BEASTIE BOYS – CHECK YOUR HEAD
Released April 21, 1992 – 24 years ago
The Beastie Boy’s third studio album is a DIY, lo-fi whirlwind tour through 70s and 80s pop-culture references filtered through a rap-funk-punk lens, with nods to Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen, Booker T. & the MGs, and Curtis Mayfield, as much as Run DMC and Public Enemy. The end result: a benchmark release that was (and still is) immensely influential. Brilliant!
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4pm Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3FM and kxci.org.
The Beastie Boys formed in 1981 in New York City, growing out of the four piece hardcore punk band, The Young Aborigines, which had been gigging out since 1979. The group consisted of Michael “Mike D” Diamond (vocals & drums), Adam “MCA” Yauch (vocals & bass), and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz (vocals & guitar).
According to Billboard, the Beastie Boys are the biggest-selling rap group of all time since the magazine began recording sales data in 1991. They have released seven albums certified platinum, including Check Your Head. Altogether the band has sold 26 million albums in the US and over 50 million albums worldwide.
The release of Check Your Head was met with incredible enthusiasm after a three-year period since the release of their sophomore album, Paul’s Boutique (1989). Paul’s Boutique initially met with lackluster sales, but over time it had grown to be widely loved and praised critically. Fans of this album along with their debut, License To Ill (1986), couldn’t wait to see what was next. Check Your Head debuted in the Billboard Top Ten upon it’s release in 1992.
In contrast to their first two LPs, which were focused on rap and lyrics, The Beastie Boys focused more on arrangement, returning somewhat to their punk roots. They also incorporated a fair amount of late 60s/early 70s Stax-styled Southern soul with a focus on keyboards as well as early 70s Curtis Mayfield/Isaac Hays influenced sounds alá their Blaxploitation soundtracks (Super Fly and Shaft).
Keyboards figure heavily throughout Check Your Head. Mark Ramos Hishita, known professionally as Money Mark gets recording credit for playing organs, synthesizers, and keyboards. Money Mark appears on several other Beastie Boys albums as well as albums by Kinky, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the John Butler Trio. He also has several solo releases.
This was the first album to be co-produced by Mario Caldato, who had become close to the Beastie Boys while engineering Paul’s Boutique. He went on to co-produce Ill Communication and Hello Nasty with them as well. He has also produced, engineered, and/or worked in some way on albums by Beck, Bjork, Blur, Manu Chao, Molotov, Jack Johnson, and Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, among others. Caldato often toured with the Beastie Boys mixing their live shows.
Check Your Head is highly regarded as a studio album, with many producers considering it expertly recorded. There has even been a book released documenting the albums recording, breaking down each aspect of the album, track-by-track (Check the Technique by Brian Coleman).
Check Your Head was recorded in G-Son Studios in Atwater Village CA, a suburb of Los Angeles. This studio was founded and built by The Beastie Boys. In addition to Check Your Head, they recorded Ill Communication (1994), Hello Nasty (1998) here as well. Only a few other artists recorded at G-Son, with the most notable being Beck who recorded Odelay here in 1996.
The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in April, 2012, by Chuck D and LL Cool J. The band did not perform as Adam Yauch, who was dealing with the late stages of cancer, was too sick to attend. He died later that year. Horovitz and Diamond are 49 and 50 years old.