|Star Tribune, May 8, 1992
By Jon Bream:
The Beastie Boys are back. And you've got to fight for the right to
party with them Tuesday at First Avenue if hip-hop is what you expect.
The Beasties' new album, Check Your Head, goes way beyond the
hip-hop tip as the trio, playing instruments, journeys into hard-core
rock, grunge rock, Jimmy Smith-like jazz, 1970s soul, James Brown
grooves, Funkadelic-like funk-rock as well as rap. The music begins at
5:30 p.m. with Basehead and fIREHOSE. The show is open to all ages.
Tickets cost $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Call 338-8388.
Star Tribune, May 11, 1992
By Jon Bream:
Superstardom for rap stars is short lived.
Run-D.M.C, the Beastie Boys, Tone Loc, Young MC, M.C. Hammer, Vanilla
Ice and Digital Underground were rappers who made big splashes in pop
and sold albums by the millions. The followup album for each of these
stars was, by comparison, a flop.
"Rap is definitely an area where people really like new stuff," said
the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, who is better known as MCA. "In rock,
like with the Rolling Stones, it's one of those things that the longer
you've been around, the more people want to know about you."
Rap is embraced primarily by young people, whereas some rock appeals
to both young and older music lovers. But Yauch, 27, doesn't believe
that explains why rappers don't stay on top for long. He said it has
more to do with a sense of discovery.
"It's just fun to hear somebody you've never heard before," he said
last week before a rehearsal at Paisley Park Studios, where the
Beasties were preparing for a tour that will bring them to First
The Beasties' Licensed to Ill was one of the biggest albums of 1987. It sold more than 5 million copies, spent seven weeks at No. 1 and
yielded the smash single "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To
Party!)." The rap trio's followup, Paul's Boutique, didn't include a hit single, failed to sell 1 million copies and peaked at No. 14.
"A lot of record companies look at the numbers and they'll be like,
'Your first record sold 5 million and your second record sold only
800,000. What happened? You guys fell off,'" Yauch said. "I think the
band all feels that the record (Paul's Boutique) did really well.
Most musicians I grew up playing music with would probably shoot me if
I ever complained about selling 800,000 records. It's definitely not a
number to sneeze at. Almost everyone I run into who did buy it tells
me how incredible they thought it was."
In retrospect, Licensed to Ill seems like a novelty record, the
first prominent foray by young whites into rap, a genre spawned in the
black ghettos of New York City. Three upper-middle class guys thrust
rap into the mainstream by simultaneously emulating and satirizing
black-urban culture and melding it with their childhood favorites,
punk-rock and Led Zeppelin. One critic called this frat-party album
Three years later, the Beasties followed with Paul's Boutique,
which, in retrospect, seems like art-rock. Underrated, the album was
an artful, elaborate, dizzying, hodge-podge collage of pop-culture
references and 1970s soul rendered with the studio technique known as
tape looping. "Hey Ladies," one of the songs from Boutique, ended up
on Broadway in the play "Park the Car in Harvard Yard," which was
written by Israel Horovitz, father of the Beastie Boys' Adam (Ad-Rock)
After the premature closing of Paul's Boutique, the Beasties
relocated to Los Angeles. When Yauch, Horovitz and Michael (Mike D)
Diamond began work on a third album, they decided to make an
all-instrumental recording. (All three had played in punk-rock bands
before they started rapping in the Beasties.) Serious collectors of
vinyl albums, they made the decision to go instrumental because they
had been listening to old-school jazz-funk by the likes of Jimmy
McGriff, Groove Holmes and Jimmy Smith. With Yauch on bass, Horovitz
on guitar and Diamond on drums, the Beasties began to jam in their
L.A. studio. They ended up with more than 100 hours of music on tape.
As the recording progressed, the Beasties began listening once again
to rap records by the likes of Q Tip, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy.
And they decide to add some raps--and even singing--to Check Your
Head, which was released last month.
Musically, Head is all over the spectrum, embracing old-school rap
rhymes, punk rock, grunge rock, Funkadelic funk-rock, jazzy '70s soul,
James Brown grooves, classic organ-propelled jazz and off-the-wall,
hip-hop sampling of snippets from a Bob Dylan record (they went
through one of Dylan's sons to get permission), from an ad for Blue
Nun wine and of TV comedian Jimmie Walker shouting "Dyn-o-mite."
Critics have been widely divided over the new recording, which
features 20 tracks and 53 minutes of music. The Village Voice, a
weekly New York arbiter of culture, called it a masterpiece, and New
York Newsday, a daily newspaper, called it an "instant rock and rap
classic." The Los Angeles Times said the album "sounds as if it were
recorded in a single afternoon, with time out for beer."
In concert, the Beastie Boys will play most of the material from
Check Your Head. That means they will be playing real instruments
for about half the show (along with two extra musicians). A drum
technician will sit in for Diamond when he raps or sings.
"It is possible to play (instruments) and rap at the same time," said
Yauch. "But we haven't perfected it yet."
While rehearsing at Paisley Park, the Beasties have been playing
basketball and skateboarding on the sound stage's curved walls, which
are used for special effects for shooting TV commercials.
"You can ride the walls in Prince's spot," said Yauch of the rappers'
skateboarding. "But don't let the management catch you. Do you think
those walls are really pretty strong? Because we've been skating on it
and they've been getting really uptight with us. But it's like so much
fun to skate on it. They say it's delicate and it's gonna break. I
don't think it's gonna break."
You can take the Boys out of New York (or Los Angeles) but you can't
take the Beastie out of the Boys.