Cohen: It was insane. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. It’s only happened once.
Ringwald: In England, the police basically came and got Adam [Horovitz] in the middle of the night because they said he threw a beer bottle and it hit this girl. It was a really rowdy audience, super-drunk, and they were throwing beer cans at the stage. Adam picked up a baseball bat like he was going to bat them back, but it was Yauch who actually threw the bottle. And Horovitz never said that it was the other Adam, which says something about why the band is still together. At this point, Adam was really burnt out. He felt a little trapped in their image. You know, the record company wanted to put them onstage with go-go dancers. He kept saying, “Don’t people realize it’s just a joke? That it’s stupid?” And we’d kind of fallen in love, and he wanted to hang out with me, and I wanted to hang out with him. It was also a really weird time for him: He’d lost his mom not that long before, and he was still reeling from that.
Amid all that success, the relationship between Rubin and the Beasties—who were chafing under their friend’s Svengali-like public image and upset by Def Jam’s withholding royalty payments—began to disintegrate. Meanwhile, Simmons and Rubin were having their own difficulties, thanks to competing visions for the future of Def Jam; they would later split up as well.
Rubin: The press had a negative effect. The band members were portrayed as my puppets, which wasn’t the case, and they harbored resentments about that. Also, things grew so quickly, none of us knew how to handle it, and we all got pulled in different directions. Everything happens the way it’s supposed to. It’s out of our control.
Dubin: They had a great collaborator in Rick, who knew how to take their music to the next level. For a time, he helped to steer them, and they were happy to be steered. But that was a very brief time. And I’ll tell you this: Rick didn’t tell them what to do onstage.
Cohen: We were young, and had we had any experience, they would have still been with us. I probably would have been a better collaborator and a better diplomat between the band and Rick.
Horovitz: It all just fell apart and got fucked-up. Which was sad, because it was really fun. But what are you gonna do?
DMC: I commend the Beastie Boys for [leaving Def Jam]. They were able to go away and keep their identity. It wasn’t defined by “Oh, the label wants this song.” That’s why they still have their following. I’m so jealous.
The Beastie boys went on to make six more studio albums, selling a total of more than 42 million copies worldwide and setting trends in video, fashion, and pop culture. Their eighth album, Hot Sauce Committee, was temporarily shelved in 2009, when Yauch was diagnosed with cancer in his parotid gland and in a lymph node (for which he continues to be treated; he was unavailable for this oral history). It was restarted in 2010—hence the Part 2. Despite its weighty backstory, Hot Sauce finds the Beasties returning to the vibe that began with Licensed to Ill; on the track “Make Some Noise,” Yauch raps the lines “We got a party on the left / A party on the right / We gonna party for the motherfuckin’ right to fight.”
Horovitz: At the time [of 5 Boroughs], our usual stupid shit wasn’t that funny.
Diamond: There wasn’t a big heavy event that transpired while we were making Hot Sauce. We were free to get back to our bread and butter: fart jokes.