The Beastie Boys have, and always will be, one of the all-time coolest, most groundbreaking, influential, and simultaneously perplexing groups to hit and change the mainstream.
Three boys from Brooklyn who played hardcore punk and listened to The Clash decided to start a group under the acronym Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Inner Excellence. Somehow, they changed hip hop in the process.
Tracing the origins of the group through to their groundbreaking run of albums, Spike Jonze’s Beastie Boys Story refines our love for the trio.
The new documentary Beastie Boys Story, made by acclaimed director Spike Jonze, attempts to grasp the outrageous and gargantuan story in a two-hour blast. The film shows Mike ‘Mike D’ Diamond and Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horovitz running us, along with an enraptured live crowd, through a live telling of the group’s 2018 Beastie Boys Book.
Even though the performance was obviously scripted, it’s heartwarming to see Mike D and Ad-Rock together on stage, reminiscing on the group and their late friend Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch. The two still manage to balance the poignant (the failure of their masterpiece, Pauls Boutique), the ridiculous (giant inflatable penises and touring with Madonna), the darkness (the fallout with Def Jam) and finally their creative revival (the release of Check Your Head and Ill Communication).
The documentary also tracks the group’s transformation from frat poster boys to innovators. It’s amazing to consider a group of boys who were completely useless at rapping (you get to experience a young Mike D attempting to rap for the first time – it’s truly incredible these guys got anywhere) through to some of the best and most innovative rappers in the business (just look at MCA’s classic line in So Whatcha Want, “I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce”).
We also get a glimpse of the group’s reformation, from their early espousing of questionable lyrics and behaviour to ultimately becoming the standard-bearers of equality, love, and respect in hip hop. Mike D and Ad-Rock obviously still love spending time together which makes the whole experience a perfect reminder of the group’s friendship and perseverance.
The biggest flaw of the documentary is also the most obvious, and that’s the lack of one-third of the story. The loss of MCA in 2012 has left a gap in the group’s cogs and machinery. It’s clear that he was the guiding light that got the group through near breakups, actual breakups, and creative ruts, ultimately reforming them into the great genre-bending act they are now known as. MCA also helped to bring such causes as the Tibetan Independence Movement to an American audience. Despite this MCA shaped hole, Mike D and Ad-Rock do a wonderful job of shining light on his integral contributions as the beating heart of the group.
Through it all we see three close friends who started off making punk music and accidentally became one of the most successful groups in history. They eventually solidified themselves as one of the most interesting and incredible groups, but it was never an easy journey. They really had to fight for their right to party.
For this writer, watching two people who blew up my conception of music (and ultimately hold a dear place in my heart) talk about the small things that matter in the creation of art was a beautiful experience. Personally, MCA will always remain the hero, and his presence and attitude is truly missed. All in all, though, Beastie Boys Story reaffirms the power these three friends had on so many people. That alone is special enough.
Go grab your copy of Pauls Boutique, Ill Communication, Licensed to Ill, or Check Your Head and re-solidify why the Beastie Boys changed so many of our lives. They proved that the weirdos and nerds were never alone, showing that, through perseverance, you can truly achieve anything.
Head over to Apple TV to watch Beastie Boys Story.