The Rock’s Backpages Flashback: The Beasties Open Their Boutique
In memory of the great Adam Yauch, we bring you Danny "Shredder" Weizmann's terrific LA Weekly interview with the Beasties from September 1989. MCA R.I.P.——Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages
"Real life is much stranger than fiction, man." Mike D speaks from the turntables in the den of King Ad-Rock's Hollywood apartment. He haphazardly scratches a reggae dub record, repeating the same section over and over. "Jamaica, Jamaica ... J-J-Jamaica, Jamaica … Jamai-ca, Ja-mai-ca …" the record blurts over the loudspeakers. "Much stranger than fiction."
For Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA, known collectively as the Beastie Boys, the cliché about real life is an understatement. From the eye of the hurricane they have witnessed the 1980s' most intense and unpredictable phenomenon. Irreverent, obnoxious and masterfully creative, the Beastie Boys are perhaps the only recording artists to cause international chaos among press, fans and parents alike since the Sex Pistols and punk rock.
The group's first LP, Licensed to Ill, went quadruple platinum as it transformed the face of hip-hop. Nobody could have predicted the impact the Beasties would make, turning white America and the rest of the world on to rap music and jacking up the sales of baseball caps and heavy-duty car speakers. More importantly, they lived the dream of more than one pop-aspirant: they became extremely popular, as Ad-Rock puts it, for being themselves. All in wild, three-part rhyme.
Part of the appeal of the Beastie Boys is that they really didn't seem to give a hoot as they screamed about the day's adventures. In the prefab, pressure-cooked synth-fake '80s they were, and are, an isolated example of truth in artistry. After Licensed to Ill, after the controversial tours (featuring inflatable penises and girls in cages on stage) and the lawsuits from the press and the record companies and their own management, the Beasties disappeared as quickly as they exploded. It seemed that, like the Sex Pistols, they had taken their own brand of madness as far as it could go.
Today, just as they were being written off by many as a sort of comical one-line event, they're ready to explode all over again. Their new LP, Paul's Boutique, is an astonishing departure from their last, as exotic as Licensed to Ill was blatant, yet just as captivating. And it's already been seen darting up the charts. The second act of the madness is about to begin.