Heds and Dreds: The Beastie Boys’ Reggae Jones

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Words by Jesse Serwer and DJ Gravy—

Being ambassadors for reggae music is not one of the things the Beastie Boys are well known for but the group’s members—Ad-Rock, Mike D and the late, great MCA, Adam Yauch, who died Friday from throat cancer—were all, in their own ways, students and aficionados of Jamaican music. It’s something you can hear on “Beastie Revolution,” from 1983’s Cookie Puss EP—the one that saw the former hardcore punk band develop into a boundary-pushing hip-hop outfit—and on their very last release, The Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. (We just saw Mike D freaking out over vintage dancehall at a Johnny Osbourne show on Long Island last summer.)

Back before the Internet took over, Beastie Boys lyrics were where many teenagers of my generation learned about interesting music we otherwise wouldn’t have known about. Stuff like Rammellzee, Jimmy Smith and Lee Dorsey. I doubt that I knew the name “Lee Perry” before Ill Communication dropped during the last weeks of my freshman year in high school but I can say for sure that it was the references to Scratch on that album and his cover story in the Beasties’ magazine Grand Royal that started me on my journey into dub music. Click through below for some more examples of how reggae has colored the Beasties’ eclectic catalog. And thank you, Adam Yauch, for taking my peers and I on an incredible musical odyssey these last 26 years. —Jesse Serwer

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