There are many bands of whom I am a fan. I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan, but I didn’t grow up with them. For each of us, there are bands, artists, TV shows, and movie series that grew with us, that matured with us, that changed as we changed. When these building blocks of our entertainment culture and worldview cease to be, we feel a very real and profound sense of loss or emptiness. The band I grew up with was the Beastie Boys. I say this in an authentic sense, as the grew and developed as artists, I grew and matured (?) into who I am today.
Licensed to Ill
When Licensed to Ill was released, I was a young teen. I loved metal and loud heavy music, but I also listened to Run-DMC and Grandmaster Flash. These were new musical avenues for me, but I enjoyed and explored them all the same. However, I was mostly a spastic ADHD kid. I was the kind of kid who teachers didn’t really want in class. I was very smart, but they didn’t know how to program for me. I liked to have fun, be a goof, and generally revel in my own idiocy. That’s when I first heard Licensed to Ill and I was able to relate. This album spoke to me, with its frenetic pacing, mix of rap and metal riffs, and the overall immaturity. I would run around singing Paul Revere and Brass Monkey, and would answer teachers and coaches with lyrics (“What did you do here?” I did it like this, I did it like that, I did it with a wiffle ball bat!). I related to the Beastie Boys - they were just like me! They liked to have fun, rip it up, party, and to be goofballs.
When Paul’s Boutique was released, I was an older, less immature teen. I was more sure of myself socially, and knew where I stood socially. I was less likely to be the class clown, as I had outgrown that role, but I still liked to have fun. I still listened to the same music, but had branched out a bit. By this time I had listened to more metal, but I also expanded into Bob Marley, the Beatles, the Stones, Pink Floyd, and many other artists. Just as I outgrew my stupid “look at me” antics, so had the Beastie Boys. While nowhere near as popular as Licensed to Ill, Paul’s Boutique branched out, just as I did. The album was still loads of fun, proving that the Beastie Boys hadn’t quite fully matured either (Egg Man), and it demonstrated social and musical growth. I thought the album was an overwhelming success, a grand achievement in a musical landscape dominated by terrible songs and artists. I would listen to it over and over, picking out all the subtle nuances and intricacies, and dissect each song while never losing my pure enjoyment. I believed then, as I do now, that the genius of the entire album can be found in the absolute must-hear 12 minute opus which concludes it. Paul’s Boutique was more mature, but still reveled in its juvenile antics.
Check Your Head/Ill Communication
I was not quite old enough to legally drink when Check Your Head came out. I was in college and had found myself at my most comfortable. I was sure of myself and found the right balance of humor and seriousness. This album was a direct reflection of who and where I was. Check Your Head found the Beasties exploring their punk and hardcore roots. They were confident and cool. This continued on Ill Communication, which followed up the strides they made on Check Your Head. The Beastie Boys were older now, a bit more worldly. Both albums demonstrated musical growth, risk taking, and maturity. They mirrored where I was at the time - a guy out of college, figuring out how to be a grown up. I was in a band at the time, and we desperately wanted to make a life out of it, but we all knew it wasn’t in the cards. However, we were confident in ourselves and kept doing what we loved.
Hello Nasty/To The 5 Boroughs
Both of these albums find the Beastie Boys revisiting the music of their youth, when the burgeoning musical landscape of New York was changing. Both albums reflect the early days of rap, when it wasn’t hip hop artists, but instead MCs who were battling and rhyming. Hello Nasty started things off in 1998, and it was six long years before To The 5 Boroughs was released. Both albums mirrored my life in that right around those times I was taking stock in myself to reexamine who I was and made sure I was moving forward in the right way. I looked back at my childhood, examined who I wanted to be, and made sure I was that person going forward. There is nothing wrong with nostalgia, so long as it doesn’t dominate the present. To The The 5 Boroughs was the love letter to New York in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. What strikes me most about these two albums is that they came out in my early adulthood, but how the hell did I get here? It’s like I woke up one morning and adulthood was in full swing but nobody prepared me for it. It just happened. That’s why these two resonate with me. They were the first two real “grown up” Beastie Boys albums in my eyes.
This was an instrumental album released by the Beastie Boys. Good listening, but it doesn’t personally relate to me in any way. Maybe I was too busy at the time. Probably.
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
The swan song. The last album by the Beastie Boys. It was a return to glory, encompassing just about everything they had done in the past two decades. The album had everything on it, old school and new. It had samples, it had instruments, it had great and intelligent rhymes, as well as ridiculous ones. It was like finding the best Christmas present after you think you’ve already opened them all, and discovered it was something you didn’t realized you wanted, you needed, until just that very moment when it was revealed to you. The Beastie Boys were elder statesmen now, worldly. They were established. They were family men. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two was a celebration of all things Beastie.
Unfortunately, shortly after the album’s release, MCA died. He had been battling cancer, and sadly succumbed to it.
I took his death hard. I felt like I knew him, like I knew all of them. When Kurt Cobain died, I was bummed, but I hadn’t invested my life in his music. I invested my life in the Beastie Boys, and I didn’t even realize I had done so. I had grown as they had grown. When I was a knucklehead, they were knuckleheads. When I finally got it, so did they.
Just because you grow up doesn’t mean you have to mature.
So I ask you all to contribute to this - write your own article about a band, artist, TV series, movie series, whatever, that you grew up with.