Music History

Check Your Head: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About the Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys facts

Illustration by Dan Redding

The Beastie Boys were one of the most revolutionary bands of their era. They created their own lane and made an impact on every genre they touched, from hip hop to punk. In honor of the band’s legacy and forthcoming book, let’s take a look at Beastie Boys history with 20 things you didn’t know about the band.

1) Mike D Almost Got Kicked Out

Before Licensed to Ill was released, the Beasties considered kicking Mike D out of the band. According to Adam Dubin (codirector, ‘Fight for Your Right (to Party)’), “It was only by a pretty slim margin that they kept him in.”

2) Brooklyn: the Band

Prior to the making of Paul’s Boutique, Adam Yauch had a rock band called Brooklyn with Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains; they recorded “an album’s worth of classic-rock inspired demos.” (source: The Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique 33 1/3)

3) Origins of Hello Nasty

The title of the Beastie Boys album Hello Nasty was inspired by the way a receptionist answered the phone at the Beastie’s publicity company, Nasty Little Man (she’d pick up and say, “Hello, Nasty.”). The title inspired JJ Abrams to create the character Ello Asty in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

4) Facial Hair in the ‘Sabotage’ Video

beastie boys history

Adam Yauch and Mike D wore glue-on facial hair in the video for ‘Sabotage.’ According to director Spike Jonze, they were supposed to grow their own, but “Yauch forgot and Mike D can’t grow any.”

5) Origins of G-Son Studios

Check Your Head was recorded at G-Son Studios – a makeshift studio the Beasties built in a “big, old, open ballroom” space above a drugstore. The Beasties named the space after an old sign on the facade that read ‘Gilson’ but was missing the i and l. In addition to DIY recording facilities, the Beasties installed a basketball hoop and a halfpipe for a skateboarding. (source: Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies)

6) The Legend of Matt Dike

The Dust Brothers (John King and Mike Simpson) are a crucial component of Beastie Boys history. The production duo are produced Paul’s Boutique with the Beasties, but an enigmatic DJ named Matt Dike was an unsung hero behind the album’s vision and production. All of the album’s tracks were recorded in Dike’s apartment. His taste and sampling techniques were a core part of the album’s aesthetic. (source: The Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique 33 1/3)

7) NYC Landmarks

An unsuccessful petition attempted to name the corner of Ludlow and Rivington (the corner portrayed on the cover of Paul’s Boutique) ‘Beastie Boys Square’ – but New York City did rename a Brooklyn heights park Adam Yauch Park.

8) Hidden Message on ‘Licensed to Ill’ Cover

beastie boys history

The jet’s wing on the cover of Licensed to Ill bears a mark (3MTA3) that reads backwards as ‘Eat Me.’

9) DJ Origins

The Beastie’s live DJ during their first few albums was DJ Hurricane – who was previously a DJ for RUN DMC. Hurricane was later replaced with Mix Master Mike, a member of legendary DJ crew Invisbl Scratch Piklz. Hurricane’s last official show as DJ for the Beastie Boys was the 1997 Tibetan Freedom Concert II.

Listen to the Culture Creature interview with Mix Master Mike, who reflects on Beastie Boys history and his favorite moments.

10) Joan Rivers Appearance

While promoting Licensed to Ill, the Beasties appeared on The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers and presented the hostess with “a book on extended sexual orgasms,” according to journalist Chuck Eddy.

11) MCA and Burzootie

Before the Beasties’ international fame, Adam Yauch released several 12″s on Def Jam as MCA and Burzootie.

12) Pause Tapes

The genre-hopping sound of Check Your Head was partially styled after ‘pause tapes’: cassettes that emulated a DJ mix using the pause and record buttons on a cassette deck. Beasties associate Mario Caldato says nights at G-Son Studios “would be like show-and-tell” as the musicians shared their mixtapes. (source: Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies)

13) Dust Bros. and Hanson

Paul’s Boutique producers the Dust Brothers also produced Hanson’s smash hit ‘Mmm Bop.’ According to Dust Brother Mike Simpson, “My first favorite group was The Jackson Five and this just took me right back to when I was seven or eight years old and I was like, ‘wow this is a great song.’ And so we were just delighted to get involved with with the band on that. But yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s definitely not edgy alternative music.”

14) Licensed to Ill Alternative Title

The Beastie Boys intended to name their debut album Don’t Be a Faggot until Columbia forced them to change it (source). The band’s early homophobia and misogyny are well-documented; they spent much of the rest of their career working to reverse the attitude (“the disrespect to women has got to be through,” Yauch rhymed on 1994’s ‘Sure Shot’).

15) Slayer’s Kerry King and the Beasties

Slayer’s Kerry King plays guitar on the Beastie Boys’ ‘No Sleep Til Brooklyn,’ but he didn’t get along with the Beasties. According to Rick Rubin, “I don’t think he liked the song… I don’t think it spoke to his aesthetic. And honestly, in retrospect, I don’t think he really spoke to the Beasties’ aesthetic. They didn’t really like him either [laughs]. It was kind of mutual.”

16) Ione Skye and Anthony Kiedis

Actress Ione Skye dated both Adam Horovitz (the couple eventually married) and Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis (who was then struggling with drug addiction). “It just seemed so much more fun, and less dark, around the Beasties,” said Skye. (source: The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique (33 1/3))

17) Rare ‘Paul’s Boutique’ Gatefold

beastie boys history

Click to view full-size image

The first vinyl pressing of Paul’s Boutique include a quadruple-gatefold (four panel) cover (see above) that expanded to reveal a panoramic image of the intersection at Ludlow and Rivington Streets in downtown Manhattan.

18) Cookie Puss Ice Cream

cookie puss beastie boys

‘Cooky Puss’ is the first hip hop recording by the Beastie Boys, marking the dawn of Beastie Boys history. The title is a reference to Carvel’s Cookie Puss ice cream treat, which had cookies for eyes. The reference is an early example of the lyrical pop culture tapestry that was prominent throughout the Beasties’ career.

19) ‘Intergalactic’ Inspiration

johnny sokko flying robot

The video for ‘Intergalactic’ was partially a parody of the Japanese Kaiju series Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot.

20) Licensing Clause in Yauch’s Will

Adam Yauch handwrote a clause in his will that states that the Beastie Boy’s music should not be used for commercial licensing. The clause reads, “in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes.” When asked if this is true, Mike D said, “Yes… It was a really important thing to Yauch, and that was a really important stance.”


Did you know that Adam Yauch once crashed the stage of the MTV Music Video Awards? Read the story of Adam Yauch’s alter ego, Nathaniel Hörnblowér.

Beastie Boys History: Further Reading

Holy snappers, do we have a ton of Beastie Boys history here at Culture Creature. You can start by listening to our interview with Beastie Boys DJ Mix Master Mike on the Culture Creature podcast. Or, read about Adam Yauch’s legacy of standing up for peace and nonviolence.

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