This week’s Heal Yourself And Move—a biweekly column about dance and electronic music, written by Maryland’s finest, Andrew Field Pickering—looks at the The Beastie Boys' influence on just about everything that's been happening in music since their inception. Seriously.
In writing this column, I dedicated myself to listing every thing that I heard about through the Beastie Boys. The list went like this, typed out in a long note on my phone:
"808 drums (read about them using one), dub music, Lee Perry, King Tubby, Eugene McDaniels, Boredoms, Japanese contemporary music in general, Stereolab, Cornelius, Spike Jonze, sleaze movie archetypes (via the "Hey Ladies" and "Sabotage" videos), Cypress Hill, Biz Markie, the fact that people figure out ways to record their drums like John Bonham (which somehow comes up all the time in my various musical conversations with people. Why? I dunno), home studios, the Space Echo, Towa Tei, turntablism/scratching culture, vinyl digging culture, sampling culture, Buddy Rich, skateboard culture, Glen E. Friedman, Bad Brains, early NYHC like The Mob and Agnostic Front and by extension hardcore, Ione Skye, Willie Bobo, Jimmy Smith, Taxi Driver, bleached hair on rap-inclined white dudes, rap-inclined white dudes in general, Fender Rhodes, specific graffiti culture/graffiti heroes a la Dondi et al, Burundi Black."
For some reason (no reason) I've been thinking about this a lot; I've recently been struck by the extent of their influence on me and my taste, and American music culture in general too. Not to mention that the myriad of influences that I'm inspired by for this column can probably be, in a molecular way, traced back to my undying love for the Beastie Boys in middle school and high school. Some of y'all might not remember how funky this shit is.
I certainly came of musical age in the midst of the grand hybrid vibes of the '90s, which were probably a reflection of the '80s, which were probably yadda yadda yadda. I lived in the woods when I was a kid. I never had cable, so my grandparents' TV became a big deal for me (before freakier, more underground music took over) every summer; I can see flashes of the San Francisco Real World, Snoop's Penguins jersey, Trent Reznor biting a nipple or some shit, Mariah Carey on a ferris wheel, "Groove Is In The Heart," "Sabotage." At a certain point, as a pre-teen human crossroads, The Beastie Boys snatched on to my brain at the stem and became a trio of (hugely popular, mainstream, accessible) dudes I could turn to for interesting shit as small as "OK wait wait who is Cibo Matto?" or big shit like their Liquid Liquid reissue.
I came to know about sampling ("White...liiiiiiiines"), classic NY dancefloor material, the revered NYC scene of old, and the fact that punk ever mixed with funkiness, all in one go. So essential. And from there I discovered more and more weird NYC dance records, and even more and more music by the Liquid Liquid extended family.
In '09, the label Claremont 56 put out some unreleased material by Fist of Facts, which was a collab between Sal Principato of Liquid Liquid and one Ken Man Caldiera, with live performances that could be with or without any number of backup players/computers. The record is killer, a must grip (i need to get one), but in the meantime this video is a really inspiring performance mixed with really inspiring beach shots (I'm trapped in a fucking blizzard in Maryland).
So glad the user that posted this video is named "Drexciyian"
Beastie Boy linear notes and interviews, and friends' copies of Grand Royal magazine (I never scooped any), were a huge source for these little revelations I had about music growing up. I heard about Bad Brains through them sampling it on "Pass The Mic". Grand Royal was just so consistent as a vibe, the bad stuff they put out didn't even register to me. And the gooooood shit like Liquid Liquid or Techno Animal (later to spawn The Bug) made me look harder for more music, funkier music, crazier music. One could make an argument that a lot of the "hippest" forms/bands/classics of modern music have roots in being shouted out by the Beastie Boys in mainstream media before a lot of younger music fans at that time had even heard about obscure funk records, dub, or Boredoms.
Further down the Beastie Boy culture family tree, this edit/mix of "Burundi Black" hit me hard a few years ago. Upon hearing this at a party, I had another one of the bricks the Boys had stacked to make Paul's Boutique. Such a hard sample. Definitely an anthem for cosmic disco freaks. This song strikes me because its great to get to a song two different ways, you know? Like, if I veered off some sort of other taste path thru my teen love of Grand Royal, I might be neck deep in oddball vinyl pressings of Japanese pop records. But nah, this Burundi track registered, accompanied by those sick "AH AH YEAH" samples in "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" when I was thirteen, and then again ten years later in its original form. Sick cut.
Such is the real lasting power of the Beastie Boys; they were the first group I looked to as curators, through the samples they used in their records, or in old Spin interviews (middle school!) when they offered up a myriad of tight options. You can trace the spread of curatorial entities like Grand Royal magazine out into our modern mp3 blogs, where specific genres or proven tastemakers offer up songs to download every day. They are certainly not the champions of this, but I felt like they cared a lot more to make it an aspect of their career than a lot of popular artists back in the '90s. Chili from TLC never told us about Buddhism.