I remember hearing “Cookie Puss” on the radio for the first time in 1983 and wondering “what the fuck was that?” It defied all categories of music as I knew it…and I loved it. I immediately headed over to Sounds on St. Mark’s Place to buy the 12 inch single. I’d play it for my friends and got a kick at watching their amused and perplexed reactions. This shit was fresh - a simple keyboard and drum riff with some scratching and a taped crank call to a Carvel Ice Cream store melded into something hilarious and infectious and a lot smarter and pioneering than we knew back then - it heralded the coming of a band that played dumb but were possessed of a poetic irreverence that celebrated popular culture while subverting it - yeah, punk rock with a hip-hop sense of the beat. On the surface it sounded sloppy and off-the-cuff. In reality it was perfect. The Beastie Boys had a “fuck you” attitude wedded to a shitload of charm and craft. They elevated the ordinary with the lyrical deftness of a Jack Kerouac or Chuck Berry.
It was announced that Adam Yauch (MCA) died today. I know that what I’ve written reads like an obituary for the entire band. It’s not. Mike D and Ad-Rock are still very much alive and I suspect will continue to create new music, produce films and act, as well as taking up the torch for the plight of Tibet as Adam had done for the past two decades. When someone dies, it brings perspective and an opportunity to remind oneself of how much certain things have meant in one’s life. Adam’s death has given us the chance to appreciate what made his band so fucking amazing. Long live the Beastie Boys!
When the Beastie Boys were inducted into this year’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Chuck D was there to celebrate the legacy of one of hip hop and rock n’ rolls most innovative groups. The fact that Adam Yauch was too ill (physically speaking) to attend, made the evening all that much more significant.
Get it! Get it! You know the Beastie Boys? Can we get a ‘Yeah’ to hip-hop? Can we get a ‘Hell, yeah,’ Cleveland? Hip-hop in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before I turn it over because Def Jam, in the words of Billboard, is the last great record label. And this man behind me wants to finish it off because Chess is to electric blues as Def Jam is to hip-hop and this man helped build the house. So as a resident, can you give three and a half minutes to hip-hop and the Beastie Boys for me? Help me out ya’ll!
[raps with audience] Now here’s a little story – I’ve got to tell about three bad brothers – you know so well It started way back in history with Ad-Rock, M.C.A., and number three – Mike D.
I know I can read from the teleprompter but I wrote it down. I won’t take much of your time. There’s no adequate measure for the impact that the Beastie Boys had on rap music and yours truly, Public Enemy, during our formative years. Artistically, just like my man back here, they are our role models. They gave us some of our richest support and that’s uncharacteristic of the many advisors in this game. They led and lead by example.
The very first time the Beastie Boys headlined they toured, it was the ‘Licensed to Ill’ tour, they hit the road in January 1987. They invited us to join the bill in April 1987. The lineup was the Beastie Boys, Murphy’s Law, and Public Enemy. Watching them tear the house up just like 9,000 here tonight, tearing the house up, we learn so much the importance of a great stage show, just like my man back here.
They made us rethink what we should do on stage and affirmed for us how important our own Beastie Boys, he calls himself Flavor Flav, might be to our success. In that way, the Beastie Boys literally helped us to get our act together by living up to more than their name night after night on the road.
They were and still are one of the greatest live acts in music. How can we not learn from the way this group has challenged the dimensions in the music business? How they made up their own rules about what it means to be world class hip-hop heads.
After ‘Licensed to Ill,’ the Beasties left the Def Jam label and broke with their producer Rick Rubin and still kept it going on. Everyone wondered and how many people were pessimistic about how the hell they were going to top their multi-platinum debut, ‘Licensed to Ill.’ But their second album, ‘Paul’s Boutique,’ broke the mold, and with it they accomplished everything they hoped for.
They kept the band together through a challenging period when most groups would have broken up and gone home. They proved that they can produce themselves when too many folks wrongly believed they were puppets of marketing and production. And they insisted on maturity as a band and as human beings, when the easier thing for the band was to come back with a form that might have been ‘Licensed to Ill 2.0.’
It was the courage and self-respect that we all learned from, and so right now we make sure we never take the easy way out just to repeat a hit record for a hit record’s sake: never to compromise our faith in ourselves and our artistry. Besides they were the first hip-hop group on the World Wide Web in 1993, people.
Two more minutes for hip-hop, people. One of the most – gotta sulk it in – the third hip-hop group ever. Gotta sulk it in. One of the most admirable qualities about the Beastie Boys is that they stayed so true to the game over the years. No matter what was going on with them or hip-hop culture in general, as far as I’m concerned, I quote myself, the trip towards individualism in hip-hop have come a play. Yes, I quote myself. In a [indiscriminate] art form.
Yet through it all, the Beastie Boys remain a team of MCs, in the style of groups that inspired them – the Treacherous Three, the Crash Crew, the 2007 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five. The 2009 inductees salute Run-DMC and Jay Master Jay. And let’s not forget the DJs throughout the years Andre, Dr. Dre, my friend DJ Hurricane, Mix Master Mike, and DJ Double R better known as Rick Rubin.
And rock and roll fans’ still got to be a fan, it’s the same thing with hip-hop, the Beastie Boys have made a mountain for us all. Be together, play together, stay together, together forever. A couple of paragraphs, one more minute for hip-hop, they ain’t got nothing on me. Sulk it in hip-hop and rap music it’s been around 30 years, gotta do it.
Time and time again and in word and in practice The Beastie Boys honor hip-hop. As true musicians they move beyond drum machines and repetitive samples and sometimes pick up their own instruments. It’s their way of paying tribute to musicians who preceded them who built the foundations of hip-hop. More than many, many situations out there the Beastie boys have fought, in particular I’m thinking about somebody who wasn’t able to join us tonight, Adam Yauch, salute M.C.A. I feel him here tonight, you all feel him here tonight.
And LL got more to say about that. He belongs here with the greatest. It was M.C.A. who committed the Beastie Boys through their lengthy campaign for freedom for Tibet. The campaign that not only helped the shining light on Tibet’s struggle for independence but allowed the Beastie Boys to move from fighting for their right to party to partying for their right to fight.
Lastly, no matter what your lyrical subjects are on stage parodies, one thing the Beastie Boys never were to me was a joke. They remind us that this is a craft. We were talking about this on the side. This is a craft, this is not a hustle. And I couldn’t be more honored to induct this group along with this man behind me because they represent the best of the hip-hop/rap music idiom.
I did love and always thank them for doing a hard work of paving those roads for musicians all over the world, and to rock, rap and roll on those roads, especially before people took us seriously as artists. Rap music is here to stay because it pays homage. So, may we all be as professional, distinctive, powerful as this group coming up right here and as this man. The Beastie Boys are indeed three bad brothers that made history.