26 February 2019

Beatsie Boys Book

I recently finished the Beastie Boys Book (thanks, Justin) and was struck by a number of things that I choose now to share with you.

Foremost in my brain is just how lucky these dudes were. The entirety of the Beatsie career, almost, was predicated on right place-right time: growing up in the birthplace of hip-hop? Check! Being born into permissive families so you can roam NYC clubs at a young age? Check! Finding and befriending the biggest and best early hip-hop group, and their manager? Check! Finding a label during the age of record labels that would give you creative control and a bunch of money? Done deal!

There are more examples, but these guys seriously got a lot of breaks. They were basically just music nerds with the audacity to find and use the resources and talent to make a career out of this nerdery. And that's not a dig; all the breaks and opportunities don't mean a whole lot if you don't latch on to them with both fangs, or have the musicianship to make something worthwhile, which brings me to another observation: MCA.

Even though I consider myself a (quite literally) life-long fan of the Beasties, I had no idea just how important Yauch was to the process. It should've clicked with me after he died, as all of their projects basically stopped with him. But MCA was the dreamer and the doer of the band. He was always pushing them on to the next thing, finding a crazy idea and then actually following through. All three of them wrote a lot of music (Adrock especially, it seems) but in terms of direction and momentum, it was all Yauch. As Adrock and Mike D emphasize time and again, he was the type of person who found wild notions and then actually followed through on them.

Most impressive of all, to me anyways, was the relationship they had with creativity. They always seemed very comfortable with their creativity, with taking risks and running with whatever insane notion came to them (I recall, quite distinctly, after Hello Nasty came out, seeing an ACTUAL infomercial on the ACTUAL paid access channel that they produced to promote the album). I'd say this comes from: (1) starting on a path of professional creative output at an early age and (2) having each other as editors from the beginning. The three of them, along with the rest of the crew that came and went over the years, was like a petri dish of cool ideas and musical freedom and it didn't go wrong because they didn't allow it to go wrong. Because there were three of them. When others got famous and surrounded themselves with enablers, the Beastie Boys had a trinity, a triumvirate, that kept them each grounded and doing what they were supposed to be doing.

Final point: while I don't think Mr. Adam Horovitzt or Michael "Sweet Lou" Diamond are done making things, this book feels like the logical conclusion, the capstone, to the Beatsie Boy legend. As a product in the marketplace it's beautiful and Beastie-ish, full of funny essays, excellent and rare photos, playlists, gear list, and sundry else. As a bit of writing, it's heartfelt and touching, most of all for us nerds who grew up alongside these guys as the cool older brothers we never actually had.

If anything it stands as a monument to a different time and to a different people in a different stage of life when things were simpler.

No comments: