pm for Nite Life on KEXP. Every Friday at midnight she does this album spotlight, telling a story and playing 3 songs from the record. Michele also produces KEXP Documentaries and hosts Wake Up Thursdays from 6-9am for KEXP in NYC on Radio New York 91.5FM.