Depending on where your head’s at, you’ll probably know that Mixmaster Mike is a prolifically talented DJ and turntablist, as well as having been the DJ for the Beastie Boys for the last 20 years (and their last DJ too – RIP MCA). His percussive, funky style gave the Beasties’ sound an extra-crisp kinetic kick. Here’s my top 5 Beastie Boys tracks, some of which even feature Mixmaster Mike himself.
“Too Many Rappers, Not Enough MCs (feat. Nas)” – this is from their latest (last?) album, “Hot Sauce Committee Part II”, which is a return to their slightly sloppier, white-boy punk-funk sounds of the early 90s. I love this track because it’s every bit of what makes the Beastie Boys brilliant – 3 MCs who have known each other for decades, poking fun, bragging, goofing about – and then up pops Nas, stamping his style all over the track. And it’s a boombastic, deeply dope track, but you know what the best bit is? The video. I wish I was there at the video shoot – Mike D “OK Nas, we’re going to goof around in a supermarket and cut it in with some live footage, it’ll be dope” Nas: “Uhh, right Mike, OK”…
“Triple Trouble” – from “To The 5 Boroughs”, this basically sounds like an old-skool turntable jam, and this time it’s Mixmaster Mike on vinyl duties. This isn’t a typical Beastie Boys track until you watch the video. I won’t spoil it, but it features sasquatch and Kanye West making an arse of himself.
“Get It Together (feat Q-Tip)” – from their 1994 album “Ill Communication”, this is a classic cut, slamming together funk, jazz, Moog lines, abrupt stops, drop-outs. This might be a rare example of the Beastie’s being out-cooled on a track, but to be fair, Q-Tip has one of the most distinctive flows in rap. Like all great Beasties tracks, it sounds like it was thrown together in one take while everyone was having the time of their lives, although the videos of live performances of this track suggest that actually, Q-Tip has no recollection of the session AT ALL.
“So Watcha Want” – from 1992’s “Check Your Head”, this track has such attitude and swagger that the stoned, trippy video doesn’t really do it justice. Everything turned up until it slightly distorts, it’s punk-funk, heavy on the one, and is almost guaranteed to cause mass head-bopping, funky-chicken dancing whenever it’s played. Plus (warning: opinion ahead) it features some of the best lyrics, married to the best flows, that the Beasties have ever done.
“Shake Your Rump” – from 1989’s “Paul’s Boutique”, this album was a relative commercial flop on release, but has since come to be acknowledged as a landmark album in hip-hop, if only for its cavalier attitude to sampling. The whole album is one long game of Spot The Sample, and this track is just one classic steal after another. After the brash, drunken, rap-rock Rhyming & Stealing of their first album (Licensed To Ill, 1986), Paul’s Boutique was like rap’s Sgt Pepper, but without the immediate success. Anyway, point your ears at this and see how many samples you spot.
And if that’s all a bit wordy, here’s a video of Mixmaster Mike absolutely tearing it up at the start of a Beastie Boys gig in Glasgow, 1999. And he also busts a nice routine about 17 minutes in, which segues into “3 MCs and 1 DJ”. And you know what, the rest of the gig isn’t too shabby either.
Words by Zak Avery Follow @zakavery