What's so beastly about the Beastie Boys? Flavor. F-L-A-V-O-R. That is, full-fledged, long-lasting, ass-kicking, veracity-dropping oomph and rev.
Or something like that.
In other words, the Beastie Boys possess the secrets of street science, the poetics of po-mo pop irreverence, the craftiness of a caravan of seasoned carnies, and the courage to move the crowd in their own special hyper-informed style. They've proven what they have to prove, and they're now content to let that knowledge soulfully slip into free minds the world over.
Let's backtrack. It's been six years since the Beasties became the baddest kids on the hip-hop block. Licensed to Ill, their anthemic slab of steet credibility for suburban malcontents, rocked the masses to the tune of five million sold and set the stage for much more mega-selling beat-box activity to follow. They lived down the "white negro" tag (without downplaying their whiteness), and by default, lived up to their roles (albeit unwittingly) as the voices of a new and improved blended generation. And they lived larger than large.
Born from the ashes of NYC hard-core outfit the Young and the Useless, and propelled into reality with the aid of Def Jam/Def American guru Rick Rubin (then headquartered in an NYU dorm room), the Beastie Boys were doomed from the start to a life of utter notoriety. Their first twelve-inch, "Cookie Puss," which put the late, great Tom Carvel on the street map, not only rankled the gerontophiles, but it boasted a b-side, "Beastie Revolution," inspirational enough to provoke British Airways into appropriating it for a TV spot. The airline should've asked permission first. Then the 40 grand they eventually coughed up would not've been used to help create the monster that we've all come to know and love.
Encouraged by their success in haggling with the bigwigs, the Beasties rolled with it, straight up. They toured with Madonna on the Virgin Tour and with Run-D.M.C., and they were sued by Budweiser (for the corporate equivalent of defamation of character), got thrown out of White Castle, and were banned from both American Airlines and Holiday Inn (while essentially reliving the debauchiest Led Zep bio, Hammer of the Gods). One member, Ad Rock, if the tabloids are to be believed, even got to bed the poutiest redhead alive, Molly Ringwald. Oh, and let's not forget that the quintuple-platinum License to Ill became rap's biggest hit to that point.
Def Jam and the Beasties had a beef about (what else?) bucks, and the Boys flew the 'hood, landing in, of all places, sunny-funny Southern California. Yuck. But the solar smog must've been good for the three, because when they kicked Paul's Boutique the critics responded with a resounding hallelujah. Unfortunately, the public did not. Paul's Boutique had a new address -- on Oblivion Street.
But the Boys refused to fade. Instead they built their own studio, G-Son, complete with skate ramp and hoops court, and proceeded to get a feel for their instruments again. No longer the kings of frat rap, and having helped extinguish the Brat Pack, the trio has been distanced from New York's cold-blooded hip-hop fracas, giving them time to unwind and expand. As the ancient b-boy proverb goes: When all around you are losing their heads, check yours. And check they did.
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Check Your Head is Beastie long player number three, and it ranks among the classics of pop brilliance. It's meaty, beaty, big, and bouncy, trippy, tuneful, tasty, and tough, a supple blend of blaxploitation, metal, b-TV sound bites, and the hippest hip-hop, funkiest of the funk. The gloss has been flossed and the crank shanked. It's groove personified, textural and thumping, kinda like three alchemists squeezing a pop-culture sponge.
But what you ask? Check Your Head's been out for months now, so aren't you guys just a little late? And while we'd be stoopid to think that you haven't heard this piece of simple genius, we do wonder whether you've actually heard the damn thing. If you haven't, do. Better yet, check them in the flesh with their own sorta mini-Lollapalooza (the Rollins Band and the mighty Cypress Hill share the bill) and see what all this phunky phat phuss is about.
THE BEASTIE BOYS with the Rollins Band and Cypress Hill perform at 8:00 p.m. Saturday at the Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, 301 N Biscayne Blvd, 358-7550. Admission costs $18.