The Beastie Boys could have been bigger than Eminem, according to Russell Simmons, the man behind the music label Def Jam. Back in the 80s, Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch, and Adam Horowitz were a juggernaut in the rap scene, putting raw energy and a positive edge behind some of the most classic rap music ever written. The Jewish trio rocked us about as hard as N.W.A. and did it all without overly offensive lyrics.
Of course, they still occasionally let some bad words into their music, hence the black and white “parental advisory” labels which plagued some of their albums. Despite the occasional vulgar words and, in one case, the use of the N-word (“Get it Together”), the trio have never gone fully offensive. Probably the closest they came to it was “No Sleep till Brooklyn,” where they mention their manager doing drugs as they partook in a non-stop party on their way to a venue.
The Beastie Boys were still going strong until the untimely death of Adam (MCA) Yauch, with their sound having evolved over time. In spite of the years, their sound was always classic.
Eminem, Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers, or whatever you want to call him, got his start under Death Row Records with a comedic album recorded with Dr. Dre. His early style was almost a parody of modern rap, with such hits as “The Real Slim Shady.”
Russell Simmons has been talking a lot of smack lately about ALL sorts of things…but this is something he… https://t.co/l35cIlU8iZ
— Q101 | Alternative (@Q101Chicago) May 10, 2016
Marshall’s style changed after he released the hit semi-autobiographical film 8-Mile. He discovered he could be serious and actually strike a nerve with the song “Lose Yourself,” a song which basically described his life struggling as a white rapper in a music scene dominated by black artists. Afterwards, he began rapping from a more serious perspective and started sharing the spotlight with others in the hip-hop and R&B scene, such as Rihanna in the song “I Like the Way You Lie.”
The Beastie Boys very rarely ever teamed up with other artists, and their fans appreciated them for it. The biggest change they made was leaving Def Jam Records after the smash hit album Licensed to Ill. Capitol ended up being their musical home from Paul’s Boutique onward. Licensed to Ill was one of the few albums that was almost packed with nothing but hits.
This may be what Russell Simmons was referring to when he stated that the Beastie Boys could have been bigger than Eminem. After they moved on to Capitol Records, they went the usual route that most rap groups did, releasing two or three songs good enough for radio play while the rest was filler nobody really liked.
“They couldn’t get along with Lyor [Cohen] and Rick [Ruben]. Lyor wanted to manage [them] and make them a big movie at a big movie studio. Rick being the genius he was, I’m sure their next album would have been greater. I’m sure that had Rick stayed with the Beastie Boys they would have been Eminem or greater.”
Oddly, most fans of the trio know that many of their music videos tended to be goofy B-movie fare (“Intergalactic”). They might not have been okay with having made a major motion picture like 8-Mile or Straight Outta Compton, having to be serious for an hour and a half. Another possibility might have been a documentary that followed the group on tour as they recorded and played around.
Despite Russell Simmons’ words, it seems the Beastie Boys did well enough with Capitol Records. With hits ranging from “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” to “Girls,” and from “Sabotage” to “Make Some Noise,” they had gone strong from start to finish.
Fans would undoubtedly love a new album post-Adam Yauch, but it’s unknown if they would feel that to be an insult to his memory.
[Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images]