The 10 best Beastie Boys songs, chosen by Cancer Bats' Liam Cormier

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Liam from Cancer Bats here to talk about the Beastie Boys. When I was really young and figuring out my shit – trying to find out what was cool and basically trying to fit in – that’s when they came into my life. And people say you shouldn’t try to fit in, but when you’re young you wanna have some homies, because if you don’t then you get beat up and getting beaten up sucks.

I like that people can’t easily define what Cancer Bats are either. Are we metal? Are we stoner? Are we whatever? I mean, we don’t have a lot of funk going on, but it is that idea that with every record you can do what you want. Beastie Boys are the masters of that. They put out jazz records, funk songs, rock songs, hardcore punk – and they’re all so good.

SO WHAT’CHA WANT (Check Your Head, 1992)
This is the song that got me into the Beastie Boys. It has such a heavy beat. It’s so groovy and heavy, and that hook is insane. It’s so based in rock but then it also has such a good hip-hop flow, and all three MCs have equally great parts. It has everything! I was 100% hooked, fully-fledged and in from that moment.

BRASS MONKEY (Licensed to Ill, 1986)
For me, Brass Monkey is the definitive fun Beastie Boys song. Everything about it is humorous, from the samples to the video. You used to hear all about the controversial misogyny and homophobia in their lyrics, but they were making fun of jocks, and once you understood them then you understood that about them. So not only did they sound great, but they were hilarious too.

(YOU GOTTA) FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT (TO PARTY!) (Licensed to Ill, 1986)
Fight For Your Right was such an iconic music video. When I saw that for the first time it all made sense. I got it. It was like, ‘Oh, they’re making fun of everything.’ It wasn’t that they were actually like that in real life. They’ve helped to spread awareness about Tibet. They’re good dudes. But they didn’t take themselves too seriously either.

EGG RAID ON MOJO (Some Old Bullshit, 1994)
This was when I dived way into the Beastie Boys and bought the compilation of all their early hardcore stuff. Hearing songs like Egg Raid on Mojo for the first time was crazy. Even at that time I don’t think I knew anything about Youth of Today or the Gorilla Biscuits – or any of the New York hardcore scene – so this was my introduction. I was listening to skate punk bands like NOFX and Lagwagon, and there was a little crossover with that stuff, but this was actually the first proper hardcore music I ever heard. And it was by my favourite band. So they revealed yet another side to me here.

SABOTAGE (Ill Communication, 1994)
To me, Ill Communication is the pinnacle of the Beastie Boys. They’d done all these other things – everything from hardcore to funk and whatever – and then this record came out and it crushed everything. I could do a top ten just on this record. And it’s obviously the record that has Sabotage on, which is their rock anthem. But then you also have songs like Root Down on there. You could break dance to Root Down all day long. We did a lot of obscure covers before we decided to do one that everyone knows, and my argument for doing Sabotage was that it doesn’t matter what genre of music that you listen to, that song is the best. No one can fuck with Sabotage. It’s got a hardcore sing along, a groovy bass line, the down picking guitar, super funky drums, hip-hop verses, the scream – it’s got everything.

ROOT DOWN (Ill Communication, 1994)
I have the single of this, where you have all the different beats behind it. It’s so good. This was another song that we talked about covering, but we decided that we’d done enough obscure covers. We thought we’d go with a recognisable one and crush it instead. But I love this song just as much as Sabotage.

HEART ATTACK MAN (Ill Communication, 1994)
Again, this is just a sick hardcore song. It’s so angry and fast, and amazing. Heart Attack Man is the shit!

INTERGALACTIC (Hello Nasty, 1998)
I snuck into a bar that was doing a Hello Nasty record release party when I was younger, and I won every single prize in their Beastie Boys Q&A. They were like, ‘What does Beastie stand for?’ And I was like, ‘Boys Entering Anarchistic States of Intellectual Excellence.’ I won an XL Hello Nasty t-shirt and a free copy of the CD. I got stickers, and all sorts of cool stuff. It was the best! And as if you already had so many hits in your career, that you then come out with this song, which again was an evolution of your sound. Everything about Intergalactic is amazing. It’s so huge! I was lucky enough to see them on the Hello Nasty tour too.

CH-CHECK IT OUT (To the 5 Boroughs, 2004)
This song sounded so fresh when it came out, but also so old school too. They were like, ‘There’s all this talk about us just being party MCs. Well then, let’s just kick it old school and show them how it’s done.’ They could’ve aired this song back in the ‘80s when they here on tour with Run DMC. It’s so old school, and so good.

MAKE SOME NOISE (Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, 2011)
The music video for this song is like the sickest music video ever! Danny McBride’s performance is Oscar worthy. It’s so funny! And when you have Nas on your album just coming in to smash a verse and also give their respect, you just know these are the dudes because Nas is the king. He’s one of the top five greatest MCs of all time, and to hear him giving respect to Beastie Boys was the best. Everybody should listen to the Beastie Boys!

Listen to the songs on our Spotify playlist: The 10 best Beastie Boys songs