“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, MCA, (and me) Mike D”
Beastie Boys Book, while a delightful name, is a bit of a misnomer. This isn’t a book- it’s an EXPERIENCE. Adam “Ad-Rock” (Ad-Rock) and Michael “Mike D” Diamond got together with friends, collaborators, fans, contemporaries, rivals, pop-culture icons, and countless others to tell the story of the Beastie Boys: who they are, where they came from, and why they do what they do.
This tale is more than just an origin story; it is a tribute. It is an honest, silly, sweet, over-the-top and reverent tribute to Adam “MCA” Yauch; their dearly departed partner in rhyme. Cancer stole Yauch from this world, but not before he could be the driving force behind the Beastie Boys. He was their beloved older brother, prankster-in-chief, musical madman, and Robin Hood to their Merry Men. The love that Horovitz and Diamond have for Yauch shines through every story. Losing him is almost too difficult for them to address, but they spend hours rejoicing and reminiscing around his 15-year-long practical jokes, his desire to be an enlightened member of the global community, his love of all things silly, and his ability to take the reins and create things that he had never tried before. The love that these men have for each other is far-reaching and unending; it is not surprising that they have been best friends and collaborators since their teenage years.
You don’t have to be a die-hard Beastie Boys fan to appreciate this book; it is chock-full of stories, recollections and tributes to all of the people and places that made them who they are. The also bring in other creators to add to their “B Boy Bouillabaisse”; Roy Choi builds recipes around his love for the Beastie Boys, Spike Jonze breaks down projects that he worked on with the boys and adds personal photographs, Jonathan Lethem writes about the genesis of white boys loving hip-hop, Colson Whitehead reminisces about getting into hip-hop, Ada Calhoun writes about how the Beastie Boys and feminism intersect, Luc Sante sets the stage with an early-80s New York primer, Andre Leon Talley breaks down infamous Beastie Boys fashion choices, and Amy Poehler ranks and adores their music videos.
You don’t have to be a huge fan to enjoy the book, but you MUST experience the audio version. It is, no surprises here, an absolute delight. Mike D and Ad-Rock do the majority of the reading; their delivery is oddly self-conscious considering their musical personas, but their discomfort is adorable. Mike D has the same nasal delivery that he uses on the mic, but now it feels like he’s reading from his “what I did on my summer vacation” essay in front of the whole class. It’s charming! They often interrupt and correct each other, allowing us to hear more of their brotherly vibe, while also pointing out the obvious space where their fallen brother should be. While they handled the majority of the writing, a murders row of collaborators joined the ranks for narration. Rev Run kicks off the show as a hype-man extraordinaire, and everyone from hip-hop royalty to cable news anchors perform bits of the book. Want to hear Snoop Dogg recite Beasties lyrics? How about Bette Midler? Jarvis Cocker and Elvis Costello handle all European tales, and Yoshimi O tells her own story in Japanese while Kim Gordon translates.
I was too young to be an early fan of the Beastie Boys; their first album came out when I was a year old, but I was a kid in the tri-state area during the all-powerful days of MTV, and I grew up on a steady diet of throwback video collections. I had Hello Nasty in my Walkman all through the summer of 97, and lines from “Intergalactic” filled my AIM profile during High School. My cousins are in a Beastie Boys cover band, and I have fond memories of attempting to re-create the “Sabotage” video. I rode the nostalgia wave while listening to this jam while the boys in the band reminisced about that very thing- being teenage boys in a hardcore band who grew to love hip hop and each other.
I plan on enjoying pieces of this book again; possibly if I can every go on another road trip! In the meantime, I’ll blast “Shadrach” another 300 times while I walk around my neighborhood.