Jul 12, 2016

The Homophobic 1980s of the Beastie Boys

I barely heard of The Beastie Boys until last January, when their song "Shake Your Rump" was performed on The Goldbergs.   All I knew was that they were a boy band from the 1980s, probably British (since Americans don't use the adjective "beastly"), and they sang "You got to fight for your right to party."

But the Goldberg homage group,  The Tasty Boys (Sam Lerner, Troy Gentile, Sean Giambrone), was rather tasty, and the song was catchy, so I looked up the Beastie Boys.

I found this photo of the group on the beach at Coney Island: Mike D (Mike Diamond, born in 1965), MCA (Adam Yauch, 1964-2012), and Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz (born in 1966)

Not bad.  Why were they under my radar in the late 1980s?

Then I found a 1999 letter by Ad-Rock, published in Time Out: 

“I would like to formally apologize to the entire gay and lesbian community for the shitty and ignorant things we said on our first record."

That would be License to Ill, released in 1986.

Wait -- something homophobic happened in 1986, and I didn't know about it?

So I looked up the album and scanned the lyrics of every song for homophobia.

Like most rap artists they brag a lot about how much sex with women they have.  Every woman on Earth wants to sleep with them, due partly to their enormous penises and partly to their orgasm-inducing music:

Taxing all females from coast to coast
And when I get my fill I'm chilly most

We rag-tag girlies back at the hotel

Met this girl at the party and she started to flirt
I told her some rhymes and she pulled up her skirt

Although they like women for other reasons than just sex:

Girls -- to do the dishes.
Girls -- to clean up my room.
Girls -- to do the laundry.
Girls -- in the bathroom

Men other than their homeboys are woefully unable to get girls (for laundry or sex), and therefore jealous.  Sometimes they have to be killed, but the Beastie Boys are stone-cold killas, more than up to the challenge.

Twin sisters in my bed, their father had envy so I shot him in the head

Saw the kid that dissed my homey and shot him in the back.

I keep a pistol in my pocket so you better be cautious.

They also brag about how great their music is.  Other musicians are woefully inadequate, not proficient enough to make rhymes, not manly enough to get girls:

You tried to steal my fresh and you got cold busted
Because your crew's all soft and I'm disgusted

In general, the Beastie Boys are the most wondrous beings on the planet, desired by every girl, envied by every boy.

And I got more juice than Picasso got paint
Got rhymes that are rough and rhymes that are slick
I'm not surprised you're on my dick

The lyrics were very, very annoying.  Did the Beatles announce how great they were in every song?  But I didn't see anything specifically homophobic.

The only lyrics that come close are disapproving of sophisticated guys:

You got a dry Martini thinking you're cool
I'll take your place at the bar, I'll smack you off your stool
I'll down a '40 dog in a single gulp
And if you got beef you'll get beat to a pulp

 There's one line suggesting that the competing musicians are gay:

You drippy nose knuckle-head - you're wet behind the ears
You like men - and we like beer.

And the few girls who refuse sex:

I should have probably guessed they're gay.

Altogether, rather mild.

Of course, in real life they were as homophobic as just about every group of lower-class New York teenagers in the 1980s.  They wanted to call their album Don't Be a Faggot.  In a 1987 interview entitled "Yo, Homo," Ad-Rock clarified: "I hate faggots...I really do.  I've got lots of gay friends, but..."

MCA stepped in to explain further: Ad-Rock hates gay people, but he has a good reason.  When he was five years old, he was constantly being propositioned by "disgusting faggots who aren't just like gay people -- normal gay people."

Um, I believe the term for that is pedophile.

Over the years, the Beastie Boys moved beyond their boyhood bigotry, far beyond the glorified violence and sexism of their early work.  They became feminists and Tibetan Buddhists, spoke out in favor of human rights, opposed Islamophobia.

And became gay-inclusive, sort of.

In 2004 they were singing:

We gotta keep the party going on 
All lifestyles, sizes, shapes, and form 

See also: The Goldbergs