“Things in life never come full circle,” says Beastie Boys emcee Michael “Mike D” Diamond, on stage at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. “Maybe once or twice they’re hexagonal, but to me they’re almost always misshapen as if drawn by a toddler in crayon.”
For Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz, Diamond, and the late Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys, their career trajectory could be summed up as anything but a straight line. What started out as a constructive way for three 15-year-olds to goof off while skipping out on class, rapidly took off and turned into one of the most unexpected, inimitable journeys imaginable.
In the new documentary, Beastie Boys Story, (which you can stream on AppleTV+ on April 23rd) long-time friend and collaborator, filmmaker Spike Jonze, brings to your home screen his version of the live autobiographical talk Horovitz and Diamond gave in 2019, immortalizing the band’s story with a captivating window into the lives of the lifelong best friends.
The missing piece of the story, Yauch, who died in 2012 of cancer, is ever-present throughout the film. The two surviving members tell the story of how three young Jewish boys climbed the ranks in the burgeoning world of hip-hop. A feat of its own.
The Beastie Boys’ story is one that could have branched in a thousand different directions. Beginning as a four-piece hardcore band obsessed with “Sucker MCs” by Run-DMC, the group quickly gained international acclaim for their unique punk/hip-hop blend and fuck-you attitude when their friend and soon-to-be co-founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin, took note of the potential in the three arrogant kids.
Seemingly overnight, the band was opening for Madonna, topping the Billboard charts, and pissing off the world in their wake. Pretty quickly, the band grew tired of the “gimmick” they had become, reinventing themselves and their sound time and time again over the course of their 34-year career. As Horovitz and Diamond recount the tale, it’s a wonder they survived at all.
With a massive music video discography under his belt, having worked with artists including Bjork, Weezer, Daft Punk and more, Jonze directed both the live and documentary versions of the show, surrounding the various tales and quip-sessions with seamlessly integrated video clips and photo collages.
Near the end of the film, Diamond recounts a story in which a reporter attempted to call out a much younger Horovitz for his newfound advocacy of women’s rights, when in the past, his actions had been derogatory. His answer to that?
“I’d rather be a hypocrite than the same person forever,” he says proudly.
The Beastie Boys went from being three skinny white kids screaming ‘no sleep till’ Brooklyn’ to a tight-knit family of visionary musicians that changed the world in an irrevocable way. Their career was an ever-evolving learning experience, and although things ended on a terribly somber note with the unexpected passing of Yauch, the film celebrates his life and the reason why the Beastie Boys will forever be an integral part of hip-hop as both a genre and a movement.