Let us never forget the Beastie Boys. According to Russell Simmons' autobiography
"Life & Def," without their debut’s residual sales, Def
Jam might’ve folded. Without the Beasties’ reaching audiences that
Schooly D didn’t, Hip-Hop may’ve never blossomed to such mass appeal.
Without the barriers broken by Brooklyn’s finest, would we march to the
beat of a Marshall?
The Beastie Boys have always been B-Boys at heart, even if they started in
punk rock. Yes, they incorporated punk, rock and jazz into the mix, but so did
beat maestro Pete Rock. After “Sabotage,” a quick return to their
punk roots, many urban markets turned their backs on the pioneers.
On a cloudy New York afternoon, MCA, the raspy voiced, Stan Smith wearing,
gum chewing, mic rocking one-third of the Beasties, sat down and told us why
we’re dope, in between us telling him he’s dope. There was a steady
stream of consciousness as we discussed the new record, the old records, Hip-Hop,
the lack-there-of, politics and bulls**t.
AllHipHop.com: The album’s been working its way to the public. What’ve
you been up to?
MCA: We’ve been playing at a festival. Definitely by a long shot, the
biggest s**t we’ve ever done in Japan. We’ve gone over there and
played our own shows in clubs, but these were like stadium shows, pretty insane.
AllHipHop.com: Was it for benefit?
MCA: No, just a festival. Like one of those big European festivals or like
Lollapalooza. It was one day in Osaka, and one day in Tokyo. The bill swapped.
The bands that play Saturday in Tokyo, plus Sunday in Osaka and vice-versa.
AllHipHop.com: The staff has been talking about To the Five Boroughs
MCA: I haven’t seen it in the bulletins. Yeah, I did. Maybe you said
like how many it sold.
AllHipHop.com: You check the bulletins and Ill Community? We love to hear that.
MCA: I think it’s cool. It’s given a lot of news that you don’t
[otherwise] hear. Maybe it’s because I don’t really pick up any
Hip-Hop magazines. It’s just cool to get those blasts [AllHipHop.com's
AllHipHop.com: It’s even been coming up with the artists we’ve
been interviewing. The whole Hip-Hop community seems to watch you quietly. Are
you pleased with the overall reception of the record?
MCA: I think so. It seems like it’s cool. I definitely like it. I feel
good about the record. I made it. It seems like people are giving me a pound
when they run into me, so that’s cool.
AllHipHop.com: I know it’s a topic that’s been beat to death. But
New York needs this. I think the Beastie Boys are as much a tribute to New York
as the film, Taxi Driver. After you guys had made your last few records on the
West, how did New York affect you?
MCA: I think that’s a big part of why the record is so focused on New
York in a way, because of what happened in 9/11 just makes you more retrospective
about it. I sometimes think about it almost like you sometimes have a relative
or somebody really close to you, and that person gets really sick or almost
dies or something like that, then you feel close to that person. You have all
these memories. It’s kinda like that. You get nostalgic about New York
in a way. That wasn’t even an intention when we went in [with], to make
an album about New York. That just kinda happened, then in retrospect, when
we were done with it, and we were deciding what to call the record – we
sort of noticed that that was a common thread throughout.
AllHipHop.com: Right around the time you left to do Paul’s Boutique,
New York changed. There’s a Duane Reade on every corner and a Starbuck’s
on every block in Manhattan now. I miss that New York. I lived vicariously through
with White Castles and rooftop parties. I know everything changes. But how do
you use the city as a muse these days?
MCA: I guess I know in a way what you mean. The thing about the city is…when
you’re in the city; you’re a part of it. We still ride the subway
all the time. I still get around on my skateboard all the time. We lived out
in L.A. for a while, and I remember feeling really disconnected out [there]
because you’re in you your own house, car, studio, swimming pool –
these contained environments, separate from other people. In New York, you’re
always kind of around other people. I guess you could separate yourself, but
[not] the way that we live.
AllHipHop.com: How long have you been back?
MCA: I moved out of L.A. in like ’92. I was out there for like five years.
AllHipHop.com: This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of Paul’s
Boutique. That’s the record I dreamed of making. A lot of us feel
that way. That’s a record that still sounds brand new. How do you treat
that record amidst your catalog?
MCA: It’s ironic in a way. I know that’s a lot of people’s
favorite record now. But at the time it came out, it’s ironic, people
weren’t feeling it or weren’t checking for it, just kinda like,
“F**k these dudes.” But I remember running into people in the street
and them being, “Man, why didn’t make something like License
to Ill, what are you giving me?” It’s interesting that now;
a lot of people are feeling it.
AllHipHop.com: Because it’s been three decades, do people still set certain
expectations for yourself?
MCA: Yeah, they do. Sometimes I take a look at Beastie Boys message boards.
I saw stuff on there, “Man, if they just would’ve put a couple instrumentals
on there, the album would’ve been more complete.” Some people were
mad that they thought it was short.
AllHipHop.com: We just talked to LL a few weeks ago. He said he was unable
to endorse either candidate. I gotta ask his Krush Groove counterpart, how do
MCA: I just think that Bush is a really scary character. I just think we gotta
get Bush outta there. The guy is causing irreparable damage and if he’s
elected for another term, he’s gonna really go crazy.
AllHipHop.com: It’s a tough question. But is Kerry really the answer?
MCA: You know, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about him. I just
feel like he’s gotta be better than Bush. In a way, Kerry is somewhat
of an unknown to me. But he can’t be as nuts as Bush. This guy seems like
he’s out of his mind, like he’s bent on causing the Third World
AllHipHop.com: Knock on wood, that won’t happen.
MCA: That’s another thing about traveling to Japan and Europe and around
the world, is just seeing how angry people in other parts of the world are at
Americans. It’s amazing, considering how much good will there was towards
America after 9/11. People were ready to forgive all of America’s past
trespasses. That’s gone. People are just mad at us. If we reelect Bush,
they’re really gonna be mad at us.
AllHipHop.com: The damaged state of the country, leads me to the damaged state
of Hip-Hop. You helped build and expand this, how do you feel now?
MCA: I don’t know. See, I’m not that mad at Hip-Hop. People expect
me to be madder at it than I am. I think it’s kinda cool that there’s
a lot going on. I’m not mad at the fact that it’s so in the mainstream
either. Because there’s still a lot of underground stuff going on. It’s
not like Hip-Hop’s dead, you know?
AllHipHop.com: I guess it just saddens me that certain artists will never get
MCA: Yeah. But I’m surprised that somebody like Jay-Z or Kanye gets as
much play as they do, or even Nas. It’s not like that s**t is soft. There’s
harder stuff out there, but I’m impressed that [these guys are still at the top].
AllHipHop.com: The way the industry is, were you at all concerned that your
single wasn’t going to get put on the radio, or your video gets played?
MCA: Yeah, definitely. For us, it’s always a bit of an uphill struggle.
We don’t get too much Urban play these days. I think people think of us
as a Rock band, especially because of “No Sleep Til’ Brooklyn”
and “Fight For Your Right to Party” and onto “Sabotage”
and that stuff. I definitely wondered what was gonna happen comin’ out
with a Hip-Hop record.
AllHipHop.com: Freddie Foxxx wrote an editorial on how Eminem was played on
both Urban and Rock radio, but The Roots for instance, almost exclusively get
Urban. How has that paradox sat with you?
MCA: It’s surprising. There’s things like, “Shake Yo’
Rump” that are just Hip-Hop songs. It’s more of a Hip-Hop song than
a Rock song, anyway. And they’ll play that on Classic Rock stations. It’s
weird. I’m like, “But that’s a Hip-Hop song, and you probably
wouldn’t play anybody else’s Hip-Hop song.” I don’t
know. It is some weird s**t, but I don’t know.
AllHipHop.com: M.O.P. did a Rock cover of “No Sleep Til’ Brooklyn”
this summer, have you heard it?
MCA: I haven’t heard it. I should check it out. I wanna hear what they
AllHipHop.com: What have you been doing outside of music these days?
MCA: Hangin’ out with my daughter.
AllHipHop.com: How old?
MCA: She’s gonna be six.