20. Cooky Puss (1983)

Pasting prank calls and garbled Steve Martin routines on to a delicious ESG-esque garage-funk of their own making, the Beasties’ first swing at hip-hop improbably got these former punk-rockers played at New York nightclubs such as Danceteria and Roxy’s. Meanwhile, a subsequent lawsuit against British Airways, which had sampled the B-side for an ad, paid for Ad-Rock’s first TR-808 drum-machine. Result!

19. (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) (1986)

Their first anthem so successfully lampooned the fratboy archetype that many mistook caricature for the truth (the group’s own offstage misbehaviour further blurred the distinction). From the numbskull riff to their palpable fury over their lost porno mags, Fight For Your Right remains stupidly brilliant pop – though the Beasties spent years trying to live it down.

18. Egg Man (1989)

Inspired by Adam Yauch’s penchant for egging passersby (including the bouncer at New York nightclub Berlin, as chronicled on early thrasher Egg Raid On Mojo), this tale of “drive-by egging” was lent tension by expert samples from the scores to Superfly, Jaws and Psycho. The ever-enterprising Yauch even considered marketing a Beasties-branded “egg gun” as merch.

Blond ambition … pictured in 1992. Photograph: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

17. It Takes Time to Build (2004)

Abandoning their usual polymorphous playfulness for a more austere tone, their sixth album, To the 5 Boroughs, found the Beasties reeling from the one-two punch of 9/11 and Dubya’s questionable election win, an uneasy mood expressed most clearly on this muscular agit-rap brawler, which took aim at the Iraq war and mankind’s addiction to oil.

16. Live at PJs (1992)

After the 1989 album Paul’s Boutique stiffed, the Beasties retreated to Atwater Village, in Los Angeles, where they set up their G-Son Studios, recruited keyboard-playing carpenter “Money” Mark Nishita and restyled themselves as a live funk outfit. This infectious vamp encapsulates the joyful DIY mindset of the Check Your Head era, reinventing their paradigm while living out their Kool & the Gang fantasies.

15. Remote Control (1998)

Four years in the making, Hello Nasty was a neon piñata overstuffed with ideas, and it often struggled to cohere, but Remote Control found its power in booming simplicity and focus. Which was ironic, as Mike D couldn’t finish his lyric – expressing frustration at modern life’s maddening distractions – until his bandmates locked away his ever-present mobile phone.

14. Say It (2011)

Pranksters til the very end, the Beasties’ final album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, attributed its samples to fake songs by nonexistent artists (all actually performed by the Beasties themselves). “We were on some new shit … it felt like 1992, creatively,” wrote Ad-Rock later. Certainly, the cut’n’paste anarchy of Say It was worthy of their early-90s peak.

At a secret 1994 gig in the Slam City Skates shop in London’s Covent Garden. Photograph: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

13. Something’s Got to Give (1992)

This mesmeric dream-funk – co-written with Nishita and channelling Riot-era Sly Stone – was an early outing for their newly evolved political consciousness, a sincere “wish for peace”, accompanied by a video depicting scenes of war and destruction. The doomy vibe built and built, until an apocalyptic, FX-laden scratch shredded speakers near the end.

12. I Don’t Know (1998)

Hello Nasty’s defining ethos was: expect the unexpected. Its 70-minute smash’n’grab zipped breathlessly from Tropicalia vamp to gonzo Lee Perry collab to breathtaking ruminations on loss. But this was its most unlikely turn, Yauch’s sleepy murmur pairing perfectly with the high-register cooing of Luscious Jackson’s Jill Cunniff on this lovely, happy-sad acoustic nugget.

11. The New Style (1986)

Much of debut album Licensed to Ill has aged poorly, not least its luddite beats and risible sexism. But The New Style still sounds like the future, its AC/DC power-chords falling like Roadrunner cartoon anvils, the mid-song tempo drop a flourish of genius. Lil Wayne, J Dilla, Outkast, the Pharcyde and hundreds more have since sampled Ad-Rock’s iconic bratty snarl.

10. Sure Shot (1994)

Ill Communication’s opening track played like a State of the Union address, establishing the Beasties’ current canon of cool (including Lee Perry, John Woo, Vaughn Bodē) and, in Yauch’s offer of “love and respect” to womankind, explicitly repudiating their past sexism. As Ad-Rock later wrote, they could “actually change and learn from mistakes”.

9. Bodhisattva Vow (1994)

Yauch’s embrace of Buddhism marked a turning point, which he celebrated in this spiritual hip-hop epic. Conjuring its heavy mood via hypnotic percussion, blasts of feedback and the chanting of monks, Bodhisattva Vow transcended the hokey psychedelic cliches of trip-hop to deliver something deeper. Yauch later launched the Milarepa Fund to promote the Free Tibet movement.

Beastie Boys in New York to film a video for the To the 5 Boroughs album. Photograph: New York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News/Getty Images

8. B-Boy Bouillabaisse (1989)

Paul’s Boutique ended with hip-hop’s answer to Abbey Road’s closing medley, its kaleidoscopic 13-minute spree of song-fragments embodying the album’s restless, sticky-fingered invention. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts, for sure – but some of those parts themselves were sublime (particularly MCA’s fiery Isleys-sampling stormer A Year and a Day).

7. Gratitude (1992)

The Beasties weren’t interested in expensive gear – they preferred cheap vintage finds with personality. Such as Yauch’s Univox Super Fuzz distortion pedal, which featured on Sabotage and Pass the Mic, and made his bass sound monumental on this brilliantly Cro-Magnon funk-rap-rock beast. “When Mr Super Fuzz showed up,” wrote Ad-Rock, “shit got different.”

6. Pass the Mic (1992)

Invention reigned during those long, stoned afternoons at the G-Son studio, an inspired Yauch building a vast tube of cardboard boxes around Mike D’s bass drum to achieve the colossal, John Bonham-esque beat that drove this steroidal banger. “We had time and space to get serious – that clubhouse turned us into musicians,” Ad-Rock later said.

5. Shake Your Rump (1989)

LA-based producers the Dust Brothers had already composed most of the beats for Paul’s Boutique before hooking up with the Beasties, but the Boys brought sampledelic creations such as Shake Your Rump alive, breaking up the dense collages of funk, disco and pop with their relentless, anarchic wiseacre-ing, like a horny, mic-toting version of the Marx brothers.

4. Intergalactic (1998)

The Beasties began their last great anthem during the Ill Communication sessions, before junking everything but the “intergalactic planetary, planetary intergalactic” hook and dressing it with Mussorgsky string stabs and B-movie robot voices. The video – directed by Yauch under his Nathanial Hörnblowér pseudonym, and filmed in Tokyo – parodied Japanese monster movies with an aficionado’s attention to detail.

3. Sabotage (1994)

This one-chord wonder was a masterpiece of punk-rap fusion, sustaining its rage over three minutes of squalling Fugazi-esque guitar, Superfuzz-ed bass and Ad-Rock railing at beloved producer Mario Caldato over some imaginary slight. Add Spike Jonze’s video, dressing the boys in fake moustaches and sideburns to parodying 70s cop-show cliches, and you had a true pop-cultural moment.

2. Car Thief (1989)

Dosed up on numerous intoxicants, the trio engage in vandalism and violence, pausing only to mock Def Jam boss Russell Simmons and 60s folkie Donovan, father of Ad-Rock’s then-girlfriend Ione Skye. Car Thief was a continuation of License to Ill’s bad-boy posturing, then, only sharper, funnier and – crucially – much, much funkier.

1. Get It Together (1994)

By 1994, the Beasties didn’t just dominate the zeitgeist: they were the zeitgeist, a multimedia machine with their own record label, their own magazine, their own clothing line. And on this collab with Q-Tip – who Mike D said shared their “mission to make rap music as creative and free as the music we sampled” – they even held their own against their era’s primo MC. Over a brilliantly off-the-cuff jazz-hop lick, Tip and the trio celebrate New York, “the topic of lust” and their own damned selves, delivering an ineffable sliver of extemporaneous genius that captured the Beasties at their playful, inventive best. The swagger was justified: it truly felt like there was nothing they couldn’t do.



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