The Beastie Boys were my first exposure to pop music. I was 5 years old, digging through my older cousin Eddie’s bedroom. There were die-cast Voltrons and Transformer Dinobots. There were also stacks of Sports Illustrated magazines, including the lusty swimsuit issues. Not only was I exposed to Playboy centerfolds in that room, but cassette tapes. Eddie slid “Licensed to Ill” into his boombox and played “Girls.” The sophomoric jock chorus and bouncy beat were easy to fall in love with as a Kindergartener. “Girls to do the dishes / to clean the bathroom…” We played that misogynistic song over and over in the afternoons, then washed it down with “Brass Monkey.”
When I was a teenager in the ’90s, I was once again introduced to Beastie Boys during the West Coast period of their album efforts. I loved “Check Your Head” with the Haze art design-ed covers, but as native New Yorkers, the Beasties didn’t feel like they ever authentically fit into the Southern Californian skate/snow trends of the time. They’d wear the Arnet “Hotcakes” sunglasses with the bleached Jamie Lynn caesar haircut, but pair it with an extra medium T-shirt and bad sneakers. Aside from their XLarge affiliation, they were often associated with some random brands that weren’t as legit, but whatever. That’s neither here nor there now.
Regardless, I really did love them. How could I not, they produced friendly rap music for a white-washed Korean-American kid like me. They started off as a hardcore punk band (Egg raid on Mooojo!). And as MCA grew in political awareness and became more a socially conscious artist, I admired how he made “Free Tibet” a mainstream chant. The Beasties seemed like they were always having fun, enjoying the ride and creating. I wouldn’t say they made the most significant music in the hip-hop timeline, but it was never just about the raps. Their greatest contributions were their music videos, in my opinion. That’s what really set Beastie Boys apart.
I finally watched the Beastie Boys Story on Apple TV the other night. I was underwhelmed. Bummer. It was too self-aware, too produced. It felt like they were doing it because their fans wanted to see them together onstage again and this was a consolation prize since MCA is absent. That’s ok. They’ve earned the right to do whatever they want, however they want.
Years ago, the Beasties borrowed my DeLorean for their final music video together. It was a closed set because Adam Yauch was sick (he would soon afterwards succumb to his cancer). I got to spend a couple days onset with just them and some notable stars like Will Ferrell, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, and Elijah Wood. You can see how the entire production went down here.
Out of everything awesome and hilarious that ensued, what I’ll most remember from that video shoot was watching MCA work his directing magic, but taking moments to hang with his daughter between takes. That man saw the world, entertained and influenced generations of worldwide youth, and made a timeless body of work. That day, it was clear that his most cherished role was not as rapper, punk rocker, director or activist. It was being a father.