The Beastie Boys Release a New Freewheeling Memoir, and a Star-Studded 13-Hour Audiobook Featuring Snoop Dogg, Elvis Costello, Bette Midler, John Stewart & Dozens More

Quick way to date your­self: name the first Beast­ie Boys album you bought (or heard). If you some­how got your hands on an orig­i­nal press­ing of their first sin­gle “Cooky Puss”—released in 1981 when the then-four­some was a New York hard­core band—congratulations, you’re a leg­end. If you first bought 1986’s Licensed to Ill—their major label debut and com­ing-out as a crude rap-rock par­o­dy three­some (minus fired drum­mer Kate Schel­len­bach), pre­ci­sion-engi­neered to freak your par­ents out—congrats, you’re old.

In what­ev­er era you dis­cov­ered them—Paul’s Bou­tiqueCheck Your Head, Ill Com­mu­ni­ca­tion… maybe even their last album, 2011’s Hot Sauce Com­mit­tee Part Two—you dis­cov­ered a dif­fer­ent Beast­ies than the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion did. Over the course of their 30-year career, the trio evolved and matured, grew up and got down with new grooves to suit new audi­ences. That’s always been a very good thing.

As Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA—three per­son­al­i­ties as dis­tinc­tive as the three Stooges—got bet­ter at what they did, they tran­scend­ed the misog­y­nist, meat­head­ed mid-eight­ies incar­na­tion they came to look back on with embar­rass­ment and apol­o­gy. “We got so caught up with mak­ing fun of that rock-star per­sona,” writes Adam Horowitz (Ad-Rock) in the huge new Beast­ies mem­oir, “that we became that per­sona. Became what we hat­ed.”

Rob Harvil­la calls these very gen­uine moments of self-reflec­tion the best parts of the book. But with so many sto­ries over so many years, so much bril­liant writ­ing, and so many guest appear­ances from celebri­ty Beast­ie Boy fans, that’s a tough call. “Part mem­oir, part pho­to-heavy zine, part fan-appre­ci­a­tion tes­ti­mo­ni­al… and part sin­cere apol­o­gy,” the book seems both fresh and made to order and a ver­i­ta­ble buf­fet table of nos­tal­gia. Or, as Amy Poehler puts it in her intro to a sec­tion on their videos: “These days, their music makes me feel young and old at the same time.”

Behind the silli­ness and sin­cer­i­ty there is mourn­ing for third Beast­ie Adam Yauch (MCA), who died of can­cer in 2012 and whose voice is con­spic­u­ous­ly absent from the book. Yet the two remain­ing mem­bers choose not to dwell. “You brace for the heart­break­ing account of Yauch’s diag­no­sis and death,” Harvil­la writes, “but those details go undis­cussed. ‘Too fuck­ing sad to writ­ing about’ is all Horovitz has to say.’” The pre­vail­ing atmos­phere is cel­e­bra­to­ry, like any good Beast­ie Boys album—this one a par­ty full of adult peers look­ing back, laugh­ing, and winc­ing at their younger selves.

The voic­es on the page are so vivid you can squint and almost hear them (at one point Horovitz describes unwind­ing a cas­sette tape as “pulling 60 min­utes of wet fet­tuc­cine out of a dog’s mouth”). But we don’t have to imag­ine what they sound like. Along with the 571-page hard­bound cin­derblock of a book, the band has released what Rolling Stone hails as the “audio­book of the year,” a “bril­liant 13-hour radio play” in which Mike D and Ad-Rock are joined by a major­ly star-stud­ded cast of guest read­ers includ­ing Snoop Dogg, Kim Gor­don, Steve Busce­mi, Chloë Sevi­gny, Wan­da Sykes, Jon Stew­art, Ben Stiller, and Bette Midler (that’s just the very short list).

New York hip hop leg­ends LL Cool J, Chuck D, and Rev Run (of Run DMC) show up, as does Brook­lyn act­ing leg­end Rosie Perez and non-New York­ers Exene Cer­ven­ka and Elvis Costel­lo. (See the full cast list at Audi­ble.) It’s not a mem­oir, it’s a mix­tape. Hear excerpts from the audio book in the Sound­Cloud clips above and buy it online, or down­load it for free through’s 30-day free tri­al pro­gram.  Guar­an­teed, no mat­ter what age you are, to make you feel young and old at the same time.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bruce Spring­steen Nar­rates Audio­book Ver­sion of His New Mem­oir (and How to Down­load It for Free)

Hear Kim Gor­don, Son­ic Youth Rock­er, Read From Her New Mem­oir, Girl in a Band

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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