Did you know that all three members of the Beastie Boys, Michael “Mike D” Diamond (vocals/drums), Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz (vocals/guitar) and Adam “MCA” Yauch (vocals/bass), are Jewish? So is their D.J. Michael “Mix Master Mike” Schwartz! As unlikely as it may seem, these three Jewish kids from Manhattan and Brooklyn were the first rap group to top the Billboard Top 100, and are still headlining artists after a 20-plus-year career. They have also made their mark on the American cultural landscape with their adoption of vintage fashion, kitsch culture, genre-bending musical exploration and social causes.
The Beasties started out as a hardcore punk band in 1979, who later began to frequent hip-hop dance clubs in the early ‘80s when hip-hop began to explode in NYC. After creating a hip-hop track based on a prank phone call, they captured the attention of Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin. With Rubin, the group would record the landmark rap/rock record Licensed to Ill, which yielded the classics, “Paul Revere,” “Brass Monkey” and the mock anthem, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right to Party.”
Following the wild success of License to Ill, tempered by its accompanying controversy, the group relocated to Los Angeles, dropped their record label and released the surprisingly smart, funny and sonically-layered Paul’s Boutique in 1989. The record failed to recapture the stunning success of their debut, but over time would be seen as one of the most influential hop-hop records of the era. After the perceived failure of Paul’s Boutique, the group re-acclimated themselves with their instruments and embarked on a two-year jam session that resulted in 1992’s Check Your Head. The album returned to the group Billboard Top 10 on the strength of the single “So What’cha Want” and the record was praised by critics and fans alike for its combination of jazz/funk instrumentals, hip-hop and punk. The group retained the same formula and received even bigger success with the multi-platinum, Ill Communication in 1994 which yielded the hits “Sabotage” and “Sure Shot.”
After a four-year hiatus, the group returned with the spacey #1 album, Hello Nasty, featuring “Intergalactic” and “Body Movin’” and headlined stadium tours highlighted by the prowess of their new D.J., Mix Master Mike. After another long break, in 2004, the group returned to #1 with the all-hip-hop To the 5 Boroughs (“Ch-Check it Out,” “Triple Trouble”) and later released the all-instrumental, Grammy Award-winning, The Mix-Up in 2007. In 2009, the group will headline various music festivals around the globe and are set the release a new record tentatively titled, Tadlock’s Glasses.
Did You Know?
- Ad-Rock is the son off acclaimed playwright Israel Horovitz (Line, Park Your Car in Harvard Yard, The Indian Wants the Bronx).
- In 1985, the Beasties were the opening act on Madonna’s Virgin Tour.
- Mike D’s wife is film director Tamra Davis (Billy Madison, CB4, Half Baked). Watch her make banana nut bread on her online cooking show.