They've been in my life since sixth grade camp. In the mornings before our hikes, a group of mature girls from another school would put their License to Ill tape in the tape recorder they brought from home then proceed to rock out to "Girls" as they put on their blue mascara. Now sadly, the Beastie Boys have taken a seat on the bench behind Madonna, or more honestly, the Frozen album. But today, as I got ready to leave the house, I looked them in the eyes and asked them to accompany me on my first morning run in awhile. And they didn't disappoint.
Song 1. "Body Movin," Hello Nasty, 1998. The perfect way to start a run. A good song, a little poppy, but still truly them. Nothing much to reflect on here, except this song kept me running.
Song 2. "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," 1986, Licensed to Ill. Today just happens to be the 30th anniversary of the release of Licensed to Ill. I always think about their reaction to the popularity of that album. After years of playing punk rock in basements and garages, their new audience (thanks to Rick Rubin's influence) was a bunch of frat boys and partiers.
Now it's ridiculous to bite the hand that feeds you, but they hated the people who loved their music. They had nothing in common with them. There were now a band that no longer played instruments, they no longer wrote songs about transit cops or how the Reagan policy was getting the best of them. They wrote about girls and beers and how they were going into your locker to smash your glasses. We ate it up and they cleaned up all the way to the bank.
And this happens sometimes. You have talent, you have charisma, and you see a gap in the market, or someone sees one for you. You primp and prune and you start framing yourself up to fit into the gap. And if you were right about the consumer need then you will start making money. And this is where many people get trapped. Making all of their decisions based on money, instead of integrity. This is where the Beastie Boys started to question whether they had 'sold out', or if people would still like them if they changed course.
And then they changed course.
Song 3. "The Skills to Pay the Bills", Check Your Head, 1992. A critical part of my high school years. Also, a rejection against Licensed to Ill, also the follow up album to "Hello Nasty," the one that elicits no emotional response. The guys who made Check Your Head were the same guys. They just pivoted their business model. They went back to their core, they reexamined what they had been doing in the 80's, they took notes, they picked up their instruments again and then they blew doors. With this song they reminded themselves that they wouldn't starve just because they weren't writing songs for A-holes anymore. Instead they wrote lyrics like, " It's 1992 and there's still no one to vote for."
Song 4. "Root Down," Ill Communication, 1995. Every one of my college road trips included this song blasted at full volume.
First off, this song shows what happens when you keep practicing with the same team. The team chemistry here is amazing and clearly they started communicating telepathically. Also, the song is about roots. It's about going home, about putting roots down, about being proud of where you came from, about shouting out to dad and mom to thank them. It's about gratitude and feeling blessed for being able to do what you want to do. And it only took them nine years to get there.
I firmly believe that you if you can, you will and you won't stop. If you have the talent and drive, don't compromise. Pivot. Now more than ever we need to cater less to the A-holes we encounter in business. It's time to bring integrity back.
The Beastie Boys have pushed their way to the front of the line.