So hey, I listened to that Beastie Boys comeback joint
So I held off on watching this video for a good… month maybe? I forget when it dropped, all I know is that when it did I knew I didn’t want/need to watch a Beastie Boys video in 2011. I mean, I still remember the trauma of listening to “To The Five Boroughs”. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool Springsteen obsessive will admit that the spree of post-9/11 “I Heart NY” releases were more “necessary” than “good”, but even with that proviso “To The Five Boroughs” is a fucking chore, like “Encore”’s grandfather.
Anyway, when TTFB dropped there were some mumblings on the then-nascent rap blogosphere that one of the US rap mags didn’t review it in the main album section, but rather in their “here’s a column where we shove shit like Dalek and The Avalanches” section. The meme was that the Beastie Boys were being whitewashed (irony) out of rap history.
It’s weird because the Beastie Boys are definitely one of the ten most famous rap acts of all time, and arguably top 5 (behind 2Pac, behind Eminem… there’s a toss-up with them, Biggie, Vanilla Ice and arguably Jay-Z I suppose. Depends if TLC and Linkin Park count). And yet they’ve not really left any impact on rap at all. You don’t even get desperate for attention mixtape rappers recreating the “Paul’s Boutique” cover in search of blog real estate.
So, OK, there’s no Beastie influence on rap. But where’s the Beastie Boys influence on rock or indie or pop? Dave Grohl has, to the best of my knowledge, stopped wearing “funny” costumes in his videos, so that’s gone. I looked at Spike Jonze’s recent videography and it looks like a list of bands Carles deleted from his Google Alert in late 2009. Have the Beastie Boys become the most important band to have left no trace whatsoever?
I mean, 600,000 youtube hits for your comeback joint isn’t exactly inspiring. There’s Grime Daily videos where dudes shout about their favorite fried chicken joints and then make gun fingers at the camera that are approaching that hit rate. And this is a video that lives and dies on the “You know that celebrity you like? Look, they’re here!” factor. What does the song sound like? It sounds like Beastie Boys song in 2011 would and no amount of Frodo or John C Reilly mugging at the camera is really going to help. It comes across more like an extended Children In Need skit than a music video by some people who were briefly spoken of as GOAT contenders.
So yeah, what can the Beastie Boys do in 2011? Did they miss their shot when MCA’s cancer was cured? Possibly, it’s theoretical that one of them dying could have led to a rediscovery of them in the rap “community”. But rap is a genre that doesn’t like to think about its elders. The point has been made before but any yoot who has Popular Indie Band of the Day #1 and Popular Indie Band of the Day #2 on his iPod is expected to also be able to tell you his favorite joints by the Pixies and the Smiths. His rap equivalent probably couldn’t even name two members of Run DMC. I mean, I “get” that the “always forward” aspect of rap is one of its appeals (at least to dudes who read “Wire”), but sometimes… you know. Sometimes it’s nice to phone your grandmother up and ask her how she’s getting on with her day, even if she is only going to mention the weather and how your uncle fucked her grocery shopping up. And that’s the best way to view the Beastie Boys I suppose: your third favorite of your four grandparents.