Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Kara Pain, or as I call her, K-POW, is a former colleague from my days at SiriusXM. I knew her first as a member of the Liquid Metal team, and although she's a badass metal gal, it turns out that she's a lot more than that. She moved from NY to Seattle, where she's done stand-up comedy, improv, and she's also been heard on the FM airwaves.  If this was the '80s or '90s and she was doing this guest post for a 'zine instead of a blog, I'd advise you to keep this issue, as it would be a collectors item once she "hits it big." A couple of years ago, she was telling me about an debate she had with a well known music critic over The Beastie Boys.  So I asked her to use that as the starting point for her guest post, about why they deserve to be Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.  Take it away, K-POW... 

"Here's a little story, I got to tell..." 

I have a friend who is “in the biz.” I’m not saying this to sound cool; it actually has something to do with this blog post, so chill out.  The reason it’s important is because this friend’s career is based on subjectively judging music, it pays his bills. Anyway, said friend and I were discussing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day and I mentioned how funny it was that the Beastie Boys were snubbed in 2011. Well, imagine my surprise when Friend disagrees, vehemently!

As he is a professional music critic, I battled as best I could against his musical knowledge to defend my point (which was a lot like fighting Uma Thurman in Kill Bill). I threw Platinum Record sales and Grammy wins at him, and while I wasn’t brought to slaughter, I was beaten and bruised. I couldn’t quite convince him of why The Beastie Boys deserved to be honored. The discussion has still plagued me, even as the B-Boys were inducted this year. I don’t really have to prove it to him or anyone else, but I just can’t let it go. Why did the idea spark so much passion in me? Why did this band deserve honor for contributing to the landscape of music and culture?

On April 12, 2012 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony. You know the deal: 25 years (or more) after the release of their first record artists are eligible to be voted in based on the influence they’ve had on music. It’s kind of the Super Bowl ring of the music industry.  The whole induction thing started in 1983, and the nominating committee and voting body consists of a group of “rock experts” who vote on particular artists and how they were, or are. influencing the music scene. I put said experts into quotations, because come on…I think I’M a rock expert. 

Included among this year inductees are artists my parents listened to, the Small Faces, Freddie King, The Miracles. This year the Hall has also included Guns N Roses, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Beastie Boys. These bands can’t be over the 25 year mark, can they? They can!

The Beastie Boys started out as punk rockers. In 1982 the band released Polly Wog Stew.  A decent thrash punk record that sounded like, well, everything else that was already on the scene. The band, including Michael Diamond on vocals, Adam Yauch on bass, drummer Kate Schellenbauch, and guitarist John Berry (before Adam Horovitz joined) were doing what they thought they should to make it. You’re white, so make Punk Rock Music. After the exit of John and Kate the boys began to play around with the idea of rhyming over beats and samples and the truth of who they were, who they ARE, began to emerge.

In 1984, the Beastie Boys’ current lineup released a quirky fun track honoring an ice cream cake, Carvel’s Cookie Puss.  It was basically a phony phone call over a hip-hop track.  After friend and NYU student Tim Sommer handed over that track to another NYU student, Rick Rubin, who also just happened to be head of Def Jam records, the Boys were ready to emerge. Rick became their DJ and produced their debut album.

By 1988 the Beastie Boys became a mainstay of MTV. Licensed to Ill had already hit Number 1 on the Billboard 100, and was the first rap album to do so. They had managed to sneak into the Top 40 club and throw an all out hip-hop party. They weren’t gonna sleep and they would fight for the right to be there. Okay, I’m over-using lyrics to make my point here, but in the dawning of our multi-media culture, three white boys form Brooklyn were helping to change its face.

As I researched this article I found an underlying thread that seemed to follow the Beastie Boys story. When I YouTubed “Cookie Puss,” I read some of the comments and it surprised me that most of the conversation revolved around the color of the Beastie Boys skin.

I think The Beastie Boys just don’t worry about their skin color. Like many other people, they LOVE Hip-Hop and they wanted to honor it with their own style. They weren’t trying to be cool, or act like something they’re not. It was real, and that’s why it worked.

Racism exists, no doubt, and if you pretend its untrue then you’re only lying to yourself. However, I do think that the Beastie Boys have helped us to erase some of those lines, and assist in ushering in a generation that accepts differences far more readily. I mean, we’re the generation that helped finally elect the first black president. I know I’m probably pissing some people off by saying this, and I’m not crediting the Beastie Boys with all civil progression, OR with President Obama's election into office, definitely not. What I am saying is that they made their contribution, they made an impact. Where would we be, as a society, without habitual line crossers Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington, Elvis…you get what I’m saying? 

I grew up in a super eclectic area of New York and had friends of all shapes and sizes, and they were my friends because they were cool and fun, and that was all. We would sit on our stoops (front porches for those of you not from NY) and listen to music. Connecting through styles and tastes via lyrics and melodies. Beautiful.

Later on, The Boys grew up from fighting for their right to party, and communicated different messages.  Their music matured, and they matured as people.  In 1996 they organized the Tibetan Freedom Concert, bringing attention to the plight of Tibetans living in a country now occupied by China. They headlined four of these concerts over four years, and Adam Yauch was a tireless advocate for the Tibetan people. They put on the New Yorkers Against Violence Event, raising money for victims of 9/11. Also, they’ve actively participated in Habitat for Humanity, the ASPCA and the Lunchbox Fund which helps provide food for hungry school children. I’d say they are actively doing their part as being decent humans.  Top that off with phat rhymes and skills to pay the bills?!  Holla!

While they DO fool around, and sing about what seems like the immature babbling of a generation known for its excess, they said a lot to the younger ears behind them, who were listening and absorbing the cultural world around them.

“The true key is a trust in self
For when I trust myself, I fear no one else
I took control of my life, just as anyone can
I want everyone to see it's in the palm of your hand
The past is gone, the future yet unborn
But right here and now is where it all goes on.” – The Update

So I’ll ask the question again as I did in the beginning, only this time I’m going to answer it. Why do the Beastie Boys deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?  Because they remind us to be true to ourselves, to ignore the boundaries people create to feel safe, to Fight for our Right. Isn’t that what Rock music is all about? Makes me think how exciting it'll be in another couple of years, when Rage against the Machine is inducted. Just a thought.

“I once was lost but now I'm found
The music washes over and you're one with the sound” - Shadrach 

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