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Rap and hip-hop were not traditionally a place for white artists; the Beastie Boys broke new ground in this regard and many other ways throughout their career.
Adam Yauch and Mike Diamond formed the Beastie Boys in 1981 with Kate Schellenbach and John Berry. By 1983, Berry left the group, and Adam Horowitz stepped in as bassist. Later that same year, Schellenbach left, too. Her departure marked the beginning of the legendary trio.
At the height of their success, the group featured Adam "MCA" Yauch on vocals and bass, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz on vocals, guitar, and programming, and Michael "Mike D" Diamond on vocals and drums. They began playing in New York's underground clubs in the early ’80s.
The band experienced its first local success with the hip-hop single "Cooky Puss" in 1983. Interestingly, this hit song was based on a prank call that the group made to Carvel Ice Cream.
In 1985, producer Rick Rubin signed the Beastie Boys to Def Jam Records. In 1986, the band's debut album, Licensed to Ill, came out. Despite countless criticisms and being called mindless and obnoxious by critics, the album sold more than 750,000 copies in its first few weeks.The success of Licensed to Ill was largely due to the popularity of Fight for Your Right (To Party). The single became a crossover hit and propelled the album to the top of the 1980s' best-selling rap albums chart.
One thing about this New York trio is that they weren't afraid to evolve or try new things. In fact, each of their albums had a different sound, and they became known for speaking out about important social and global issues.
The group has a long and interesting history, with its influences still being felt today.
Their first album, Licensed to Ill (1986), was the biggest-selling rap album of the ‘80s and did more than any other album to introduce hip-hop to people in the suburbs.
The follow-up album, Paul's Boutique (1989), is still considered one of the best rap albums ever. It is seen as the peak of hip-hop's "golden age" of sampling.
Their 1992 album, Check Your Head, brought the worlds of hip-hop, jazz, and alternative rock together and created an enduring global hipster coalition.
The Beastie Boys profoundly impacted the direction of popular music. They received two Grammy Awards in 1998 for Intergalactic (Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group) and Hello Nasty (Best Alternative Music Performance), and one in 2007 for Mix Up (Best Pop Instrumental).
In April of 2012, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A month later, bassist and vocalist Adam Yauch died of cancer.
In June 2014, the surviving members announced that they would cease to make music as the Beastie Boys. However, they reconvened a few years later to tell the world their story through the Beastie Boys Book (2018) and the documentary Beastie Boys Story (2020).