'Beastie Boys Story': Mike D, Ad-Rock reveal the unlikely origins of the first-ever white hip-hop group
'Tonight we're going to tell you the story of 3 kids that met, became friends and did all kinds of crazy stuff together for over 30 years' prefaced Adam Horovitz
The new Beastie Boys documentary, titled 'Beastie Boys Story' will be releasing on Apple TV+ as of April 24. The biopic is a look back at how three white Jewish boys from New York City, Michael Diamond aka Mike D, Adam Yauch aka MCA, and Adam Horovitz aka Ad-Rock became one of the biggest selling and most influential hip-hop groups of all time. It has been directed by Spike Jonze, their longtime friend and collaborator.
"Tonight we're going to tell you the story of 3 kids that met, became friends and did all kinds of crazy stuff together for over 30 years," prefaced Adam Horovitz at the start of the live documentary, which was filmed in front of their fans at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. The tale of how the Beastie Boys met is actually quite interesting and frequently hilarious, as Adam and Mike take turns telling the story of their unprecedented success while paying homage to their dear departed friend, Adam Yauch.
Their Beastie Boys origin story kicks off in old-school hip-hop style with a title card that reads, "What we're gonna do right here is go back. Way back. Back into time." The card is appropriately accompanied by some tape-reverse sound effects and a backward montage of the Beastie Boys through the years.
Mike D admitted that he was a weird, lonely teenager, who one day discovered The Clash. Hearing their revolutionary new music inspired him, because he knew there would be other weird kids out there who were into that type of music - he just had to find them. Mike recalled how he and a school friend, John Berry, went to catch a show by Bad Brains at the Botany Talkhouse. And at the show, Mike met Adam Yauch for the first time. He looked cool even back then, with a long trenchcoat on, complete with combat boots and homemade buttons.
Adam Horovitz then recalled how he met Adam Yauch, Mike and John Berry at a punk rock show (either Misfits or Circle Jerks) in 1982, and finally found a bunch of cool kids he could hang out with. That show was also where they met Kate Schellenbach, the group's original drummer.
They all started hanging out in John Berry's apartment, and given that the music scene was ripe with young bands, Adam Yauch really wanted to start a band himself. He already had a name for it - the Beastie Boys. So the first incarnation of this band contained Adam Yauch, Mike Diamond, Kate Schellenbach, and John Berry. BEASTIE was apparently an (inaccurate) acronym - it stood for "Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Inner Excellence," but at least it had a ring to it, regardless of the redundant "boys" suffix and their girl drummer.
Their first gig was at a party organized by Yauch, with Mike on vocals.
Adam Horovitz joined in 1983, after John Berry quit. The Beastie Boys at that time were as much a hardcore punk group as they were silly and irreverent, inspired by both Black Flag and Monty Python. They were obsessed with rock, soul, jazz, and reggae, but they really loved rap, even though it was rather hard to locate hip-hop LPs back then - the genre was still in its infancy.
After taking inspiration from the silly character Cooky Puss in a commercial for Carvel's ice cream, they recorded a prank phone call song called 'Cooky Puss' which was an early adopter of hip-hop techniques like sampling. The song earned them some local notoriety after their friend Dave Parsons, owner of Rat Cage Records released it on a compilation via his new record label. Surprisingly, DJs everywhere started playing the track, and the song was even mentioned on local TV after it got plugged for its funky sound in an interview with DJ Afrika Bambaataa.
Things started taking off in a big way after that. 'Sucker MC's' by Run-DMC came out in 1984, and the boys were doing everything they could to look and sound like these cool new rappers, even down to their hip clothing. They started producing their own rhymes, which although clunky at first, showed how badly they had become obsessed with hip-hop culture. Considering they had a Battle of the Bands coming up at the celebrated Studio 54, the band decided to enlist the services of a DJ.
Their quest took them to an older NYU college student who owned a DJ console and a bubble machine - Rick Rubin. Although a bit startled by Rubin's heavy metal vibe and leather clothing at first, the boys quickly became enamored by his confidence and passion for rap music, and started hanging out with him a lot, listening to records all day. With Slick Rick aka DJ Double-R in their lineup, the band started producing a medley of hardcore punk and rap in their sets.
And although they didn't realize it at the time, the 3 boys were also starting to alienate Kate because of all the time they were spending with Rick Rubin.
If Rick Rubin was like the influential older brother, his associate, Russell Simmons was the cool uncle. Together Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons started the Def Jam label (Def = definitive, Jam = record). Russell managed Run DMC and was also the brother of DJ Run, making him something of a celebrity with the 3 young wannabe rappers. After Russell was intrigued by these three white high-schoolers who listened to rap all day, the Beastie Boys started hanging out with Simmons a lot more, owing to his connections and the steady stream of hip-hop stars coming by to hang out in his office.
Even though the boys were mediocre at rapping by their own admission, Rick and Russell believed in them enough to sign them to Def Jam Records, and push them as the world's first big white rap group. At the duo's insistence, the Beastie Boys recorded their very first rap song, 'Rock Hard', but this high note also came with some sadness, as the group's new trajectory did not include Kate in their plans - they parted ways with her soon after.
Now that Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons were part of their new crew, the boys would go to clubs with them, dissect music with them, and work hard on becoming the next Run-DMC. After Simmons slyly managed to get them a touring spot with Madonna in 1985 (he pretended the Fat Boys, who he did not manage, were busy), the Beastie Boys were in for a whole new world of stardom. In a bid to be memorable on their first tour, the boys crafted a persona of rude, inconsiderate, loud-mouthed jerks, inspired no doubt by Rick Rubin's love of wrestling's villains aka heels on TV.
Buoyed by their first tour with Madonna, the trio went on to open for stars like Curtis Blow and started doing shows regularly with their new-found image and voice.
Soon, they were getting free entry into clubs, being recognized by fellow hip-hop artistes, and getting tons of attention from girls. The Beastie Boys were suddenly and officially bonafide stars and went on to create songs with turntable scratches, voice samples, and funky 808 beats like 'Hold It Now, Hit It' and later on, 'Paul Revere' and 'New Style'. They would go on to release their debut album, 'Licensed to Ill' in 1986, which launched them into mainstream popular culture.
The rest, as they say, is history.