Over a 30-year career, The Beastie Boys remain one of the most chaotic, hilarious and influential groups that hip-hop and rock has ever seen. The New York trio – Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA – had the most fun breaking rules and boundaries – and made some stone-cold hits at the same time.
As the group prepare to reveal their tell-all book, Beastie Boys Book, we’ve present to you the definitive list of their best ever songs.
10. ‘Make Some Noise’
The Beastie Boys’ last truly great song, this was released in April 2011, a year before Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch’s death from cancer. It also acts as a fitting finale for a musical force that could still leave their younger contemporaries in the dust, despite being in their mid-40s. Built around a squelching beat, it’s a feral blast of swagger and cockiness – one they were so happy with that they felt it worthy to create a sequel to their iconic ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ video for.
Killer lyric: “We got a party on the left, a party on the right/We gotta party for the motherfucking right to fight”
9. ‘Sure Shot’
The opening song on their fourth album ‘Ill Communication’ is stuffed to the brim with pop-culture references. NYC crime film The Taking of Pelham of 123, TV detective Kojak and, er, Mission Impossible II director John Woo all get nods on this frenzied hit that we can only assume was their failed-pitch to be crime-fighting heroes.
Killer lyric: “The disrespect to women has got to be through/To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends/I want to offer my love and respect to the end”
8. ‘So What’Cha Want’
After the sample-heavy ‘Paul’s Boutique’, their third album ‘Check Your Head’ was considered a back-to-basics affair, as the band made considerable instrumental contributions with Ad-Rock on guitar, Mike D on drums, MCA on bass. ‘So What’Cha Want’ is by no means a complex composition, but it’s one that re-engages the trio with their punk and metal roots.
Killer lyric: “Well, just plug me in just like I was Eddie Harris/You’re eating crazy cheese like you would think I’m from Paris”
7. ‘Hey Ladies’
In under four-minutes, the band and producing duo Dust Brothers incorporate songs by Deep Purple, Commodores, Kool & The Gang, James Brown and more for a thrilling ride through pop history. ‘Hey Ladies’ became a cornerstone moment for hip-hop sampling, and remains a remarkably cohesive hit for a song that is flipped on its head every 45 seconds.
Killer lyric: “Break up with your girl it ended in tears/Vincent Van Gogh go and mail that ear”
6. ‘Ch-Check It Out’
Acting as the opener to their first album of the ’00s, ‘To The 5 Boroughs’, the band showed no signs of growing up on this bombastic hit. While the mainstream embraced a new generation of rap heroes like 50 Cent and Kanye West, this 2004 hit showed that The Beasties could still hang with the best and have way more fun while doing it.
Killer lyrics: “Oh, we just had to kill it/We on the radio hotter than a skillet/We in the club making party people holla/Money in the bank we be getting top dollar”
5. ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’
Produced by the band’s early collaborator and Def Jam co-founder, Rick Rubin – ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ is the band’s most memorable homage to their home city. With help from Slayer’s Kerry King, the band shout out the city’s five boroughs atop a crunching metal riff, with Yauch’s birthplace across the East River getting the nod for where the party ultimately is.
Killer lyric: “We’re trashing hotels like it’s going out of style”
4. Get It Together
A Tribe Called Quest’s leader Q-Tip jumps on the mic for perhaps the a rare featured spot in the Beastie Boys catalogue. The Boys’ vocals are typically abrasive, but the mellow delivery of Q-Tip’s bars and subtle production means that both halves of the East Coast rap styles are well represented here.
Killer lyric: “Got to do it like this like Chachi and Joanie/Because she’s the cheese and I’m the macaroni”
3. ‘Fight For Your Right’
You know a song is a hit when it prompts a moral outrage. The Beastie Boys’s 1986 single about partying and fighting for the right to do so, did just that. It kickstarted a tussle with censorship by several radio stations in the US, and by the time that the group reached the UK in 1987 to tour with Run DMC, the tabloids were asking for them to be boycotted. Only a rock-rap anthem this seismic could provoke such outrage.
Killer lyric: “Your mom busted in and said, “What’s that noise?”/Aw, Mom, you’re just jealous it’s the Beastie Boys”
Everything about this track makes for cosmic magic; from the song’s opening robotic vocals to the razor-sharp lyricism and the video’s hilarious premise and execution, ‘Intergalactic’ truly looks and sounds like it came from another dimension.
Killer lyric: “I’ll stir fry you in my wok/Your knees’ll start shakin’ and your fingers pop/Like a pinch on the neck of Mr. Spock”
Boasting a wicked bassline, as well as Ad-Rock’s iconic opening squeal, ‘Sabotage’ is an example The Beastie Boys not so much toeing the line between rap and rock, more pissing all over it so the line isn’t visible at all. What could provoke such anger?
Well it was producer Mario Caldato Jr. who wanted the boys to get a move on with finishing songs for their fourth album ‘Ill Communication’, but finding the trio indecisive about deciding which songs. “I decided it would be funny to write a song about how Mario was holding us all down, how he was trying to mess it all up, sabotaging our great works of art,” Horovitz says in their new book. Thank god they chose this one.
Killer lyric: “I can’t stand it, I know you planned it/I’m-a set it straight, this Watergate/But I can’t stand rockin’ when I’m in this place/Because I feel disgrace because you’re all in my face”
A playlist featuring Beastie Boys