During the 1980s when hip hop was emerging as this alleged hardcore, ghetto-minded musical fiasco crafted and created only by African Americans, a group of teenagers from Brooklyn came along and challenged the misguided assumptions of middle and high class Americans and brought a new sense of creativity to the young genre. The Beastie Boys blended raw satire, humor and rock ‘n’ roll beats with hip hop all the while celebrating their racial and stylistic differences within a misunderstood genre that had yet to be embraced by the rest of the world.
Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, was one of the founders of the Beastie Boys and he helped to further thrust hip hop into the mainstream media and the mindsets of all cultures. Yauch, 47, who passed away May 4 from cancer, will always be remembered for his unwavering influence on hip hop music and its artists.
If you’ve ever heard a Beastie Boys record, then you should be very familiar with the raucous vocals of MCA and group members Mike “Mike D” Diamond, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz. The group was not just angry on vinyl for nothing. They transformed the stereotypical angry black man mentality that was starting to define hip hop and mixed hardcore speech with uncanny lyricism, satire, and pulsating beats.
The Beastie Boys also knew how to get a party started.
The group were one of the first artists signed to Def Jam Records in 1985, and their debut album, Licensed to Ill, was the first hip hop album to top the Billboard 200 charts. Filled with throbbing guitar riffs, a punk rock framework and 808 bass lines, their music not only spoke to rebellious, young white kids who may have come from a privileged environment, but their music connected with adolescents of all races and classes. They understood the attitudes of young people and wanted to give them music that wasn’t necessarily political or social, but that voiced their desire for freedom and the ability to be themselves without suffering criticism from authoritarians.
“Time to Get Ill” from their debut album is a clever infusion of quirky beats mastered by DJ Mike D as Ad Rock and MCA reiterate the popular slang term “ill.” Other rap joints by the group such as “Paul Revere” and their classic punk rock rap tune “Fight or your Right” further bridged the gap between hip hop and popular culture. The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year and joined fellow musical pioneers. Their impact on hip hop culture continues to soar and we have Adam Yauch, Mike Diamond, and Adam Horovitz to thank for that.
Eminem may have helped to further erase the color lines within hip hop, but lets not forget who started that race.