The Beastie Boys are an American hip hop music group originating from New York City. Its main members are Mike D (real name Michael Diamond), MCA (Adam Yauch) and Adrock (Adam Horovitz), but several other musicians have played with the group for a long time.
The band originally started out playing hardcore punk, but switched to hip-hop in 1984. Their first album in that style, Licensed To Ill, reached number one in the US album charts, the first rap record to do so. The record gave the Beastie Boys a name as a party band, which was reinforced by their ridiculous behaviour and controversial live shows. After turning more serious in their second album, they started playing the instruments themselves, and established their own record company Grand Royal in the early 1990s. All of their three albums released since 1994 (Ill Communication, Hello Nasty and To The 5 Boroughs) were best-sellers, each reaching #1 in the American album charts.
The Beastie Boys were the first successful white rap band, and are the one of the few acts from the early days of hip-hop that still enjoy major successes. Their rock and punk influenced rap has influenced artists both in and outside of the hip-hop scene, as illustrated by music channel VH1's list of greatest hip hop artists, where the Beastie Boys are ranked in eleventh place.
The Beastie Boys were formed in New York City in 1981 as a hardcore punk band. The name "Beastie" originally stood for "Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Inner Excellence," though some have claimed it actually stood for "Boys Entering Altered States To Induce Ecstasy." (The term "beastie" was already in use as slang for a person resembling or behaving like an animal, particularly during sex). Its original line-up consisted of Adam Yauch on bass, Kate Schellenbach on drums, John Berry on guitar and Michael Diamond on vocals. Their first gig was at Berry's house on Yauch's 17th birthday party. The band quickly earned support slots for Bad Brains and Reagan Youth at venues such as CBGB and Max's Kansas City playing at the latter venue on its closing night.
That same year, the Beastie Boys's recorded the 7" EP "Pollywog Stew" at the 171A studios (used by the Bad Brains). It was released on Ratcage Records , but attracted little interest.
John Berry left the group (later forming Thwig ) and was replaced by Horovitz who had previously played in punk band The Young and the Useless in 1983. The band also performed its first rap track "Cooky Puss" (based on a prank call by the group to Carvel Ice Cream ) with the song becoming a hit in New York underground dance clubs on its release by Ratcage.
Licensed to Ill - 1984-1988
Influenced by Rick Rubin, the Beastie Boys changed from a punk rock outfit to a three-man hip hop crew. The band released the 12" single "Rock Hard" in 1984, the second record released by Def Jam, credited to Rubin as producer. Kate Schellenbach left the band in this period due to musical differences over the direction of the band, going on to join Luscious Jackson.
"Rock Hard" has been removed from print and is considered a rare collector's item. The song was to reappear on their 1999 The Sounds of Science anthology, but was removed when AC/DC refused permission to use a sample from the song "Back in Black." Beastie Boys member Mike D reportedly talked to the band personally on the phone: "AC/DC could not get with the sample concept. They were just like, ‘Nothing against you guys, but we just don’t endorse sampling.’"
In 1985, the band supported Madonna on her North American Virgin tour. Later in the year, the group was on the Raising Hell tour with Run DMC, Whodini, LL Cool J and the Timex Social Club. With their exposure on this tour, the track "Hold It, Now Hit It" made Billboard's national R&B and dance charts. The track "She's on It" from the Krush Groove soundtrack continued in a rap/metal vein while a double A-side 12" "Paul Revere/The New Style" was a released at the end of the year and became another R&B/dance hit.
The band recorded Licensed to Ill in 1986 and released it at the end of the year. It became a smash success becoming the best selling rap album of the 1980s and the first rap album to go #1 on the Billboard album chart, staying there for five weeks. It also reached #2 on the Urban album charts. It was Columbia Records' fastest selling debut record to that point and sold over five million albums.
The first single from the album "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)" reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was later named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. "Brass Monkey", named after the cocktail, also reached #48 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other significant tracks from the album include "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" and "Posse In Effect". Kerry King of Slayer played guitar on "No Sleep Til Brooklyn".
The band toured the Licensed to Ill tour around the world. This tour was controversial, featuring female members of the crowd dancing in cages and a giant motorized inflatable penis similar to one used by The Rolling Stones in the 1970s. This tour was troubled by lawsuits and arrests with the band accused of provoking the crowd. In the UK, alleged insults supposedly aimed at leukemia victims almost resulted in the band being kicked out of the country, although the Beastie Boys maintain that the incident was a beat up of the band politely declining to sign an autograph.
British comedian Tony Hawks recorded the song "Stutter Rap" under the pseudonym of "Morris Minor and the Majors" as a send up of the Beastie Boys' then image. It became a major hit in the UK reaching #4 and #1 in Australia.
The Sounds of Science - 1988-1994
The group matured with their second album, Paul's Boutique, produced mainly by the Dust Brothers and recorded in 1988. This extremely sample-heavy oeuvre is still considered one of the best hip hop and rock albums ever and the Beastie Boys' best work.
The album was released in 1989 by Capitol Records and failed to match the sales of Licensed to Ill reaching #14 on the Billboard 200 and number 10 on the Billboard R&B charts. The lead single "Hey Ladies" reached #36 on the Billboard 100 and #10 on the R&B charts. A double A-side 12" of "Hey Ladies/Shake Your Rump" reached the album charts. Rolling Stone would describe it as "the Pet Sounds/Dark Side of the Moon of hip hop" and Paul's Boutique would eventually sell a million albums.
The follow-up, Check Your Head, was recorded in the band's own "G-Son" studio in Atwater Village, California and released on its Grand Royal record label. The band played the instruments on this album, with Mike D on drums, Yauch on bass, Horovitz on guitar and Mark Ramos Nishita ("Keyboard Money Mark") on keyboards. Mario Caldato Jr. ("Mario C") produced, and would become a longtime collaborator.
Check Your Head was released in 1992 and went double platinum in the US, reaching a peak of #10 on the Billboard 200. The first single "So What'cha Want" reached #43 on the Billboard 100 and made both the urban and modern rock charts. "Pass the Mic" became a hit in dance clubs. The album also introduced a more experimental direction, with funk and jazz inspired songs, including "Lighten Up" and "Something's Got To Give." Hardcore punk even made its reappearance with "Time For Livin'."
The Beastie Boys signed an eclectic roster of artists to the Grand Royal label including Luscious Jackson featuring former Beastie drummer Kate Schellenbach, Sean Lennon, promising Australian artist Ben Lee, and the Japanese duo Cibo Matto. The Beastie Boys owned Grand Royal Records until 2001 when it was then sold for financial reasons. Grand Royal's first independent release was Luscious Jackson's album In Search Of Manny in 1993.
The Beastie Boys also published Grand Royal Magazine , with the first edition in 1993 featuring a cover story on Bruce Lee, artwork by George Clinton, and interviews with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and A Tribe Called Quest MC Q-Tip. The 1995 issue of the magazine contained the first print reference of the expression "mullet" to describe the hairstyle.
Ill Communication - 1994-2001
Ill Communication, released in 1994, saw the Beastie Boys' return to the top of the Billboard album charts and reached #2 on the R&B/ hip hop album chart. The single "Sabotage" became a hit on the modern rock charts and the Spike Jonze video received extensive play on MTV. "Get It Together" reached Top Ten of the Billboard dance charts and also became an urban hit while "Sure Shot" was a dance hit. Some Old Bullshit, featuring the bands early independent material, made #50 on the Billboard independent charts.
The Beastie Boys headlined at Lollapalooza in 1994 together with the Smashing Pumpkins. In addition, the band performed three concerts in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C. to raise money for the Milarepa Fund and dedicated the royalties from "Shambala" and "Bodhisattva Vow" from the Ill Communication album to the cause. The Milarepa Fund aims to raise awareness of Tibetan human rights issues and the exile of the Dalai Lama. In 1996, Yauch organized the Tibetan Freedom Concert , a two-day festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, attracting 100,000 people. The Tibetan Freedom Concert in 1997 was held at Randall's Island in New York, New York.
In 1995, the popularity of the Beastie Boys was underlined when tickets for an arena tour went on sale in the US and sold out within minutes. A dollar from each ticket sold went to local charities. The Beastie Boys toured South America and Southeast Asia for the first time. The band also released Aglio e Olio, a collection of eight songs lasting for just eleven minutes harking back to their punk roots, in 1995. The In Sound From Way Out!, a collection of jazz/funk instrumentals, was released on Grand Royal in 1996 with the title and artwork the same as a groundbreaking album by electronic music pioneers Perrey and Kingsley.
The Beastie Boys returned to New York City in 1997 and worked on their studio tans in producing Hello Nasty. Released July 14, 1998 Hello Nasty clocked first week sales of nearly 700,000 in the U.S. and went straight in at #1 in the US, the UK, Germany, Australia, Holland, New Zealand, and Sweden, #2 in Canada and Japan, and Top Ten in Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Finland, France, and Israel.
The lead single "Intergalactic" reached the Canadian Top Ten, the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, the Top 40 in Australia, #4 on the Billboard modern rock chart, and #6 on the Billboard dance chart. The Beastie Boys won a MTV Video Music Award for Best Hip Hop Video for the clip "Intergalactic" in 1999, and a "Video Vanguard" award for Lifetime Achievement in 1998. "Body Movin" hit the Billboard modern rock and dance charts and the Australian Top 40. "The Negotiation Limerick File" also made the Billboard modern rock charts.
The Beastie Boys won two awards in the Grammy Awards of 1999: Hello Nasty for Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and "Intergalactic" for Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. This was the first, and as of 2004, only time that a band has won awards in both rap and alternative categories.
The Beastie Boys started an arena tour in 1998 and tried to make live downloads available for their fans but were temporarily thwarted when Capitol Records removed them from the website. They tried to make downloads available each night but were not always successful. The Wall Street Journal published an article on the band's efforts.
The 1999 Tibetan Freedom Concerts featured concerts at East Troy, Wisconsin, Sydney, Tokyo and Amsterdam. On 28 September 1999, the Beastie Boys joined Elvis Costello to play "Radio, Radio" on the 25th anniversary of Saturday Night Live.
The Beastie Boys released The Sounds of Science, a two-CD compilation of their works in 1999. This album reached #19 on the Billboard 200, #18 in Canada, #6 on the Internet sales charts, and #14 on the R&B/Hip Hop charts. The one new song, the single "Alive," reached #11 on the Modern Rock charts.
In 2000, the Beastie Boys had planned to headline the "Rhyme and Reason" tour with Rage Against the Machine, but the tour was cancelled when drummer Mike D suffered a serious injury due to a bicycle accident. The official diagnosis was 5th degree acromioclavicular joint dislocation, meaning he needed surgery and extensive rehabilitation.
To The 5 Boroughs - 2001-present
The Beastie Boys owned their own record label, Grand Royal , for eight years before they decided to close it down in 2001 due to financial reasons. The band increased its level of leftwing political activism after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The band organized and headlined the New Yorkers Against Violence on October 28-29, 2001. Funds from the concert went towards the New York Women's Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) . The line-up included the Strokes, the B-52's, Cibo Matto, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan , Mos Def, N.E.R.D, Rival Schools, the Roots, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Saul Williams, Stretch Armstrong, Afrika Bambaataa, and a surprise two-song set by Moby and Michael Stipe (featuring an impromptu cameo by Bono). Mike D is also a major advocate of the environmental activist program Save Our Environment, whose cause includes the opposition of drilling for oil in the state of Alaska.
In 2002, the Beastie Boys started building a new studio facility, Oscilloscope, in downtown Manhattan, New York and started work on a new album. The band released a protest song, "In A World Gone Mad", against the 2003 Iraq war as a free download on its website, the Milarepa website, the MTV website, MoveOn.org, and Win Without War . It was the most downloaded track during April 2003. The 19th and 20th Tibetan Freedom Concerts were held in Tokyo and Taipei - the Beastie Boys' first Taiwan appearance. The Beastie Boys also headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
To The 5 Boroughs, was released worldwide on 15 June 2004, the first album the Beastie Boys produced themselves. It reached #1 on the Billboard album charts, #2 in the UK and Australia, and #3 in Germany. The first single from the album, "Ch-Check It Out", has reached #1 in Canada, #2 on the US modern rock chart and world Internet download charts, and #3 on a composite world modern rock chart.
The album was the cause of some controversy with allegations that it installed spyware when inserted into the CD-ROM of a computer.  The band has denied this allegation, defending that there is no copy protection software on the albums sold in the US and UK. While there is Macrovision's CDS-200 copy protection software installed on European copies of the album, this is standard practice for all European releases on EMI/Capitol Records released in Europe and it does not install spyware or any form of permanent software.
Adam "Adrock" Horowitz's side project BS2000, with Amery "Awol" Smith, released "Simply Mortified" in 2001.
The Beastie Boys rated #11 on VH1's list of greatest hip hop artists . They were certainly the first white rappers of any significance, paving the way for others such as Eminem. Licensed to Ill was the first rap album to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 charts, and together with the success of Run-DMC's Raising Hell album in 1986, marked a breakthrough for rap music. Licensed to Ill was the most successful album released by any rap artist in the 1980s.
The Beastie Boys are equally influential in rock music history. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acknowledged "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)" as one of the 500 most influential tracks in the history of rock music being a major influence on rapcore and incorporation of hip hop into music. The Beastie Boys influence can be seen in many nu metal acts featuring a DJ.
The Beastie Boys were leaders in the use of sampling with Paul's Boutique being notable for its effective use of samples. The influence of this album can be seen for example on Beck's 1996 Odelay album (also produced by the Dust Brothers).
The group is also known for extending Hip Hop to its fullest potential. Hip Hop is based upon incorporating many different cultures into one type of music. The Beastie Boys have recorded rap songs throughout their entire career, but also have recorded punk (first appearing before Licensed to Ill, then resurfacing in Check Your Head through Ill Communication), heavy metal (Check Your Head through Ill Communication), jazz funk (Check Your Head through Hello Nasty) and softly sung, often electronic tracks (Hello Nasty).
The chart consistency of the Beastie Boys must be acknowledged. Since 1986, they have had four albums reach the top of the Billboard album charts: Licensed to Ill, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty and To The 5 Boroughs. Few, if any, of the Beastie Boys' contemporaries have matched this feat.
As of 2004, the Beastie Boys consists of:
This has been the band's line up for every album it has recorded. Kate Schellenbach (later of Luscious Jackson) on drums and John Berry on guitar were members of the original band but had left the band by 1984. Horovitz replaced Berry as a member of the group in 1983.
Some band members may have attended the high school of Yeshiva University when they were younger. 
Frequent contributors to the band include:
- Michael Schwartz aka Mixmaster Mike (DJ)
- Mario Caldato Junior aka Mario C (producer)
- Money Mark Ramos-Nishita (keyboards, vocals, carpentry)
- Wendell Fite aka DJ Hurricane (DJ)
- Amery Smith aka AWOL (drums)
In addition, dvd archivists the Criterion Collection honored the 'Boys by creating a two-disc video set with almost all of the band's videos on it. A unique feature to the dvds was the ability to switch audio tracks (and, in some cases, camera angles) for many of the videos in any number of combinations, thus creating a wide variety of videos from the same base song.
- 1987 "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)" #7 US, #11 UK
- 1987 "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" #14 UK
- 1987 "She's on It" #10 UK
- 1987 "Girls/She's Crafty" #34 UK
- 1989 "Hey Ladies" #36 US
- 1992 "So What'cha Want"
- 1994 "Get It Together/Sabotage" #19 UK
- 1994 "Sure Shot" #27 UK
- 1998 "Intergalactic" #28 US, #5 UK
- 1998 "Body Movin'" #15 UK
- 1999 "Remote Control/3 MCs and 1 DJ" #21 UK
- 1999 "Alive" #28 UK
- 2004 "Ch-Check It Out" #8 UK
- 2004 "Triple Trouble" #37 UK
- 2004 "Right Right Now Now" US
- 2004 "An Open Letter To NYC" #38 UK