Horovitz: Then we were like, “Oh, shit, we should get a D.J.! Like rap groups. They have a D.J.!” Nick Cooper knew about this guy Rick Rubin who went to NYU and would throw parties and had turntables. And a bubble machine. We were like, “If we had a fucking D.J. and a fucking bubble machine, we’d be fucking killing it.”
Adam Dubin, Rubin’s NYU roommate and co-director of the video for “Fight for Your Right”: Rick was very excited by “Cooky Puss.” He organized me and our other friends to call in to “Noise the Show” and request it, and then, after they played it, to call in again and say how much we liked it. He had no financial stake then.
Hoffert: Rick Rubin was in a hardcore band called Hose. They would play downstairs in the cafeteria of the Weinstein dorm. It was crazed, almost Charles Manson–like. They were pretty awful. And people couldn’t make sense of what he was onto—the fact that he was in this band, and then he’d come back from these hip-hop clubs at night. He was already a budding impresario. He was a complete powerhouse; he worked fourteen, sixteen hours a day.
Dubin: Rick’s most famous dorm party was the bikini contest. It was about 150 people. Packed. Everything about it was unsafe. Surging crowds, straight vodka, gin, tons of beer. Finally the time rolls around for the bikini part, and girls start stripping and people start throwing drinks. I kind of remember Adam Horovitz pouring water over some of those girls.
Horovitz: So then Rick Rubin becomes our D.J.: D.J. Double R.
“They were smart, arty Jewish boys from New York City, and they created these white-trash burnout characters. And they pulled it off.”
Diamond: [At gigs] we’d probably play hardcore songs for fifteen minutes, then put down our instruments, and Rick would D.J. and we’d do another ten minutes. We’d basically be doing bad cover versions of those twelve-inchers live. Maybe each of us would say eight rhymes that we wrote. You emulate the music that you love, and then after a minute you start to figure out your place in that.
Cooper: They played a show at Studio 54 right when it reopened after being shut down for tax evasion. We had a case of beer in the dressing room, and security realized they were all minors, and they took it away. Diamond started complaining onstage about it, saying, “These Mafia owners, these corrupt people, these scumbags.”
Horovitz: One night at Danceteria, Rick was like, “Yo, this guy is Run’s brother. He’s the manager of fucking Run DMC.” And it’s Russell Simmons.
Schellenbach: Around that time, I got back from being away, and I ran into the guys at Area. They were all wearing matching Puma sweatsuits that Rick had bought them, and of course he didn’t buy one for me. I respected him as a musician, but he and I did not get along. He was like a meathead sexist asshole. He flat-out said, “I don’t like the way women sound rapping.” It was already something I felt insecure about. Yauch had a heart-to-heart with me: “Rick thinks we can be the first white rap group. We’ll still do the [hardcore] songs, but we’ll do it as the Young and the Useless.” We did that for a while.
Ross: Jazzy Jay had gotten close to Rick, and he invited all those dudes up to the Bronx, and the Beasties went and got the Zulu beads and were put in the Zulu Nation [the international hip-hop-awareness group formed by Afrika Bambaataa]. That was big for them.
The band, still largely unknown, lucked into some settlement money when British Airways sampled one of the Cooky Puss songs, “Beastie Revolution,” without clearing it. Yauch and Diamond used the cash to move out of their parents’ houses. Even more lucky, the Beastie Boys landed an opening slot on Madonna’s “Virgin Tour.” According to the book Def Jam, Inc., Madonna’s management had originally called Russell Simmons inquiring about the hip-hop trio the Fat Boys. Without actually making it clear that he did not, in fact, manage the Fat Boys, Simmons talked Madonna’s people into using the Beasties.
Diamond: Yauch and I got an apartment in Chinatown—apartment might be an overstatement. It was on Chrystie Street when it was still really Chinatown, and it was an entirely sweatshop building. We could play music literally any time of the day or night.