Mike D Weighs In On Best Beastie Boys MC & Overcoming “Brass Monkey” Hate (Audio)
The Beastie Boys’ Mike D was a guest on actor Michael Rapaport’s podcast show this week, which taped before a live New York City audience. The man born Michael Diamond discussed Hip-Hop at length, ranging from Drake’s groundbreaking response to Meek Mill this summer, to why he feels Busta Rhymes belongs on more “GOAT” lists. Along the way, an animated Rapaport also asks questions to the Brooklyn-based Mike D about his group, ’80s touring antics, and other fan-driven minutia.
One particularly interesting question comes nearly an hour into the lively discussion. Around the 58:00 mark, the Beats, Rhymes & Life documentary producer and director asked Mike D about which song in his catalog he and the Beasties hated performing. Mike D revealed that the group’s first Top 50-charting song is in fact something they left off of set lists for years.
“‘Brass Monkey,’ which is still very [popular]…I remember, [The Beastie Boys] had stopped [performing] the song for a while. ‘This shit is just stupid.’ It’s about a drink we don’t drink. Who are we? We’re grown people; we don’t drink Brass Monkey. We drank that when we were like 18. What are we doing, touring the world talking about drinking Brass Monkey as grown-ass dudes? It’s bad luck,” said Mike D, nearly 30 years after the song was included on the now diamond-certified Licensed To Ill. “We were [playing] in Miami—Bass. We were like, ‘Okay, “Brass Monkey” is definitely the biggest record in history in Miami.’ Or [that is what] we had decided this in our minds—there was no data to support this. [Laughs] ‘We’re gonna definitely play the song tonight, fuck it. ‘Cause this shit’s gonna kill.'” Laughing as he tells the story, the MC/producer/drummer says, “We played it, and they were kinda like, ‘That’s cool.’…we forgot more words than we remembered, ’cause it’d been so long.”
Mike D added that the failed performance made the veteran trio restore into Beastie Boys sets. The move was not made because the trio of Mike, Ad-Rock, and the late MCA liked the song, but rather, they wanted to prove they could still rock it. “You keep going back to it [until] shit’s gonna work.” Mike D also credits the Beastie Boys DJ with helping the Grand Royal Records founders with achieving their goal. “Mixmaster Mike dialed that shit in, and mixed in some ‘Planet Rock.’” Rapaport then asks how deliberate it was that the Beastie Boys performed their own hits, mixed to other artists’ tracks. Mike revealed that the practice was a leading factor in adding the Invisibl Skratch Piklz’ Mix Master Mike (a native of San Francisco, California) in lieu of longtime Beasties’ sound selector, DJ Hurricane. “[Mixmaster Mike] made it more exciting for us, which in turn made it more exciting for the audience.” The Bay Area turntablist would often just throw something down for the three MCs, and they would improvise accordingly. Diamond says that was much preferred to what he describes as, “‘Here we are with the instrumental—for the one millionth time-for “Paul Revere.”‘”
Also in the interview, Rapaport presses Mike D about who was the greatest MC in the Beastie collective. Mike credits Adam “MCA” Yauch, who tragically died from cancer in 2012. “Ad Rock and I could write, certainly, as well as him—but he was a better MC,” says Mike. “He was the guy who could nail it every time. Adam and I would memorize a record and be able to pull it off; he’d nail it.”
Prior to MCA’s death, the group released eight studio albums—four of which appeared at #1 on the charts.
Also in the discussion, the host/actor from Next Friday, Higher Learning, and Zebrahead revealed that he is strongly considering making a documentary on the December, 1981 Harlem World Battle between MCs Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy B Starski.
With so much ground covered, this interview is definitely worth the listen.
#BonusBeat: Mike D lists his Top 6 “Desert Island” Albums:
Fresh by Sly & The Family Stone
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back by Public Enemy
London Calling by The Clash
On The Corner by Miles Davis
Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan
Catch A Fire by Bob Marley & The Wailers
Who do you think is the beastiest MC in the Beastie Boys?