Peace, Adam

Beastie Boys

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guitars about partying. O.K.—hold on. Maybe it wasn’t a mystery. “Cooky Puss” was a joke for New York. “Licensed To Ill” was a joke for America. Or on America. It was hard to tell.

People believed that these kids meant what they said, that they were who they portrayed on TV. (Oprah did not approve, although Jello Biafra seemed to understand what the band was doing.) Rather than being perceived as the first draft of Ali G, the Beasties were taken at face value; many threads got tangled in one of hip-hop’s breakthrough moments. Rap is ridiculously profane and loopy and perfect and anybody can do it and you can use any music you want! Ok bye! And then, two years later, on “Paul’s Boutique,” they took the idea even further: maybe you could rap every word you knew over every record ever made. Sure, why not. And there was still this talk of beating people with aluminum bats and other alpha-male stuff that came from who knows where. Rap had now been coded by both friends and enemies as a violent form inspired by violence, a view which these three pacifists had unwittingly helped install.

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