20 Years Ago, The Beastie Boys Reminded Rap Fans That 3 MCs & 1 DJ Is A Winning Formula
1998 was a changing time for Hip-Hop. The attitude of the period was recovering from the killings of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. Groups like The Fugees and A Tribe Called Quest separated for solo pursuits. Meanwhile Black Star emerged. Master P’s No Limit Records led a marketing battalion that put Bounce-based music from artists like Silkk The Shocker and Mystikal near the top of the charts. Death Row was on its final descent, and Bad Boy was flying high, with Roc-A-Fella and Ruff Ryders in its tailwinds. DMX, JAY-Z, and Method Man were New York City MCs that took their respective brands of New York Hip-Hop to #1, writing a new chapter for the genre’s birthplace.
However, perhaps one of the most memorable releases of that period came from 15-year-veterans, The Beastie Boys care of Hello Nasty. That album, released 20 years ago today (July 14), gave Hip-Hop something familiar and fundamental to hold onto a time when things in the Rap space seemed to be changing at a drastic pace.
The New York City-born trio was known for their rambunctious energy, diverse inspirations, and Punk Rock aesthetic in making dynamic music. From their diamond-selling 1986 debut album Licensed To Ill through their ’90s MTV heyday, the Beastie Boys always made their music peers play catch-up upon their next move. On their fourth studio album Hello Nasty, released on July 14, 1998, they were in their bag to push the boundaries of a market-segmented music community. The trifecta took a different approach with the highest first-week sales of any Rap album that year. True to an older song title, the Beasties urged their peers to lighten up. Hello Nasty carried that message to Hip-Hop’s prevailing hardcore and self-indulgent imagery. The O.G.’s from the mid-’80s fought to throw a new party, one that united people from all walks of life in the name of having fun.
As the self-proclaimed “Scientists of Sound,” the Beasties picked up where they left off following a four-year hiatus after their triple-platinum album, Ill Communication. The new LP topped the charts off the strength of the album’s Grammy-winning lead single “Intergalactic.” Plus, the crew nodded to Underground Hip-Hop and Turntablism audiences by adding Invisibl Skratch Piklz member, Mix Master Mike to the fold. Mike replaced the group’s longtime sound provider, DJ Hurricane, who pivoted to a solo career. On the LP’s corresponding tour, the rounded stage resembled a turntable—pointing like a stylus to their Hip-Hop roots. Also, before A.T.C.Q’s split that September, Beastie Boys had Tribe as a co-headliner on their American tour dates.
From the onset of the album, the first song put their initiative front and center with the title “Super Disco Breakin’,” which melded their brand of Rap-Rock, Mike’s frenetic cuts, and old school Hip-Hop homage. Songs including “The Move,” “Body Movin’,” “Remote Control,” “Three MC’s and One DJ,” “The Negotiation Limerick File” stayed in the pulse of straightforward East Coast boom-bap with their SP-1200 beats. The Beasties and their longtime producer Mario C. could throw back to feel-good vibes with futuristic splashes.
Hello Nasty also boasts elements of Dub and Reggae, along with sketches of Polka and Bossa Nova Jazz. Trip-Hop and lo-fi Indie Rock are part of the album’s rich production mix. Mike D, Ad-Rock, and the late MCA waxed simplistic rhyme routines and cadences, enhanced by tongue-in-cheek humorous lyrics. Along with the all-encompassing samples, the moment reflected the group’s primal influences of Run-D.M.C. and the eclecticism of Pop-Punk legends, The Clash.
Hello Nasty cemented Beastie Boys’ indelible legacy as arbiters of cool, and musical trailblazers into the 2000s. Acts such as Limp Bizkit, Rage Against The Machine, Linkin Park, Sublime, OutKast, and Eminem all took from the pages of Beastie Boys rule-book.
The Beastie Boys’ upcoming book will prove how the album, and work away from the stage helped shape Hip-Hop’s global power today. Mike D will be hosting a 20th anniversary special of Hello Nasty on his Apple Beats 1 Radio show The Echo Chamber. He will be joined by none other than Mix Master Mike on the show, today (July 14), at 3pm ET.In 2009, a “Deluxe Edition” of Hello Nasty released with a second disc of bonus tracks, remixes (including one from Kool Keith/Dr. Octagon producer Kutmasta Kurt), and more.