New York hip-hop group The Beastie Boys will go down as one of the biggest music acts of all time. With over 50 million albums sold worldwide, the outfit have influenced artists such as Eminem, Rage Against The Machine, and Sublime. In 2012, they became the third hip-hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Adam “MCA” Yauch would pass away from cancer the following month, which led to Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz ending the Beastie Boys forever. We take a look at some amazing facts about the act’s acclaimed music career.
With over 30 years of amazing history behind them, we’re taking a look at the most essential facts you absolutely need to know about the Beastie Boys!
Punk Rockers at Heart
The Beastie Boys originally started out as a punk band. In fact, the name “Beastie Boys” was an homage to fellow New York hardcore band Bad Brains. Members of both acts would join forces in a supergroup called Brooklyn. This only lasted one show, but they did record some demos that have made their way online.
First Rap Album to Reach the Top
The Beastie Boys’ debut album “Licensed To Ill” had a bit of controversy surrounding it. The original title that the group proposed was “Don’t Be A Fa**ot,” which led to Def Jam Records ordering the group to apologize. The record would become the first rap album to top the Billboard charts, and it reached diamond status on March 4, 2015.
The title of their fifth studio album “Hello Nasty” came from the receptionist at their publicity firm Nasty Little Man, who would always answer the phone with “Hello Nasty.” Director JJ Abrams would pay homage to the title by naming a character Ello Asty in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Those rocking guitar riffs heard in their hit “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” were performed by Slayer guitarist Kerry King. According to producer Rick Rubin, the two outfits didn’t really like each other when they were working in the studio together. King appears in the music video for the track.
In 1983, The Beastie Boys released their debut single “Cooky Puss.” The track was named after Carvel’s Cookie Puss ice cream treat. The song features samples from Steve Martin’s “My Real Name” and the group’s own “Beastie Boys” and “Transit Cop.” It also includes prank calls to Carvel made by the group.
In 1992, The Beastie Boys started their own vanity label called Grand Royal, which was also the name of the magazine started by the group. Artists that have released material on the label include Jimmy Eat World, Atari Teenage Riot, At The Drive-In, and Sean Lennon. In 2001, the label went out of business due to increasing debt.
Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz Acts
While The Beastie Boys have had small cameos here and there, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz had the most screen time out of the group. The rapper has been featured in the films Lost Angels (1989), Roadside Prophets (1992), Godspeed (2007), and While We’re Young (2014). He is currently working on the 2017 film Golden Exits.
No Beastie Boys in Commercials
Before Adam Yauch died, he wrote in his will that no Beastie Boys music shall ever be used in any commercials. The group had a successful lawsuit against Monster for usage of their music in a video promoting Ruckus in the Rockies. They also sued Goldieblox for parodying their song “Girls” for a commercial.
The music video for their single “Intergalactic” is one of their most beloved videos, and it was a fan favorite over on MTV’s “Total Request Live.” The video is a parody of several popular Japanese Kaiju films, including “Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.” It was shot at the Shibuya and Shinjuku train stations in Japan.
Switching to Capitol
After the release of “Licensed To Ill,” the group jumped to Capitol Records. The Beastie Boys filed a lawsuit on Def Jam Records with the claim that the label withheld earnings. Def Jam fired back with their own lawsuit stating that the act owed them seven more albums. Rick Rubin even threatened to release outtakes as their second album.
The group lived with each other on two different occasions. Before they made it big, they lived in an apartment in Chinatown. When they were more financially secure, they headed to Los Angeles to live in a rented house. They called the house The G-Spot after home owners The Grassholffs.
First Major Tours
The group found themselves as the supporting act for Madonna’s Virgin Tour in 1985. They didn’t go over so well with the fans, but they found a better audience with their supporting slot on Run-DMC’s Raising Hell Tour in 1986. The following year, both rap groups would co-headline the Together Forever Tour.
Before landing Mix Master Mike in 1998, the outfit had a handful of DJs on the road with them. Under the name DJ Double R, producer Rick Rubin spun with the act from 1984 to 1985. In 1986, Doctor Dré, who is best known as the co-host of “Yo! MTV Raps,” was their DJ. From 1986 to 1997, they were joined by DJ Hurricane.
Directed by Spike Jonze, the music video for “Sabotage” was nominated for five MTV Video Music Awards in 1994. For the video, Adam Yauch and Mike D were asked to grow facial hair. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, so both rappers had to wear glue-on facial hair during the shoot.
The group recorded their 1992 album “Check Ya Head” inside G-Son Studios. This wasn’t a typical recording studio; the recording space was above a drugstore. The studio’s name G-Son came from an old sign that used to read “Gilson,” but it lost the letters i and l.
A Brooklyn Park Was Dedicated To Adam Yauch
Born and raised in Brooklyn, the city paid tribute to the late Adam Yauch with a park dedicated in his memory. Located in Brooklyn Heights, the park includes a playground that Yauch actually played on himself when he was a child growing up in the neighborhood.
The Hanson Connection
For producers Dust Brothers, “Paul’s Boutique” will go down as some of their finest work ever. The duo, which features E.Z. Mike and King Gizmo, also helped an Oklahoma pop band named Hanson break into the music scene with the track “MMMBop,” which has become one of the most beloved pop tracks of all time.
On June 2, 1994, the group released “Sure Shot,” which was the third single from their studio album “Ill Communication.” The music video for the single included Rufus, which was a dog that belonged to Mike D and his wife Tamra Davis, who directed the group’s music video for “Netty’s Girl.”
MCA the Director
Aside from his mic skills, Adam Yauch sat in the producer’s chair for the Beastie Boys’ documentaries “Awesome; I Fu**in’ Shot That!,” “Beastie Boys: Video Anthology,” and “Fight For Your Right Revisited.” He also worked on the basketball documentary “Gunning for That No. 1 Spot” and “Free Tibet.”
Mike D Designs Wallpaper
After co-owning a record label and rocking sold out shows around the world, Mike D turned his attention to designing toile wallpaper for his place. With help from Vincent J. Ficarra and Adela Qersaqi of Revolver New York, his Brooklyn Toile wallpaper captures all of the elements of Brooklyn culture over the decades.
MCA Was Diagnosed WIth Cancer In 2009
In 2009, MCA was diagnosed with cancer of the parotid gland. He underwent surgery and radiation therapy, which meant the group had to put touring on hold. The boys delayed the release of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two and the subsequent tour. MCA was also unable to appear in music videos for the album.
MCA Was Vegan In His Later Life
Following his cancer diagnosis, MCA adopted a whole foods, vegan diet. Yauch was very devoted to Buddhism and he adopted his new eating habits after his Tibetan doctors recommended it. Although Yauch described his cancer as very treatable, he fell sicker in the years following.
MCA Passed Away In 2012
Adam “MCA” Yauch passed away from complications of cancer on May 4, 2017 at 47 years old. following his death, his bandmates were devastated and disbanded.
As of 2014, the group was officially over with Mike D was saying, “We have not been able to tour since MCA, Adam Yauch, died,” he said. “We can’t make new music.”
Numerous Musicians Paid Tribute To MCA
Following his death, many musicians paid tribute to MCA. Russell Simmons of Def Jam Records said that Yauch “was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist, who I loved dearly.” Eminem said, “Adam Yauch brought a lot of positivity into the world and I think it’s obvious to anyone how big of an influence the Beastie Boys were on me and so many others.”
MCA was a Buddhist
Before his life was cut short, Adam Yauch was a practicing Buddhist. Not only did he practice Buddhism in his personal life, he became active in the Tibetan independence movement and used his fame to bring awareness to the cause. MCA created the non-profit organization the Milarepa Fund to help Tibet gain independence. He also organized benefit concerts, including the Tibetan Freedom Concert.
They Were One Of The First Bands to Adopt MP3s
Photo: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images
The Beastie Boys wanted their music to be directly and instantly available to their fan base. In 1998 they became one of the first bands to offer MP3 downloads on their website. But when they posted their live performances available for download, Capitol Records stepping in and removed them from the website.
Mike D. Was Almost Kicked Out
Can you imagine the Beastie Boys without Mike D? Well, that was almost reality. Right before Licensed to Ill was released, the band was having a conversation about whether or not to kick the musician out. Apparently, it was only by a slim margin that he stayed in the band. Considering the Beastie Boys success, it’s a good thing he stuck around.
They Had Planned To Go On Tour With Rage Against the Machine
Many fans would have been over the moon to see the Beastie Boys on tour with Rage Against the Machine, and it was actually supposed to happen. In 2000, the band made plans to co-headline the “Rhyme and Reason Tour” with Rage Against the Machine, and rapper Busta Rhymes. But just before, Mike D had a terrible bicycling accident that required surgery.
The Beastie Boys Are Feminists
While being a young man might be the focus of many of their early tracks, the Beastie Boys have been outspoken about their respect for women as they’ve gotten older. Ad-Rock ended up marrying feminist activist Kathleen Hanna while MCA issued an apology and words of support to women in the song “Sure Shot”. The lyrics include: “To all the mothers and sisters and wives and friends/ I want to offer my love and respect to the end.”
Mike D Traded NYC For Malibu
Today Mike Diamond spends most of his time on the West Coast at his Malibu beach house. The artist enjoys surfing, relaxing, and soaking up the California vibes. Don’t think he’s changed too much – he does have a recording studio in the home.
Hidden Message on the Studio Debut Album Cover
If you take a closer look at the Licensed to Ill album cover, you’ll see the Boeing 727 reads “3MTA3”. Which if you were to look at it in a mirror, spells “eat me”. It was released on November 15, 1986 by Def Jam Records.
The Beastie Boys Made the Mullet Famous
Yes, the band can even claim that without them, you may have never heard of a mullet. Which, we suppose, could be good or bad. In 1994 they released a song called “Mullet Head” before anyone knew what they were talking about. The band then published an issue of Grand Royal Magazine in 1995 that had an article about the mullet hairstyle.
Mike D The Decorator
An artist all-around, Mike D also takes an interest in interior design. Yep, in fact, he has his own line of wallpaper inspired by the French toile de jouy style, which he named Brooklyn Toile. The artist also designed the wallpaper for the Marquee nightclub in Chelsea.
MCA Had a Pseudonym, Too
The Beastie Boys all adopted their own stage names, but who is Nathanial Hornblower? That would be Adam Yauch’s alter-ego, a name that he would sometimes use when he directed music videos. He actually dressed as “Nathanial” at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1994 and caused a bit of ruckus, storming the stage to claim that Director Spike Jonze should have won Best Director for “Sabotage”.
MCA Dropped Out Of College, But They Awarded Him Anyway
Adam Yauch attended Bard College for two years before he dropped out to pursue his career in music. The college understood that just fine when he solidified himself as one of the greatest artists of all time. In 2011, Bard College awarded Yauch with the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters. It was “given in recognition of a significant contribution to the American artistic or literary heritage.”
New Jersey Or New York?!?
Ad-Rock was born and raised in Manhattan, but many tried to get him to confess that he was actually born in New Jersey! Apparently, there were internet listings that showed he was born in South Orange, New Jersey, but the artist denied the claims and insists he was born a New Yorker.
Ad-Rock began wearing a medical alert bracelet after a scary incident in which he experienced a tonic-clonic seizure, which people experience when they have epilepsy. Adam was watching TV when the seizure occurred, and he still can’t handle flash photography.
Mike D Helped Produce Portugal. The Man’s Album
Mike Diamond is still active in the music industry. The band Portugal. The Man was happy to have Mike D’s touch on their 2014 album Woodstick. Zach Carouthers, bassist for the band said of working with Mike D: “It’s been amazing… John and I pretty much became friends over the Beastie Boys and so this is a huge deal for us and it’s been so much fun working with him. He’s hilarious.”
The Boys Are Publishing A Memoir Unless Any Other Music Book
In early 2018, the two remaining Beastie Boys members announced they’re publishing a memoir. The book will chronicle the history of the hip-hop trio. The book deal originally came about in 2013 and has been in the works for the last half-decade. Mike D has said that the book will be unlike any other music book.
“To tell our story, we have to give the cultural history of where we came from,” Mike D said. “New York City in the 80s, you had all these incredible, exciting music, art, film. All of that sort of has to converge to be able to explain [our story]. We just had the good fortune of being around all of it, so I think that’s number one.”