Beastie Boys on New Memoir, Honoring the Late Adam 'MCA' Yauch and Why Vintage New York Still Reigns

Beastie Boys
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Yauch, Diamond and Horovitz in Chicago in 1987. 

“Some things you remember more than others,” says Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, who, along with Michael “Mike D” Diamond, are the surviving members of seminal hip-hop trio Beastie Boys. It helps explain why it took them so long to assemble Beastie Boys Book, a newly published 571-page memoir about the group’s rise that features photos, lists, diagrams, illustrations and contributions from famous friends like Amy Poehler and Wes Anderson. The tome is sprawling, discursive and bittersweet, following third Beastie Adam “MCA” Yauch’s death from cancer in 2012. Diamond and Horovitz, both 52, discuss how the book stands as an affectionate, moving tribute to both MCA and their legacy.

What was the early driving force behind the book?
Diamond: The inception happened when [Yauch] was still alive, and we were working on a record at the time. He was really inspired by and loved The Who’s The Kids Are Alright film. He started moving the puck along on that, saying, “We should start doing something like this.”

What was the emotional state going through it?
Horovitz: The whole thing is abstract. There were days when everything was fun, there were days when everything was sad and reflective -- “can’t talk about this right now” kind of thing.

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Onstage at the 2007 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

How did you choose who would contribute guest essays?
Horovitz: The first person we thought to ask was [art critic/poet] Rene Ricard, but then he passed away. [Chef] Roy Choi, we’re friends, and he’s a great cook, and we talk about food so much in our records, so we thought, “Let’s add a cookbook.” We asked [writer] Luc Sante, who is so eloquent, to write his thing, saying the city is a mixtape. It was like having guests on a record -- like, Amy Poehler is Offset.

As you were making the book, were there any stories that you wish Yauch could have added?
Diamond: There was so much childhood stuff. Yauch would always have these crazy, “This time that so-and-so and I...” stories that formed him. He was a guy who just embraced experiences, and that was something we tried to get across in the book.

Beastie Boys were a product of a specific time and place: early-’80s New York. Why was that a special moment in history?
Diamond: We were teenagers, and it was all unfolding before our eyes. All the music was happening in one place -- a salsa club here, a hip-hop club over there, a jazz club over there. Now, of course, it’s all on everyone’s phones.
Horovitz: I feel like every generation feels the same thing. I’m sure Migos is psyched that it’s 2018. The internet is definitely a line in the sand. It has to be. It’s so massive. It’s not like, “Back in my day we didn’t have electricity, and now you kids do have electricity,” but it’s pretty fucking major.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of Billboard.