The Beastie Boys Book: Snapshot of a Generation

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For fans of hip-hop growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, the Beastie Boys coalesced the adolescent hypertension, rage and joy of youth into music. You didn’t have to be from Brookyn, Atlanta, L.A. or a great metropolis to appreciate the over the top style and audacity of these three white kids as they invaded the predominantly African-American dominated medium of rap music and paved their own trail. Every fan has their own favorite song, track, video and album, none of which is “wrong”.

The book is written by the two surviving members of the iconic three: Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond. Part narrative, part tour diary, part guest op-ed it gleefully recounts their roots growing up in NYC, forming punk bands, falling in love with hip hop and eventually melding the two together to become a legitimate force in the music world. This book has everything you would hope for in a rock star diary. Sex, drugs and rock and roll certainly, but also a surprisingly humble perspective of the process of making music and the other talents that come and go throughout the years, influencing the creative process.

Buoyed by the astonishing success of Licensed to Ill, the group forged through three decades of music-making. Constantly exhibiting the capability of reinvention, they broke traditional barriers and lead the way with sampling and loops that had never been attempted across the genres they adapted to their unique style and sound. The artists and careers that they touched is innumerable, as attested by the appearances of celebrity narrators on their audio book.

One of the nice features of the book’s format is that it presents itself as a tapestry of stories and accounts woven together loosely to follow the lives and careers of the three. Filled with photos and illustrations that many have never seen, the book offers an unrestricted perspective of life on the road, in the studio and the various locations the group called home. Guest writers offer differing perspectives of the phenomenon which range from the amusing to the zany.

Of course no one makes their mark on the world of music, or the world for that matter, without carving their own niche. The Beastie Boys certainly did that and then some. From headlining festivals, to kickstarting a fashion line, to benefit concerts for Tibet, they never rested on their laurels. Producing albums right up to the diagnosis and treatment of Yauch’s cancer, they did it their way. If you had ever attended a live performance, it’s one of those that you had to buy merch from, save the ticket stub and talk about for days after. As creative as they were in a studio, they were electric on stage.

The Beastie Boys never made two albums that sounded the same, they always pushed their boundaries. A virtue they credit to the late Adam “MCA” Yauch who served as a U.S. ambassador to Tibet and pursued Buddhist meditation and practices throughout the end of his career. The Beastie Boys book is as much an account of growing up as it is about a crazy rap group. From the outside it looks like the party you want to be at; by the time you’ve finished it you will be glad you went.