The Beastie Boys: No Crossover

Let us never forget the Beastie Boys. According to Russell Simmons’ autobiography "Life & Def," without their debut’s residual sales, Def Jam might’ve folded. Without the Beasties’ reaching audiences that Schooly D didn’t, Hip-Hop may’ve never blossomed to such mass appeal. Without the barriers broken by Brooklyn’s finest, would we march to the beat of […]

Let us never forget the Beastie Boys. According to Russell Simmons’ autobiography

"Life & Def," without their debut’s residual sales, Def

Jam might’ve folded. Without the Beasties’ reaching audiences that

Schooly D didn’t, Hip-Hop may’ve never blossomed to such mass appeal.

Without the barriers broken by Brooklyn’s finest, would we march to the

beat of a Marshall?

The Beastie Boys have always been B-Boys at heart, even if they started in

punk rock. Yes, they incorporated punk, rock and jazz into the mix, but so did

beat maestro Pete Rock. After “Sabotage,” a quick return to their

punk roots, many urban markets turned their backs on the pioneers.

On a cloudy New York afternoon, MCA, the raspy voiced, Stan Smith wearing,

gum chewing, mic rocking one-third of the Beasties, sat down and told us why

we’re dope, in between us telling him he’s dope. There was a steady

stream of consciousness as we discussed the new record, the old records, Hip-Hop,

the lack-there-of, politics and bulls**t. The album’s been working its way to the public. What’ve

you been up to?

MCA: We’ve been playing at a festival. Definitely by a long shot, the

biggest s**t we’ve ever done in Japan. We’ve gone over there and

played our own shows in clubs, but these were like stadium shows, pretty insane. Was it for benefit?

MCA: No, just a festival. Like one of those big European festivals or like

Lollapalooza. It was one day in Osaka, and one day in Tokyo. The bill swapped.

The bands that play Saturday in Tokyo, plus Sunday in Osaka and vice-versa. The staff has been talking about To the Five Boroughs

a lot…

MCA: I haven’t seen it in the bulletins. Yeah, I did. Maybe you said

like how many it sold. You check the bulletins and Ill Community? We love to hear that.

MCA: I think it’s cool. It’s given a lot of news that you don’t

[otherwise] hear. Maybe it’s because I don’t really pick up any

Hip-Hop magazines. It’s just cool to get those blasts [’s

Alert service]. It’s even been coming up with the artists we’ve

been interviewing. The whole Hip-Hop community seems to watch you quietly. Are

you pleased with the overall reception of the record?

MCA: I think so. It seems like it’s cool. I definitely like it. I feel

good about the record. I made it. It seems like people are giving me a pound

when they run into me, so that’s cool. I know it’s a topic that’s been beat to death. But

New York needs this. I think the Beastie Boys are as much a tribute to New York

as the film, Taxi Driver. After you guys had made your last few records on the

West, how did New York affect you?

MCA: I think that’s a big part of why the record is so focused on New

York in a way, because of what happened in 9/11 just makes you more retrospective

about it. I sometimes think about it almost like you sometimes have a relative

or somebody really close to you, and that person gets really sick or almost

dies or something like that, then you feel close to that person. You have all

these memories. It’s kinda like that. You get nostalgic about New York

in a way. That wasn’t even an intention when we went in [with], to make

an album about New York. That just kinda happened, then in retrospect, when

we were done with it, and we were deciding what to call the record – we

sort of noticed that that was a common thread throughout. Right around the time you left to do Paul’s Boutique,

New York changed. There’s a Duane Reade on every corner and a Starbuck’s

on every block in Manhattan now. I miss that New York. I lived vicariously through

with White Castles and rooftop parties. I know everything changes. But how do

you use the city as a muse these days?

MCA: I guess I know in a way what you mean. The thing about the city is…when

you’re in the city; you’re a part of it. We still ride the subway

all the time. I still get around on my skateboard all the time. We lived out

in L.A. for a while, and I remember feeling really disconnected out [there]

because you’re in you your own house, car, studio, swimming pool –

these contained environments, separate from other people. In New York, you’re

always kind of around other people. I guess you could separate yourself, but

[not] the way that we live. How long have you been back?

MCA: I moved out of L.A. in like ’92. I was out there for like five years. This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of Paul’s

Boutique. That’s the record I dreamed of making. A lot of us feel

that way. That’s a record that still sounds brand new. How do you treat

that record amidst your catalog?

MCA: It’s ironic in a way. I know that’s a lot of people’s

favorite record now. But at the time it came out, it’s ironic, people

weren’t feeling it or weren’t checking for it, just kinda like,

“F**k these dudes.” But I remember running into people in the street

and them being, “Man, why didn’t make something like License

to Ill, what are you giving me?” It’s interesting that now;

a lot of people are feeling it. Because it’s been three decades, do people still set certain

expectations for yourself?

MCA: Yeah, they do. Sometimes I take a look at Beastie Boys message boards.

I saw stuff on there, “Man, if they just would’ve put a couple instrumentals

on there, the album would’ve been more complete.” Some people were

mad that they thought it was short. We just talked to LL a few weeks ago. He said he was unable

to endorse either candidate. I gotta ask his Krush Groove counterpart, how do

you feel?

MCA: I just think that Bush is a really scary character. I just think we gotta

get Bush outta there. The guy is causing irreparable damage and if he’s

elected for another term, he’s gonna really go crazy. It’s a tough question. But is Kerry really the answer?

MCA: You know, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about him. I just

feel like he’s gotta be better than Bush. In a way, Kerry is somewhat

of an unknown to me. But he can’t be as nuts as Bush. This guy seems like

he’s out of his mind, like he’s bent on causing the Third World

War. Knock on wood, that won’t happen.

MCA: That’s another thing about traveling to Japan and Europe and around

the world, is just seeing how angry people in other parts of the world are at

Americans. It’s amazing, considering how much good will there was towards

America after 9/11. People were ready to forgive all of America’s past

trespasses. That’s gone. People are just mad at us. If we reelect Bush,

they’re really gonna be mad at us. The damaged state of the country, leads me to the damaged state

of Hip-Hop. You helped build and expand this, how do you feel now?

MCA: I don’t know. See, I’m not that mad at Hip-Hop. People expect

me to be madder at it than I am. I think it’s kinda cool that there’s

a lot going on. I’m not mad at the fact that it’s so in the mainstream

either. Because there’s still a lot of underground stuff going on. It’s

not like Hip-Hop’s dead, you know? I guess it just saddens me that certain artists will never get

proper appreciation.

MCA: Yeah. But I’m surprised that somebody like Jay-Z or Kanye gets as

much play as they do, or even Nas. It’s not like that s**t is soft. There’s

harder stuff out there, but I’m impressed that [these guys are still at

the top]. The way the industry is, were you at all concerned that your

single wasn’t going to get put on the radio, or your video gets played?

MCA: Yeah, definitely. For us, it’s always a bit of an uphill struggle.

We don’t get too much Urban play these days. I think people think of us

as a Rock band, especially because of “No Sleep Til’ Brooklyn”

and “Fight For Your Right to Party” and onto “Sabotage”

and that stuff. I definitely wondered what was gonna happen comin’ out

with a Hip-Hop record. Freddie Foxxx wrote an editorial on how Eminem was played on

both Urban and Rock radio, but The Roots for instance, almost exclusively get

Urban. How has that paradox sat with you?

MCA: It’s surprising. There’s things like, “Shake Yo’

Rump” that are just Hip-Hop songs. It’s more of a Hip-Hop song than

a Rock song, anyway. And they’ll play that on Classic Rock stations. It’s

weird. I’m like, “But that’s a Hip-Hop song, and you probably

wouldn’t play anybody else’s Hip-Hop song.” I don’t

know. It is some weird s**t, but I don’t know. M.O.P. did a Rock cover of “No Sleep Til’ Brooklyn”

this summer, have you heard it?

MCA: I haven’t heard it. I should check it out. I wanna hear what they

did. What have you been doing outside of music these days?

MCA: Hangin’ out with my daughter. How old?

MCA: She’s gonna be six.