Hello Nasty: The Beastie Boys Documentary

“There’s not too many times in your life you realize you are in a new chapter.” – Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz

Courtney Standley, Editor-In-Chief

RocDoc Review: BEASTIE BOYS STORY

 

“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 Adrock, M.C.A. and me, Mike D.”

Slow and Low That Is The Tempo

 

     In 1986, “You’ve Got to Fight for Your Right (to Party,)” was dubbed the party anthem for the ages mostly embraced by WASP-y, white hat, frat boys searching for a song to grant them permission to act like buffoons on Friday night. But what else do you know about the “three bad brothers you know so well?” Probably, not much, I know I didn’t. And quite honestly, I really wasn’t that interested in finding out much either.

 

 

     But when I saw a clip and watched the trailer (feature above this paragraph,) something compelled me to pay very close attention. I was instantly drawn in by the tunes I’ve come to love and recognize. It consumed me, and I knew I needed to find out the backstory story of New York City’s beloved Beastie Boys. I love music, and learning about the history of bands I’ve come to enjoy, so I was hooked from the moment I pressed play. The trio was nothing I expected in a good way. For the next two hours I sat there soaking up all the feels mixed with hysterical laughter, my jaw scraping the floor, and even ugly cried once or twice accompanied by a burning lump in my throat.

The Story of Three Best Friends Who Inspired Themselves and The World

     Like many, I own a few of their albums, and I’m familiar with their videos and radio hits, but I never paid much attention to the meat and bones of their backstory. Each “chapter” of this roc-umentary built upon the foundation that made this band so vital and influenced a whole new genre of music starting what some could consider a rap-revolution.

Beastie Boys Story Documentary
@BeastiesBoysStory official Instagram: From the rooftop at the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood. Yauch tagged this after the Paul’s Boutique release party in 89. Ad-Rock and Mike D. added their tag as well.

So, what’cha, what’cha, what’ca, want?

     It did not take long to realize these three young white Jewish boys from well-to-do families in New York City were not just any group. Sure they had more interest in attending punk rock shows and starting a band than acing their geometry exam or making the honor roll, but they were something beyond special: they were BEASTIE BOYS. And their roc-documentary, BEASTIE BOYS STORY, assisted by the world-renowned director, Spike Jonez, saw to it that their truth was captured and included the good, the bad, and the ugly, as opposed to a fictional biography written by someone else ready to romanticize the band. For this project, Adam Horowitz (Ad-Rock,) Mike Diamond (Mike D.), and Spike Jonez, accurately wrote this bittersweet tale which turned out to be a labor of love. And trust me when I share, they don’t gloss over anything, and shared with the audience their memories in a very respectful and meaningful way. BEASTIE BOYS STORY is about three friends who found each other in the restroom of a Bad Brains concert, and connected in a way to inspire each other, and then ultimately, the world.

      When Adam Horowitz, Mike Diamond, and Adam Yauch first met that night, they were three weirdos hanging out in the girl’s restroom when realized they found the squad they were desperately searching for. The three immediately became inseparable best friends, and despite their love for hardcore music, they wanted to be punk rockers in search of the quintessential good time. While they appreciated the up-and-coming rap scene, at the time, it simply seemed unattainable.

Beastie Boys Story Documentary
Apple TV+ promotional footage

     But it wasn’t. The rap scene found them. Just when the rest of the rock world was being introduced to rap superstars like Run DMC from Hollis, Queens, and Kurtis Blow from Harlem. Rap music was primarily monopolized by black artists and musicians at the time, so no one, and I mean NO ONE would ever anticipate just how much these three would explode underneath the management of Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons. But Russell and Rick knew, and the “three bad brothers” quickly became legends after signing with Def Jam Records and releasing their first single “Cookie Puss” to the local New York City deejays. It wasn’t long after they were opening for the likes of Run D.M.C. and the legendary Kurtis Blow.

 

The Beastie Boys fought and possibly died for our right to party…

Then their lives changed overnight due to the release of their first studio album, License to Ill, and their video exploded on MTV. It’s safe to say they were inescapable. Kids loved them, radio stations couldn’t keep them off the countdowns, and parents, well parents would without a doubt have much rathered the sounds of being rickrolled by Rick Astley. But kids of this generation, and even our generation to be quite frank, connect with Beastie Boys and their videos. They make us laugh, smile, and groove unlike modern bands have been able to do since. Even those who may not think they know the Beastie Boys are bound to recognize a song from any of their albums and respond with an “Oh, I know these guys.”

 

Got to do it like this like Chachi and Joanie, ’cause she’s the cheese and I’m the macaroni…

We also learned from the roc-doc a darker side of this exceptional band. After the debut of their highly successful freshman album License to Ill and tour, they decided, since their best work was not manufactured by overpaid producers and videographers, but by themselves they felt things needed to change. Quickly finding they were broke as joke, even though they sold millions of records, Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin refused to pay them in royalties. But they had no intention of stopping. They were about to reinvent themselves at one point even abandoning the rap world that placed them on the map. They returned to their punk rock roots, combining their own samples and rifts, which reshaped their sound by hitting the studio and playing their own instruments. They evolved, but it certainly wasn’t considered a “comeback,” just a hiatus because they were always considered a highly regarded staple within the music world. In fact, this rebirth proved to become one of the best albums they’ve ever produced, “Ill Communication.”

“There’s not too many times in your life you realize you are in a new chapter.” – Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz

But that is not all that changed amongst the individuals in the band. They grew up. Ad-Rock and Mike D. did not shy away from their wild reputation. During the doc, they stressed that while in the beginning, they were clearly misogynistic “party guys,” over time they grew up and began to produce their own music, seeing the world through a completely new set of eyes. The core three became genuinely embarrassed how they portrayed themselves, specifically how they demeaned women. In one of their later songs, “Sure Shot,” Adam Yauch wrote: I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women has got to be through / To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect to the end. But to their dismay, it wasn’t well-received. When a famous publication accused them of being hypocritical, Adam Horowitz replied with something that personally hit home and I will never forget: “I’d rather be a hypocrite than never change.”  This is one of the best Instagram clips I have ever seen.

     This documentary has taken over three decades to finally sit down and write BEASTIE BOYS STORY does not have to do with the band dismantling because of a slew of disappointing record sales. The end of the band was cemented by tragedy and certainly not the demise of their creativity or lack of album sales. Beasties Boys never recorded or played again because they tragically lost, Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA,) to cancer, and mutually agreed the BEASTIE BOYS would rest in peace forever. In fact, one of the most heartfelt moments in the doc was during a moment where Ad-Rock sat at the edge of the stage with the house light dimmed and shared the story of the very last time the Beasties Boys played life for a studio audience. You could feel the somber tone and before you even heard the words whisper from his lips, you knew he was going to properly address his “brother” Adam Yauch by the tears in his eyes, and just how special he was to them, the fans, and to the world. MCA was the heart and soul of the band. The creative genius behind the hits, the samples, and the renaissance of the band. When Adam Yauch passed, the world lost one of the most passionate, caring, and innovative musicians that had ever lived.

 

In the famous words of MCA Adam Yauch, “I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce” And that was Adam Yauch.

 

One of the most important inside stories we learned during BEASTIE BOYS STORY was towards the end of his life, Adam Yauch, became very spiritual. Not so much in the sense of finding a purpose or finding God or Jesus, but experiencing everything God has created. He was perpetually on the search for who he considered, “good people.” Without becoming too serious or obsessive about this quest, one of his favorite souls he met along his journey was the Dali Lama. When bandmate Adam Horowitz asked him why he enjoyed spending time with the Dali Lama so much, he said, “Because he’s a really funny guy!” After that meeting, Yauch formed the Tibetian Freedom Concert to support Tibetian Independence. It didn’t take much persuasion, as bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Björk, Rage Against the Machine, A Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul signed on drawing 100,000 people and raised over $800,000 for Tibetan and social justice causes. Yearly concerts continued featuring The Smashing Pumpkins, Pavement, Biz Markie, Sonic Youth, Beck, Foo Fighters, Fugees, U2, Alanis Morissette, Radiohead, Rancid, R.E.M. members of Pearl Jam, No Doubt, and the Dali Lama himself.

     Watching how these three changed from being 14-year-old punk boys deeply drawn to New York City’s hardcore punk scene, to now grown men with children of their own, pulls at one’s heartstrings. However, when the topic of Adam Yauch’s death is addressed it takes the audience on a whole new respectful journey. I can confidently say it was much more profound than I think any of us would have ever anticipated. The Beastie Boys weren’t a bunch of punk NYC rap-wannabes they were once perceived as. They were creative geniuses, and that’s not an opinion, it is a fact.

Beastie Boys Story: Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 59 minutes.

In Memorium of Adam “M.C.A.” Yauch

Beastie Boys Adam Yauch "I Love You"
Promotional Image courtesy of BEASTIE BOYS STORY