Hardcore punks turned hip-hop pioneers. Sexist frat-boys turned socially-conscious Tibetan freedom fighters. With a career that spanned over four decades and produced some of the most iconic moments in music history – including a tour with Madonna at her mid-80s peak, and being the first hip-hop group to top the Billboard album charts – New York City’s Beastie Boys are a legendary band in the most genuine sense. Their career came to a tragic and abrupt end with the untimely passing of visionary leader Adam Yauch (AKA MCA) in 2012, but since their formation in 1978, The Beasties evolved from a snotty, thrashy punk band to a cutting-edge rap trio, taking in jazz, soul, electronica and many more genres along the way.
With 1989’s subversive and uniquely inventive masterpiece Paul’s Boutique, they completely changed the way artists who followed them could think about what their music might be, conceiving an entirely new way to arrange and create songs. Rulebook: consider yourself destroyed. So great is their influence that bands from myriad genres still borrow from them today. Here, an eclectic five that do just that.
Joey Valence & Brae
When you look at Pennsylvanian duo Joey Valence & Brae, you'd be forgiven for thinking – if you squint hard enough – that the two remaining Beasties had drunk from the fountain of youth and started performing live again. The duo may have obtained their popularity in the most modern of mediums – yes, they blew up on TikTok – toward the end of the pandemic, but their tunes are forged in the old-school hip-hop mould. They have the humour, the big, boom-bap beats, and have even dipped their toes into making pure punk rock. You won’t get much closer to classic Beasties than this in 2023.
Unlike Joey Valence & Brae, LA hardcore crew Zulu actually sound nothing like Beastie Boys at all. What they share with the NY legends is a seemingly unquenchable thirst for genre-mashing and sonic exploration. The band describe themselves as Blackpowerviolence, but although that pithy tag looks great on paper, it only just touches the surface of their sound. Their recent album A New Tomorrow takes crushing metallic hardcore, pure soul, alt-hip-hop and classic reggae and weaves them all together, an approach you’d imagine Beastie Boys would definitely endorse.
Soul Glo are another band that have taken punk rock and are manipulating it into a series of wild new sounds. The Pennsylvanian crew have been around since 2014 and put out a series of underground albums since then, but it was with 2022’s stunning Diaspora Problems, released on Epitaph, that many people first woke up to their brilliance. Much like Beastie Boys, the influence of crossover legends Bad Brains is a huge part of their sound. That’s not unique – BB are one of punk's most influential artists – but rather than dipping their toe into the hip-hop and funk elements as many of their peers have, Soul Glo dive in head first, just as The Beasties did. Take a listen to a track like Driponomics for proof.
Okay, so this is something of a wildcard choice, as, on the surface, hyper-pop duo 100 gecs have nothing to do with either punk rock or hip-hop. Still, this is an inclusion based more on attitude than it is any kind of true sonic similarities. Dylan Brady and Laura Les are a divisive outfit, taking the sound of electro-pop and warping it into some truly odd shapes. Their recent album 10,000 gecs is comfortably the most palatable and – dare we say it – listenable set of songs they’ve released, having added some big beats, raw sounding guitar and... er... ska to their glitchy electronic pop. It’s an attitude that Beastie Boys are familiar with, and for that alone they get a nod. The fact that the record is fantastically bonkers helps too.
The UK-based duo of Scrolls The Mystic and Mr B are frustratingly difficult to Google, but also worth digging around for. The pair met in school and, despite their youthfulness, bonded over a shared love of old-school rap. There are plenty of nods toward the early UK hip-hop of Gunshot, the monster beats of Public Enemy and even a touch of early grime's darkness, but the hooks, humour and playfulness they show on a song like Brain Theory is pure Beasties throwback.