Beastie Boys and the Art of Reinvention

Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond shared their stories in a Keynote Conversation

The Beastie Boys’ astonishing career stretched across 30+ years, unspooling in conjunction with the rise and demise of various musical trends, while the trio maintained their spot at the peak of pop culture chic. Starting off as a teenage New York City hardcore band in the early ‘80s, within a few years, the trio of Adam Horovitz, Michael Diamond and Adam Yauch transformed into hip-hop’s first rock stars.

“I don’t think I’m alone amongst their fans in saying they were almost like my Beatles”

From their smash 1986 debut Licensed to Ill, the first rap album to top the Billboard album charts, through 2011’s Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, the group released seven multi-platinum records. Each record in the catalog pushed the parameters of what hip-hop could be, mixing in the trio’s musical chops and signature sense of humor with their sampling and producing ingenuity.


“So many Beastie Boys fans grew up with them,” says Nathan Brackett, Amazon Music head of editorial, who will lead the Keynote Conversation with Horovitz and Diamond at SXSW. “Or more accurately, grew up with them leading the way.”

After Licensed to Ill achieved immediate breakout mainstream success, the Beastie Boys followed with Paul’s Boutique, an artistic landmark that seemed designed not to cater to the masses. Soon enough, they achieve the elusive duality of both commercial and critical success, becoming fixtures on MTV throughout the '90s, while riding the successive power of Check Your Head, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty.

“I don’t think I’m alone amongst their fans in saying they were almost like my Beatles,” explains Brackett. “In the sense that they reinvented themselves and kept taking these leaps forward as both artists and human beings over the space of these incredible albums.”

By the turn of the millennium, the Beastie Boys had gracefully achieved elder statesman status, also becoming respected for Yauch’s social activism. Still, they released music that continued to challenge and thrill their listeners. The only thing that stopped them was Yauch’s untimely death in 2012, the same year they were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Unwilling to continue without their compatriot, Horovitz and Diamond ended the group. Recently, the pair wrote and combined their memoirs, publishing Beastie Boys Book, which debuted at #1 on The New York Times Bestsellers List upon its release in October.

“The cool thing is that new fans still find different ways to plug into them,” says Brackett. “Whether it’s hearing a Licensed to Ill song for the first time in a car, spending hours with Paul’s Boutique, or connecting to the activism of Adam Yauch.”

For the Keynote, Brackett is well-prepared. “I’m looking forward to getting deep into the stories from the Beastie Boys Book and much more with them,” he enthuses. “This is going to be for the true heads!”

Music Keynote: Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond of Beastie Boys with Amazon Music's Nathan Brackett is on Friday, March 15.

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