Run: They’d teach me about stupid white-boy stuff, like whippits. “What the hell is a whippit?” “Okay, you take this Reddi-wip thing, you push, you inhale it.” Stuff black people don’t do. I was like, “I don’t know the effects of this foolishness.” I don’t think I did it. With the Beasties, nothing was normal. Ad-Rock bugged me out: He was dating the actress [Molly Ringwald]. It was like, “Wow, now that I look at him, he kind of looks like a movie star.”
Molly Ringwald: I finished doing The Pick-Up Artist, and the producer was putting together the music. He brought the Beastie Boys in to talk to them about having a song in the movie, and Adam gave his number to the producer. I went and looked at some music magazines. I was trying to figure out which Adam it was, because I only wanted to call if it was Adam Horovitz. I thought he was really cute.
DMC: The backstage would be so full of beer. I remember one night we got scared. Yauch, he slipped, like it was a banana peel, and went 50 feet in the fucking air, and went down like bam. I know he was hurt. But he just gets up and laughs it off.
Ringwald: I only made it two weeks on tour. I remember New Orleans because I got really drunk—drunker than I’d ever been in my entire life. I drank all the Beastie Boys under the table.
Run: I never hung out late-night, but I would read all the crazy stuff in the tabloids. In my mind, I was wondering, What percentage of this is true? Oh, man, the Beasties didn’t turn over a car last night, did they?” They were becoming a menace to society.
“They wanted to kick us off the tour, and Madonna was like, ‘These guys are staying; these guys are great.’ ”
Def Jam released Licensed to Ill, which was a near-instant success, becoming (Def Jam distributor) Columbia Records’ fastest-selling debut and introducing classic Beastie rhymes like this one off “Time to Get Ill”: “Went outside my house, I went down to the deli / I spent my last dime to refill my fat belly / I got rhymes galime, I got rhymes galilla / And I got more rhymes than Phyllis Diller.” The album would go on to sell 9 million copies, good for sixth on the all-time rap-sales list. In support, the band set out on their first headlining tour.
Eddy: There was something knowing and thought-out about what the Beasties did, connecting rhythmic seventies rock with rap. I kind of knew it was going to happen [eventually]. I was waiting for Licensed to Ill.
Dubin: It was crazy. D.J.’s were spinning “Fight for Your Right” every hour. On the set of [the Run DMC movie] Tougher Than Leather, executives from MTV came down and said, “We’re holding a spot in heavy rotation. We need a music video.” We shot it in two days. The idea was to present who the Beastie Boys are: They come to your party, they wreck the party, they steal the girl, they drink all the booze, and when all hell breaks loose, they leave. [Co-director Ric] Menello came up with the high-minded idea: It’s the party scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Tabitha Soren, future MTV V.J. and Rubin’s friend from NYU: They had no budget. They stole expired whipped cream from behind the back of a grocery store. So there’s this raunchy-smelling, past-its-prime dairy stuff being thrown all over. If you watch the video very carefully, I’m the only person who doesn’t get whipped cream in their hair.
Horovitz: Then Russell booked us our first headlining tour. It all started in Missoula, Montana. And it was super-weird.
Lyor Cohen, who was Run DMC’s road manager before spearheading Def Jam’s management arm, Rush Artist Management: In the beginning, they were booked in 400-to-700-seat clubs. By the time we got to California, I had to change the venue six times, from a 700-seater to a 16,000-person-capacity venue.
Rubin: I remember Volkswagen doing an ad with their car with the hood ornament ripped off—behavior inspired by Mike D’s necklace. In that moment, it was clear we were part of the public consciousness.
Horovitz: Literally everything we did was just with our friends. And all of a sudden we’re going to Europe and the U.K., and it was us and all of our friends in fucking Tokyo. It was just crazy.
Rubin: I stopped touring to stay in New York and produce music, so it wasn’t as hard on me. They had to deal with “Beastie Mania” firsthand.