Three MCs and one DJ
Posted on May 4th, 2012
It is 1998. I am a painfully uncool 13-year-old who isn’t sure who she is yet. My older sister is in love with Keanu Reeves so I am in love with Keanu Reeves. Everyone at school likes the Spice Girls so I like the Spice Girls. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
The days are filled with schoolwork that I conscientiously avoid doing and the nights are a blur of CBBC and Australian soap operas, oven cooked meals and hours-long sessions spent taping chart music off the radio.
Saturday morning is usually given over to gym club, but this Saturday morning I am at home.
I don’t really like the chart show because music videos don’t really interest me, but today I am watching. Maybe there is nothing else on. Maybe I am watching the chart show because my friends watch the chart show. Either way, I am sitting on the chintzy floral carpet in the living room surrounded by mismatched furniture and just happy to be free of any obligations on my time.
Suddenly, a plastic robot is hurtling towards Earth. Some men are pretending to be scientists, but their costumes are terrible, the effects laughable – so laughable that it catches my attention. A Japanese girl feigns horror at the approaching robot and suddenly there’s this synthesised hook intergalactic planetary planetary intergalactic and the Beastie Boys prance forth in their safety inspector boiler suits and yellow boots.
It is simultaneously the stupidest and most thrillingly brilliant thing I have ever seen and heard.
The beat kicks in and I am rapt. The rapping starts and I am officially a Beastie Boys fan. It is the first song I think I have ever truly liked simply because I like what I hear.
My flowery living room in a Midlands suburb, my worries about homework and who’s friends with who and whether a boy will ever like me couldn’t be further from the Beasties’ world whether they’re running amok around Tokyo or their much-loved New York City, but it feels like this is my song, my music, my band.
It is months before I save up enough money to buy Hello Nasty (£13) but it is worth it. I feel like a real person, buying that CD. It sits in my small collection somewhere between the Backstreet Boys, the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack and Hanson’s classic debut Middle of Nowhere, completely out of place but completely at home.
It gets a lot of use, Hello Nasty. I spend hours trying to trick my CD player (a chunky boombox made by Bush and covered in stickers from Smash Hits) into playing just the little Spanish skit that precedes Remote Control to fill up space on the end of pretty much every tape I make. Brace yourself, BOOM. I’m intercontinental when I eat French toast. Sure, I can take or leave the freeform jazzy numbers towards the end of the album but those first ten tracks: wow. I didn’t realise there was music like this and that I am allowed to listen to it, buy it, love it. I mean, they’re rapping. Listen to those beats. And that bass.
For a while, that CD was my favourite possession. It is, quite possibly, my oldest CD, its cardboard digipack now creased and tired in the same reassuring way a book would be tired after 14 years of repeat reading. I put aside BSB and Hanson but I am listening to my beloved Hello Nasty right now.
So yeah, Paul’s Boutique is a rose-tinted masterpiece, and I love License to Ill, which was my gateway drug to the host of crappy (and brilliant) punk rock bands I listened to throughout my teenage years – I even like the verging-on-schmaltzy To The 5 Boroughs. But it was Hello Nasty that I reached for today when I heard that Adam Yauch had passed away and it is Hello Nasty that will always be my favourite Beastie Boys album.
P.S. I also have the Beastie Boys to thank for facilitating my most badass story to date (and that’s a fact that will remind you that I am still that same lame 13-year-old girl once you read it): Six years after that chart show session, I was at university in Portsmouth and working in a crappy kitchenware shop. One day I went to see the Beastie Boys in London instead of going to work. It lost me my job and I’ve never regretted anything less.