Artist and Musician Biographies


Here is the Beastie Boy's hit "Licence to Ill."

Although the Beastie Boys were first labeled as mindless, obnoxious, one-hit wonders involved in a white cultural piracy of the rap/hip-hop style, they have proven themselves to be much more during their twenty-year musical history.

Adam Yauch (aka. MCA), who was born in 1967, and Mike Diamond (aka. Mike D.), who was born in 1965, formed the hardcore punk band, the Beastie Boys, in New York City in 1981. The early punk Beastie Boys also included drummer, Kate Schellenback, (future member of Luscious Jackson) and guitarist, John Berry. The group played in underground punk clubs in New York City and released the seven-inch EP, "Polly Wog Stew" to little attention. At that time, Adam Horowitz (aka. King Ad-Rock), born in 1966, was playing with the hardcore group, The Young and the Useless.

In 1983, Schellenback and Berry left the Beastie Boys as Horowitz joined. The three privileged, white, middle class Jewish boys then went on to release their first rap single, "Cookie Puss" which indicated the direction they intended to follow. By 1984, the Beastie Boys, had abandoned their instruments and punk to focus on rap. They viewed rap as part of the post-punk musical underground that was left open to experimentation.

In 1985, Rick Rubins and Russell Simmons launched Def Jam Records and signed on the Beastie Boys. That year, the Beastie Boys had a hit single from the soundtrack to "Krush Groove" with "She's On It". The Beastie Boys also received national exposure by opening for both Madonna and Run-DMC. The ability to open for both a pop superstar and a rap artist showcased their potential crossover appeal.

In 1986, their debut album, "License to Ill" was released and it became the fastest selling debut in Columbia Records history. The success of the album is largely due to the single, "Fight For Your Right (To Party)" which appealed to an audience of pseudo-rebellious kids. The lyrics rhymed about partying, beer, girls, and breaking parental rules. These lyrics were laced into a sound base of metal guitar and street beats. The album shot to #1 on the Billboard album charts and they became an overnight sensation. Their success was questioned, however, as some believed that they lacked talent and were merely a one-hit wonder that would disappear once the party ended.

However, the Beastie Boys proved to be much more than the then negative critics claimed. As they grew up, the obnoxious behavior was replaced with a new sound that has been later recognized as visionary. Now relocated in California after a bitter lawsuit with Def Jam Records, the Beastie Boys signed onto Capitol Records. In California, they met the production team, the Dust Brothers whom they collaborated with to release their second album, "Paul's Boutique" in 1989.

"Paul's Boutique" carried the Beastie Boys music to a new level. They interweaved pop culture themes into a jam of soul, funk, and jazz. The album has been recognized as influential to 1990's music because of its advanced cut and paste approach. The hottest single on the album was "Hey Ladies" which reached only #36 on the charts. Clearly the album was more important critically than it was commercially in establishing the Beastie Boys as a creative force. Despite the low sales produced by the album, the Beastie Boys decided to build their own studio and began planning their own record label and magazine, Ground Royal.

For their next album in 1992, "Check Your Head", the Beastie Boys had to dig up their buried instruments as it alternated between hip-hop, funk and punk. The album was a Top 10 hit in 1992. It featured MCA on bass, Mike D. on drums, and King Ad-Rock on guitar. For the album, the Beastie Boys also brought in keyboardist, Mark Ramos Nishita to help arrange the various sounds. The album sampled heavily from other artists, while showcasing their own instrumental talent and keeping a funky groove. The album signaled that the Beastie Boys have found a middle ground between punk rock and hip-hop. The biggest hit from the album was "So What'cha Want".

In 1994, the Beastie Boys released their 4th album, "Ill Communication" which debuted at the top of the Billboard album chart. It was an extension of the "Check Your Head" album, picking up where it left off. The Beastie Boys continued the same style of playing their instruments live in the studio to a mixture of musical genres ranging from rap, funk, and punk. "Sabotage" was the most popular single from the album and it helped the album reach double platinum status. That year, the Beastie Boys also co-headlined the 4th Lollapalooza festival with the Smashing Pumpkins. Their record label and magazine were also launched that year as it released Luscious Jackson's debut album.

In 1996, the Beastie Boys released the EP, "Aglio E Olio" and the album, "The In Sound From Way Out". The first was more of a hardcore rock approach, which pounded out eight tracks in 11 minutes. The second is an instrumental album.

At this point in their lives, the members of the Beastie Boys have become involved in their own outside interests. Horowitz married an actress and has starred in a couple of his own movies (Lost Angels and Roadside Prophets). Diamond has kept a close eye on their Grand Royal business while Yauch has converted to Buddhism and is an activist for the Tibetan cause. In 1996, Yauch organized a two-day festival to raise awareness on Tibet's plight.

Although the members have been caught up in their own lives, they have managed to continue to produce music together. In 1998, they released the album, "Hello Nasty" which debuted at #1 for three weeks. The album kept the same style of the previous ones by combining hip-hop with various musical forms of their grooving instruments. The album was also their first to reach #1 on the UK charts.

The year 2012 would bring the life of founder of the group, Adam Yauch to an untimely death at 47.

Page author: L.C.