I Wanna be Literated #202

I Wanna be Literated #202

Monday, 01 April 2019

Beastie Boys Book
by Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz

How are you going to write a Beastie Boys autobiography without Adam Yauch? That’s the first thing Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond bring up in the Beastie Boys Book. Of course, the group was greater than the sum of its parts, but Yauch might have been the creative fuel and driving force behind the band. That’s the picture the band paints of him at least. But the story must be told, and though a vital element is missing, told it shall be.

The Beastie Boys were the first rap group a white kid like me was allowed to listen to in high school without being called a poser. Hello Nasty would be my jam, and I’m glad Adrock thinks it’s their best album. It’s missing some of the all-time greats like Sabotage and Watcha Want, but it’s got some incredible cuts as well. I haven’t been able to stop singing Intergalactic to myself since I started reading this book. And so many years later, it says something about the Beastie Boys that I still find their music worth revisiting and rediscovering. I might be appreciating it more as I get older as my constant viewing of their Watcha Want performance on Fallon will attest.

The Beastie Boys Book is a massive leviathan. I thought it would be a quick read-through full of filler, but no. Switching back and forth between Adrock and Mike D, it goes way back focusing heavily on the early days of the group, their beginnings as a hardcore band and finding the light in Hip Hop. It’s easy to label the Beasties as “just white boys” but they were pulling from a primary source at the time (NYC in the early 80s) and were hanging with and being endorsed by the originators. Sure they made some super dumb moves both in fashion and musically (as they will admit over and over again), but once the band started looking inward and focusing on the music, the creativity it unleashed was pretty incredible. Once they took their music seriously it became clear that this group wasn’t a one-hit wonder.

The Beastie Boys Book is full of stories documenting the progression of the band, their early collaborations with Rick Rubin, their move to LA and back to New York, as well as the characters that played a role in their lives and just random funny things that happened along the way. We get to hear from their first drummer Kate and her hate of Rick Rubin, Spike Jonze and his encounter with the band at the Beasties’ headquarters, Amy Poehler and her breakdown of the Beastie Boys videos, and their first Webmaster on how exactly he got that position. And thankfully, Kathleen Hanna wasn’t asked for her opinion on something for once.

Along with the stories, The Beastie Boys Book also has some great design, loaded with pictures and side-notes, and random pieces like a fake story on Cookie Puss and Nathaniel Hornblower (MCA’s alter ego) by Wes Anderson. Also, some random recipes from Roy Choy, because as the Beasties said, they spent so much time eating together that food became a defining characteristic of the band. Really, the Beastie Boys Book looks like a very thoroughly put-together magazine full of information and eye candy and random asides.

I would have liked the book not to have focused so heavily on just the beginnings of the band, and some of the fake stories (like Sasquatch and Hornblower) are a bit dumb and painfully inessential (but the Beasties had a tendency always to fuck with us), but the final product is informative, thorough and very fun. It’s also an homage to their deceased comrade. The Beastie Boys Book makes it clear that the band was fueled by love, both for their music and each other.

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