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Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock And Mike D, Spike Jonze Talk Growing Up In New Documentary 'Beastie Boys Story'

Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch and Adam Horovitz in 1993 from an archival photo used in 'Beastie Boys Story' on Apple TV+

Courtesy Photo: Apple TV+

 

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Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock And Mike D, Spike Jonze Talk Growing Up In New Documentary 'Beastie Boys Story'

The two surviving members of the GRAMMY-winning hip-hop trio, alongside the film's director, discuss how the new documentary reflects their growth and evolution as a band, as friends and as men

GRAMMYs/Apr 24, 2020 - 09:56 pm

Promoting their new documentary, Beastie Boys Story, premiering today (April 24) on Apple TV+, the two surviving members of GRAMMY-winning hip-hop trio Beastie Boys, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond, alongside the film's director and the group's longtime collaborator and friend, Spike Jonze, participated in a Zoom round-table video interview with select journalists earlier this week to talk about the project.

These pandemic times have affected every aspect of life as we know it, particularly when it comes to how we communicate with each other, and nowhere is this more evident than within the realms of entertainment and media. On TV, news anchors and talk show hosts broadcast from their kitchens and basements, reflecting many of our own work environments, while meetings of all kinds take place via video conferencing apps, providing a new semblance of personal exchange and connection. The Beastie Boys Zoom experience was no exception. 

While the question-and-answer conversation was structured and moderated, it provided some loose moments, offering glimpses of each artist's homelife—Horovitz rested his head on a bed pillow for most of the interview—and exchanges of laughs and love.

The same could be said of the doc itself, which features Diamond and Horovitz live onstage during last year's theater book tour for their GRAMMY-nominated, career-chronicling 2018 tome, "Beastie Boys Book." It's been almost 35 years since the New York-bred band began making music. The new documentary shares their decades-long story in a scripted yet personal, TED-Talks-style presentation, backdropped by old photos and video footage taken throughout their career.

Beastie Boys Story eschews the conventional talking-head documentary format and lets the guys share and reminisce in their own way about their development, crediting in large part producers Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, their maturing perspectives and, most significantly, their late bandmate, Adam "MCA" Yauch, who died of cancer in 2012. The film offers an insightful and at times bittersweet look at how Yauch, who originally formed and named the group, used his artistic and activist vision to help transcend the group from its raucous rap and rock revelry of their youth to become sonic innovators and cultural icons.

The Recording Academy joined Diamond, Horovitz and Jonze, alongside a group of fellow writers and journalists, on a video conference call to discuss how Beastie Boys Story captures the group's growth and evolution—as a band, as friends and as men.

This interview includes questions and comments from writers and contributors not associated with the Recording Academy.

Journalist: It's interesting to see the two of you look back at your lives and admit your mistakes and have interaction with Spike Jonze. Who came up with the concept [for the film]?

Michael "Mike D" Diamond (founding member of Beastie Boys): It sort of evolved over time. We had the "Beastie Boys Book," and when that came out, we were faced with the idea [of], "What are we supposed to do now, go out and do some book readings and feel kinda lame?" So with [director] Spike [Jonze], [we came up] with this idea to do more of a performance. We were trying to tell our story, give a sense of the arc of time [in which] the story takes place. But it was tricky. The book is 500-something pages, and we didn't expect people to sit in their seats to deal with us for much more than two hours. Adam and I got together to write, and then Spike would be at the run-throughs and we'd rewrite things. We did those shows in New York, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and toured it around a little bit. Of course, when we got to the end, we were like, "Hmm … we should've filmed that." So we took a little break, then we started to rewrite the show with the idea of filming it and getting more of the story down: How we as a band have always worked and how we've always worked with Spike, is just all of us getting together and a lot of ideas coming and sort of implementing them on the fly.

Spike Jonze (GRAMMY-winning director and filmmaker who directed Beastie Boys Story): It's like we threw as many different chairs and umbrellas and photos and records and doves up in the air, and then we just saw how many we could catch.

Journalist: One thing that struck me from the doc is the moment when Mike D says, "It could've been any three white guys from Def Jam's position." It struck me as odd. What would make you say that?

Mike D: In that moment, looking back at it, when Rick Rubin introduced us to Russell Simmons, Russell saw this thing in us that we didn't see in ourselves. He saw this ability … he was like, "These guys love rap music and they're going to make rap records and I can take that to an audience and I'm gonna get them on the covers of magazines." Honestly, at the time, it was a struggle for Russell, in terms of like rap being this very underground, alternative culture that he was trying to bust into the mainstream. I think he just saw us as an important part of that program. So to clarify, it could've been us or it could've been a couple other dudes. That's what Russell's mission was. And Rick's mission was he just wanted to make great records.

Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz (longtime member of Beastie Boys): Also, we were terrible. We were really bad when we were just starting out. So it's not like [Simmons] found this undiscovered gem, like these guys that could really rap or really play guitar or whatever the thing was. We were really bad.

Jonze: They're talking about when they started out, when they were 16-17 and doing Run-DMC rhymes together in their bedrooms, not so much when they were making their first record and finding their voice.

Adam Horovitz and Mike Diamond in Beastie Boys Story, on Apple TV+ | Courtesy Photo: Apple TV+

Journalist: When you go back and watch this film, were there things that surprised you that came up, or about the way that the audience responded?

Horovitz: There were definitely times seeing the pictures, even though we knew what was coming and what was going to be on the screen; it was really nice. It was surprising how I wanted to just pause on those moments and take the picture and the memory in.  

Journalist: Did you ever believe that you were going to be one of the biggest rap acts [ever]?

Horovitz That wasn't anything that we thought about, really. We come from a punk rock background. It wasn't like, "We're going to make it one day." It was like, day to day, is it going to be fun? So it was wild when people started buying our first record and we started playing bigger shows. It wasn't part of our plan, but it was f*ckin' cool.

Journalist: In the documentary, you talked about writing [the Beastie Boys' 1986 hit single] "Fight For Your Right" as a way to mock bro culture. But you confessed that, in a sense, you became those guys. How did you pull yourselves out of that?

Diamond: We were in my apartment in West Village in New York City, and we don't have any bro dudes in our circle, so it seemed like a really funny thing to make fun of. We didn't have this vision of, "We're gonna make it big." So we do this song that's kind of a goof. Then we go on tour and those dudes are in the front row, and you kind of go with it because you're getting applauded … Then after a bit, it's like, "Whoa, wait a second. The world we came from is so not that world." And we missed who we were in that world. Because we had a falling out with Def Jam, it brought us back to the three of us and we got to take a break and look at each other and be like, "OK, what do we want to do?"

Read: The Beastie Boys Provide A License To Party

Horovitz: It's like if you get the extra large bag of Frito chips and you start eating them and you're like, '"Whoa, these taste really good." Then you're like, "They're really salty and they're making me feel bad," but you keep eating them and eating them. Then when you're done with the bag, you're like, "Wow, I'm never gonna eat another f*cking Frito again."

Jonze: That's a poignant metaphor.

The Recording Academy: I love how the documentary showed the evolution of the band and how you tackled more politics and social ideas over the years. Obviously, Adam [Yauch] became very involved in activism, and the band reflected that. If the Beastie Boys were still making music now, how would they tackle the world and Donald Trump and today's issues?

Horovitz: Donald Trump is so awful I don't even want to give him space in my brain. He's awful … not even funny-awful.

Jonze: If you [search] YouTube [for] "MTV Awards Beastie Boys Woodstock," there's a clip of Adam—this is [in] 1999 or so, when it was extra-not-cool to be political—and they go onstage right after Woodstock happened.

Read: Why Can't Anyone Get Woodstock Right? 15 Of The Original Fest's Performers Weigh In

Adam Horowitz goes up and talks about how appalling what happened was: the lack of security, that bands need to step up and push to have better security and look out for women at these festivals and these shows. He's basically urging all the artists to take it seriously. There were no other artists talking about that at the time. I mean, it was really moving … I was just watching it at home and it was not popular.

Diamond: We weren't supported in the room. It wasn't like everyone was like, "Oh yes, finally someone's saying it!" It was basically us saying, "We all need to talk about this because it's happening." But it was this thing that nobody wanted to talk about because no one wanted to admit that it was happening.

The Recording Academy: Sounds like sort of a pre-#MeToo thing. You recognized that within concert culture, these things were happening. So you might have continued down that path, perhaps? Speaking out about these things?

Horovitz: Yeah, absolutely. Honestly, it was, for me at least, just being around Adam Yauch—him just saying the things that he did and taking stands that he did publicly. It was inspiring for me to be like, "Oh, you can make fart jokes and actually also care about people?" And respect your place in the public, that you have a platform to say things and people will listen—whether they give a sh*t or not, I don't know. He was always really inspiring, like, "Oh, wow. If Yauch can do it, I can do it."

Journalist: One of the things I loved about Yauch was the fact that he could look back at ways he behaved in the past and apologize for it and say, "I was wrong, I was stupid." How do you explain the [early] Licensed To Ill years to your kids?

Diamond: Being a father of teenagers, I don't know how I first explained it, but I was really happy that they got to travel with me a bunch while I was doing these shows, because this is going to happen to all of us. We are all going to have these actions that we're ultimately not proud of and we're all going to have situations in our lives that we could've handled better. We're so grateful. Here I am with my best friends, Adam and Spike, and we get to talk about that.

Journalist: What do you hope people watching [the documentary] take away or learn about you guys or your journey?

Jonze: I liked the idea of trying to represent everything I love about them and their band. And I love the idea of just the people that were in the car, on the road trip, telling the story. We don't have anyone else talking about the band from a cultural perspective. I wanted to really just capture the way they create and the spirit in which they're a band and their friendship. Not many bands that have been together that long are actually great friends through the whole thing; it feels like a lot of times when a band gets older, they're in a band together almost as a business. And I feel like nothing that these guys ever did was about that. It would be, first and foremost, about what the three of them wanted to do. So I hope [the film] just captures their love for each other [and] their friendship.

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Brittany Howard

Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images

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Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2020 - 04:13 am

This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.

“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”

Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.

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Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Doja Cat

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December

GRAMMYs/Oct 2, 2019 - 12:11 am

Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.

This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the RapperLil Uzi VertJuice WRLDYoung Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.

L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.

The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.

Tickets for Rolling Loud L.A. go on sale this Friday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. PST. The complete lineup and more info on this event and their other fests can be found here.

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