The Beastie Boys: Aglio e Olio
The Beastie Boys started their musical careers as rambunctious, barely in control of their instruments (yes, they all play instruments) punk rockers. Their first official release, Pollywog Stew, featured 8 songs in only 11 minutes of music. Remember those numbers. It wasn’t until an experimental, rap oriented singled by them gained traction in several markets around the country that the group decided to focus on rap music full time. As a result, their debut album was the first rap album to hit number one on the Billboard charts. The Beasties continued to occasionally play their own instruments. A song from Pollywod Stew continued to be featured in their live shows throughout their career. And so, when they were beginning to compile songs for their eventual 1998 album, Hello Nasty, they began to realize that they had brought several songs to the recording studio that fell back on their brash punk roots. Rather than shelving all of them, they decided to release a hold-over EP titled Aglio e Olio. Their selling point for the EP, a sticker affixed to the CD/Vinyl which read “Only 8 songs, only 11 minutes, only cheap $”. The sticker was basically warning people that this wasn’t a full album, and it wasn’t what they had grown used to hearing from the band.
The leadoff track, titled Brand New, served as the single in several markets. The songs lone verse (second verse, same as the first) features several short lines which tell the outlines of a story about how the band were returning to their roots. For example “think about diamond rings and gold fronts combined” stereotypes rap music into “bling”, with several lines following describing “then go back go way back/something passed that you lack/well I’ve got brand new/scooby snack just for you”. Basically, they were stating the fact that, while people may not know them for hardcore songs, this EP, and the song itself, was a return to their roots.
Track two on the EP is titled Deal with It. The lyrics of the song are centered around people who choose to stereotype people based upon preconcieved notions that everybody else is inferior. The singer goes on to state that “I won’t say that life’s a bitch and then you die/because I will do my best to enjoy mine”. Those two lines encapsulate the Buddhist Adam Yauch (MCA as he’s known in the band) serenity which lead him to support the Tibetan Freedom movement, including a series of concerts in 1996.
Track four, Nervous Assistant, is the shortest track on the EP, coming in at a mere 45 seconds. In that length of time, though, they fit in three verses (the third shorter than the other two). The song seems to be about a roadie who runs around back stage, perhaps as a result of drinking too much coffee, perhaps as a result of being too eager to please. The lyrics resolve themselves by suggesting that, if the roadie continues to be nervous, they will make everybody else around them nervous too.
The final track on the album, titled I Want Some, returns to the central theme of Deal with It. Lyrically, the song evokes somebody’s thoughts regarding making through another day, even though they are stressed out about the rest of the world around them. “I give to this world til I’ve got nothing left to give to/I give thanks to this world for the life that I lived through”; that couplet generates a sense of wanting to give all you have and then give some more. The second verse similarly trys to keep a frustrated outlook optimisic by stating “Looking ahead the next level we’re gonna take it to/I guess I should be happy it’s a day we made it through”.
The Beastie Boys continued to be one of the more popular bands in the worlds of both rap and alternative music. Hello Nasty, the album for which they had brought these hardcore songs to the table, was released in 1998 and spawned five singles. After the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, the band returned to the studio and recorded the album which would become 2004’s To the Five Boroughs, which if the titled wasn’t enough of an indication, their intent was made even more explicit with a single titled “An Open Letter to NYC”. Their final album, Hot Sauce Committee Volume Two, was delayed from an originally scheduled 2009 release date until 2011 because Adam Yauch had been diagnosed with cancer. Yauch died of cancer on May 4, 2012, less than three weeks after The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Below is the entire album, performed once in concert; 8 songs, only 10 minutes. Enjoy.