Formed in New York City in 1981, the Beastie Boys was a hip hop group that is composed of Adam Yauch on vocals and bass, Michael Diamond on vocals and drums, and Adam Horovitz on vocals and guitar. Beastie Boys started as a hardcore punk band but they eventually made a full transition to hip-hop after several line-up changes. Throughout their career, Beastie Boys have sold over 26 million records in the United States alone and 50 million records worldwide. This record made the group the best-selling rap group since Billboard began taking notes of recording sales in 1991. Beastie Boys had seven platinum-selling albums and they are one of the longest-running hip-hop acts in the world. Let’s take a look at the contribution that this iconic hip-hop group made in the music industry.
Michael Diamond became part of several bands such as BAN, Walden Jazz Band, and The Young Aborigines before he formed the Beastie Boys in 1981. It all started when their bassist in The Young Aborigines, Jeremy Shatan left New York City for summer which left John Berry, Michael Diamond, and Kate Schellenbach so they formed a new hardcore punk band called The Beastie Boys. The group supported different artists such as the Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Reagan Youth, and The Misfits during the early days of their career. In 1982, the Beastie Boys recorded their EP called Polly Wog Stews. That same year, the band played at Philip Pucci’s birthday because he made the band a short concert film entitled Beastie. Pucci also arranged a concert in Bard’s College which marked the band’s first screen appearance in a motion picture. That same year, John Berry Left the group and he was replaced by Adam Horovitz and he was followed by Schellenbach who left in 1984 but was not replaced because Michael Diamond took his position as the band’s drummer.
The line-up changes led the Beastie Boys to make a full transition from punk to hip-hop. They recorded their first hip-hop song called Cooky Puss which was based on a prank call that was done by the band to an ice cream shop named Carvel Ice Cream in 1983. The song was also a part of the lineup’s first EP which is also called Cooky Puss. The song quickly became a hit in the underground music scene in New York’s clubs and night clubs.
After Cooky Puss became successful, the Beastie Boys decided to add rap into their sets. The group also recruited a DJ named Rick Rubin to drop some beats into their live performance. After a while, Rick Rubin decided to leave the group to start producing songs. He eventually ended up forming Def Jam Recordings with his fellow NYU student, Russel Simmons. Rubin immediately approached the Beastie Boys and asked them if he can produce their album for his new record label and the group agreed and signed a record deal with Def Jam Recordings. It was also during this time when Yauch, Diamond, and Horovitz began to adopt their hip-hop names such as MCA, Mike D, and AD-Rock.
In 1984, they released their first single entitled Hard Rock. After a year, the Beastie Boys performed as an opening act for Public Image Ltd., and they also supported pop icon Madonna on the North American leg of her The Virgin Tour. Later that year, the Beastie Boys embarked on the Raising Hell tour together with LL Cool J, Timex Social Club, Whodini, and Run-DMC. The group earned exposure on the tour and their song Hold it Now, Hit It entered the Billboard’s US R&B and dance charts.
In 1986, the Beastie Boys released their debut album called Licensed to II which received positive reviews including an encouraging review by the Rolling Stone magazine. The album became one of the best-selling rap album of the ‘80s and it is also the first rap album that reached the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart and it stayed there for five weeks. Licensed to III also became Def Jam Record’s fastest-selling debut album to date which sold over nine million copies. The album spawned the hit singles (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) and No Sleep till Brooklyn. After a year, the Beastie Boys embarked on the Licensed to III world tour which got clouded in controversy because there were female members of the crowd who was seen dancing in cages and a 20-foot tall hydraulic penis. The tour was soon troubled with arrests and lawsuits and the Beastie Boys were accused of provoking the crowd.
After the success of their debut album, the Beastie Boys decided to leave Def Jam Records and end their relationship with Rick Rubin. The group later signed with Capitol Records.
The Beastie Boys released their second studio album, Paul’s Boutique on July 1989 under Capitol Records. However, their second album failed to match the commercial success that their debut album attained. It reached the 14th spot on the Billboard 200 and on the 24th spot on the Billboard R&B charts. The album’s lead single, Hey, Ladies managed to enter the top ten of the R&B charts. Paul’s Boutique was named by the Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 Greatest Album of all Time.
In 1992, they released their third album, Check Your Head was released under the group’s own record label named Grand Royal Records. Their third album became certified double platinum album in the United States and entered the top ten of the Billboard 200. The album’s most successful single, So What’cha Want entered on both Modern Rock and Rap charts. The Beastie Boys’ third album was considered to be a little bit experimental because the songs in the album had some funk and jazz elements into it.
While promoting their music, the Beastie Boys were also busy singing an electric roster of artists to their record label including Sean Lennon, Luscious Jackson, and Australian artist, Ben Lee. However, in 2001, the Beastie Boys were forced to sell their record label because of financial reasons. Aside from launching a record label, the Beastie Boys also published the Grand Royal Magazine in 1993. Its first edition featured a cover story on the legendary Bruce Lee.
In 1994, the Beastie Boys released their fourth studio album called III Communication which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart. The lead single of the album entitled Sabotage became an instant hit song and its music video that was directed by Spike Jonze received heavy airplay on MTV. On that same year, the group also released an independent album called Some Old Bullshit which managed to reach the 46th spot of the Billboard independent charts.
A year after the release of their albums, Beastie Boys proved that their career was far from ending because the tickets for an arena tour that they were a part of was sold out in just 30 minutes. The group decided to give back and gave one dollar from each ticket they sold to local charities in each city of the tour. The Beastie Boys also toured Southeast Asia and South America for the first time to further promote their new album.
The Beastie Boys released their fifth studio album called Hello Nasty on July 1998. The album featured a considerable shift in the group’s musical feel because it had bombastic beats, experimental sounds, and rap samples. Hello Nasty sold over 600,000 copies in the United States in its first week and it quickly went up to the top of the charts in the UK, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The Beastie Boys received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. Their album Hello Nasty also gave Beastie Boys two Grammy Awards in 1999 for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for their single entitled Intergalactic. They also won the Best Hip Hop Video for the same song at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.
In 1999, the Beastie Boys released their first anthology album entitled The Sounds of Science which was a two-CD special that featured all the songs they ever released. The anthology album peaked at the 19th spot on the Billboard 200.
In 2003, the Beastie Boys released a protest song entitled In a World Gone Mad against the 2003 Iraq War. The song was released and was available for free download on several sites such as the MTV website, Win Without War, and MoveOn.org. That same year, the Beastie Boys headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
In June 2004, the Beastie Boys released their self-produced sixth studio album called To the 5 Boroughs which reached the top spot on the Billboard album charts. However, the album stirred some controversy because there were allegations that the CD installed some kind of spyware when its inserted into a computer’s CD-ROM. The Beastie Boys denied such allegations and defended that there was no protection software on the albums that were released in the US and UK. The Beastie Boys released their first purely instrumental album called The Mix-Up in June 2007. The following year, the album won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
In April 2011, the Beastie Boys released their eighth and final studio album called Hot Sauce Committee which featured a collaboration with the American singer Santigold on the song Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win. On July that same year, the group announced on their official Youtube channel that there would be a cancellation of several tour dates and a postponement of their new album This was because Yauch was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his parotid gland and a lymph node.
The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. However, Yauch was too sick to attend the ceremony that’s why the group wasn’t able to perform. Horovitz and Diamond accepted the award and read a speech that Yauch wrote.
On May 2012, Yauch died from cancer. Just a few weeks later, Mike D said in an interview with the Rolling Stone magazine that the Beastie Boys recorded new music in late 2011 but he did not state if these songs would ever be released. And on June 2014, Mike D said that he and Ad-Rock would never make music as the Beastie Boys again.