Published on May 4th, 2012 | by Alan Cross


10 Ways the Beastie Boys Really, Really Mattered to Me

The passing of Adam Yauch today will hit many music fans very, very hard–especially those who grew up with the Beastie Boys through the rise of rap in the 80s and during the group’s reign as one of the most important groups of the Lollpapalooza Nation.  

In fact, one of my favourite backstage memories is briefly engaging on a 3-on-3 basketball game backstage at a 1994 Lollapalooza show.  That tour was was emotionally turbocharged because that year was supposed to feature Nirvana has headliners.  The Beasties provided some much-needed fun to the proceedings.

I interviewed the Beasties many times over the years, starting around the era of Paul’s Boutique and continuing through to the last time on the release of To the Five Boroughs.  Each time I found them forthright, funny, articulate and highly professional.

In many ways, Adam was my favourite.  I just seemed to identify with his sense of humour. I also like the whole Nathaniel Hornblower alias that he used when directing many of the group’s videos.  And when he founded Oscilloscope Laboratories, I followed what he was doing with film and producing albums for bands like Bad Brains.

Here are 10 reasons why the Beastie Boys really, really mattered–at least to me.

1.  They were punk rockers at heart.  That’s how the band started and it’s an aesthetic that they never lost.

2.  Their sense of humour.  Early works such as “She’s On It” and the whole of Licensed to Ill album generated plenty of frat boy laughs.  If they had stayed that way, it would have been a short career. But as the band got older, their sense of humour became more refined.

3.  Licensed to Ill was the first-ever rap album to hit #1 on the Billboard charts.  Up until then, rap had been considered by the mainstream as a marginal form of art (at best) and (at worst) a fad.  The Beasties brought rap to white kids in the suburbs, something that propelled all of hip-hop forward.

4. Have you listened to the sampling artistry on Paul’s Boutique?  When it came out in 1989, the record was roundly criticized for not sounding like Licensed to Ill.  It was branded as a commercial failure and career suicide. But within a few years, people began to recognize what kind of milestone record it really was.  It still sounds amazing today.

5.  The “Sabotage” video.  I still laugh.  Every time.

6.  The Beasties were never afraid to try new things.  They established their own company, Grand Royal, which housed a record company, a clothing line, magazine and a few other ventures.  They eventually shut it down, but you have to give them credit for trying something new.

7.  Being among the very first to describe a certain hairstyle as a “mullet.”  In the middle 90s, Mike D wrote about the “business in front, party in the back” hairstyle in Grand Royal magazine.  I quote:  “There’s nothing quite as bad as a bad haircut.  And perhaps the worst of all is the cut we call The Mullet.”

8.  Where would producer Rick Rubin be today had he not been the Beasties DJ in the early days?  I’m sure he would have found a way to make his mark in the music business somehow, but would have things turned out the same way for him and all the acts he produced?

9. They opened for Madonna on her Like a Virgin tour and subjected her audiences to sheer torture. I am forever grateful that they managed to annoy Madonna so much.

10.  Their comradeship.  I get the feeling that all three guys are fast friends and great business partners. Did you ever hear rumours of the Beasties breaking up because of creative differences or business difficulties?

I have a feeling that Adam’s passing is going to have an interesting effect on Gen Xers.  I’ve been trying to think of another high-profile death of a musician from the 90s Alternative Nation who died of natural causes.  No drug overdose, no alcohol poisoning, no suicide or other misadventure.  Adam died of something as mundane and ordinary as cancer, a fate that could befall any of us at any time.
Gen X might want to pretend that they’re just as young and vital and healthy as they were back in the 80s and 90s, but this is a reminder that we all grow older and frailer and more vulnerable.  And now that Time has claimed one of their own–reality check, you know?
With Adam’s death, the Beastie Boys are done.  There’s no way Mike D and Ad-Rock will want to continue without their friend.  I will miss them terribly.
UPDATE:  Saturday night’s HBO broadcast of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be dedicated to Adam.


About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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15 Responses to 10 Ways the Beastie Boys Really, Really Mattered to Me

  1. Allen says:

    Well put man. A very sad day for music.

  2. Rob says:

    Well said.
    Paul's Boutique is the album that has always stood out to me.

    I hope that after some time Mike D and Ad-Rock decide to do something musically again. There is no need for them to compound the loss of MCA by just giving up. Of course, they need to retire the Beastie Boys name, but otherwise, I hope they do something.

    RIP – Adam.

  3. Axel says:

    Paul's Boutique is one of my desert island records. If I had to list 10, I'm sure another BB album or two would be on there. RIP MCA.

  4. Big Al says:

    My whole neighbourhood is going to hear " Shake Your Rump" when i get home tonight.
    Peace Out MCA

  5. heinrichdude says:

    Thank you for reason #9! I will definitely miss the Beasties, I agree that I can't see them continuing without MCA.

  6. Kit says:

    Licensed To Ill was fun… Paul's Boutique was genius! A fan from my teens and into my 40s, the Beasties have been the soundtrack to some of my fondest memories. RIP Mr. Yauch… there never was a city kid truer and bluer.

  7. Nscafe says:

    I've enjoyed the Beasties from a technical point of view but in terms of music that I like, it's just a vocal range thing, I have a very tough time listening to them.


  8. Nick says:

    Well said, Alan. A sad day indeed. I'm still in shock.

  9. Mike says:

    I kinda view the conclusion of their last 30 minute video in a new light now.

  10. Kevin says:

    What about playing Radio Radio with Elvis Costello on SNL? Great moment

  11. Chris Fournier says:


    I guess MCA is now officially somewhere in Brooklyn.

  12. D'Arcy says:

    Thanks Alan. The balance of fun and innovation and passion for the music is what really made MCA and the Boys unique. What I really enjoyed was watching them all evolve over the years.


  13. Jouni says:

    As always Alan, well said. I can't think of a time when I haven't loved the Beastie Boys. Our world lost a little groove today. RIP MCA.

  14. Lori says:

    Fantastic article, thank you for sharing it, Alan. And RIP MCA. I start my cancer treatments in a couple of weeks. I'll be sure to give cancer an added kick in the teeth for you.

  15. BrendanK says:

    Thanks for this Alan. Great piece.

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