The Beastie Boys Gave Us Permission to Grow, and EXHIBIT Tells the Story
Teaser Preview: Conor Harrington's "When the Ship Goes Down" @ CONTROL Gallery, Los Angeles
There was an MCA lyric at the heart of the standout 1994 track "Root Down," on the Beastie Boys triumphant, inventive and eccentric album Ill Communication that said, “Bob Marley was a prophet for the freedom fight/ ‘If dancin’ prays to the Lord then I shall feel alright’/ I’m feeling good to play a little music/ Tears running down my face ’cause I love to do it’." Heard almost 30 years later, it feels rather tame, knowing how MCA/Adam Yauch went on to create the Tibetan Freedom Concerts and was known as an enlightened and curious man who didn't stay in his lane and clearly was evolving from the party boy image of his 1980s youth. But at the time, there was a sensitivity and breakthrough with these sort of rhymes. These were the words of a man that was growing up, growing into himself, learning, opening up, finding meaning in new places. You could say we all, as fans of the Beastie Boys, watched a man become spiritual right before our eyes, and in a way, it allowed us to be explore a sort of spirituality in ourselves.
Although a historical overview of the Beastie Boys, you can't walk through BEASTIE BOYS EXHIBIT, on view now at BEYOND THE STREETS in Los Angeles, without thinking about the doors the Beastie's opened for so many. Not just artists, but us, the listener, the viewer, the fan. EXHIBIT charts that artistic growth, but mostly, you can see the personal expansion from album to album, video to video. The artists that worked in and around the group, from Spike Jonze to Eric HAZE, Todd James to Cey Adams, or Bruce Davidson and Glen E Friedman, they grew around the Beastie Boys as well. It was like everyone was at the top of their game with the trio, and the music got better as they entered the 1990s, too.
The show is a collection of sorts, as BTS notes, "personal items, artifacts and ephemera—much of which has never been seen by the public." As a fan, this is heaven, because there is so much to take in, from stage outfits to guitars, sneakers and photography. You get the sense of seeing history for the first time throughout the show, and get an insight as to how much the Beastie accumulated in their years as a band. "We’re happy that someone besides us appreciates all the weird shit we’ve collected, and made music on for the past forty years that will be on display,” said Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz.
People often talk about hardcore, punk and hip-hop when they talk about Mike D, MCA and ADRock, but there is something deeper here. It's a story about permission. A permission to grow. A permission to follow passions, to listen to John Coltrane after listening to Black Flag, to wear a Supreme hoodie, skate, play hip-hop and listen to the words of the Dalai Lama as well, that you could love graffiti and abstract expressionism at the same time. The Beastie Boys gave us permission to have all of these loves together in one place. And when you see the life's work of a group in front of you like you can in EXHIBIT, it reminds you of your own moments of awareness and the times you found yourself permitted to think outside of your own preconceived ideas of self. —Evan Pricco