Originally hardcore, the Beastie Boys found fame as the first crossover white rap act. Formed in New York City, members John Berry and Kate Shellenbach departed after the group’s first release, ‘Pollywog Stew,’ leaving Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, Mike ‘D’ Diamond, and guitarist Adam ‘Ad Rock’ Horovitz. They all came from privileged middle class backgrounds, Horovitz the son of dramatist Israel Horwitz. They continued with the Cookie Puss EP, in which they latched onto the underground rap phenomenon. Friend and sometime band member Rick Rubin signed them to his fledgling Def Jam label. Their debut album, Licensed To Ill, revealed a collision of bad attitudes, spearheaded by the raucous single, ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’, and samples of everything from Led Zeppelinto the theme to Mister Ed. The single was an international smash, and the album became the first rap album to top the US charts. By the time follow-ups ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ and ‘She’s On It’ charted, the band had become media favorites. However, friction grew between the group and Def Jam, the former accusing the latter of withholding royalties, the latter accusing the former of withholding a follow-up album. By the time the band reassembled in 1989, the public had largely forgotten about them. Rap’s ante had been significantly raised by the arrival of Public Enemy and NWA . Paul’s Boutique, coproduced by the Dust Brothers, remains one of the genre’s most overlooked pieces, a complex reflection of pop culture which is infinitely subtler than their debut. Leaving their adolescent fixations behind, the rhymes plundered cult fiction through to The Old Testament. Check Your Head saw them returning, partially, to their thrash roots, reverting to a guitar, bass and drums format. In the meantime, the Beasties had invested wisely, setting up their own magazine, studio and label, Grand Royal. This has boasted releases by Luscious Jackson and Sean Lennon. By the early 90s, Yauch had become a Buddhist, speaking out in the press against US trade links with China, because of that country’s annexation of Tibet. He set up the Milarepa Fund to raise funds and public awareness of the Tibet situation and organized annual Tibetan Freedom Concerts. Ill Communication continued the Beasties’ inspired thuggism, featuring Biz Markie (also onCheck Your Head) andA Tribe Called Quest’s Q Tip. The In Sound From Way Out comprised b-sides and instrumental takes.
The Beasties’ followed up with one of their best efforts in to date in 1998, Hello Nasty. Hello Nasty featured the hit single “Intergalactic”.