Back when the Beastie Boys first bum-rushed the popular consciousness, their detractors wanted to write them off as loudmouths with a lot of attitude but little real talent. Most figured the trio would be forgotten as soon as "Fight for Your Right (To Party)" fell off the charts.
Guess again. Eight years later, the Beasties remain a force to be reckoned with, having expanded their horizons to include everything from a genre-jumping live show to a burgeoning media empire.
Start with the musical end. Although a growing number of rap acts now work with a live band, the Beasties are among the few that actually are a band, an approach the Beasties used heavily on the 1992 album "Check Your Head."
"When we made 'Check Your Head,' we were just coming off having not played our instruments for a while," explains bassist Adam "MCA" Yauch, over the phone from a tour stop in Toronto. "So it was all real new. But after we toured a lot, we got a lot more comfortable playing together as a band, with our percussion player and our keyboard player and everything. Things started jelling a little bit more.
"So when we went back into the studio to record the new album, it came a lot more naturally. It just happens a little easier when you're playing together more."
That album, "Ill Communication" (which arrives in stores Tuesday), doesn't just benefit from a tighter band; it also boasts the sort of stylistic prowess that allows the Beasties to move easily from rock to punk to old-school funk. But when it comes to playing hip-hop, the Beasties still rap the old-fashioned way.
"All the hip-hop stuff is done with turntables," says Yauch. "Actually, we use them in a lot of the instrumentals, too. There's a lot of scratching on the album, and even more so live. Like in 'Futterman's Rule' and stuff, you can hear the turntables in there. It's used like another instrument."
Making music isn't the only thing the Beasties do these days, however. Among other things, the trio has launched its own magazine, Grand Royal. Although much of its content is music-oriented, the magazine is hardly as narrowly focused as mainstream periodicals, such as Spin or Vibe, as stories on George Clinton and the Pharcyde sit cheek by jowl with items on Bruce Lee, Joey Buttafuoco and Kiss.
"I'm surprised at how homogenized mainstream press is," says Yauch. "It's really directed at this one, watered-down thing that they think everyone's interested in. I think that you need a little bit more of a personal touch on a lot of the stuff that's going out these days."
Part of that personal touch for Yauch is coverage of the political and cultural situation in Tibet. Granted, some might think that the only Buddha the Beasties would be interested in is the kind you smoke, but Yauch's interest in Tibetan spirituality is as genuine as it is deep.
"My personal feeling about it is that their approach to life and their way of understanding reality is well in advance of most Western understanding," he says. "And one of the main reasons I think it's such an important issue is 'cause, if we don't get our approach to technology in check pretty soon, we're going to destroy the planet. I see Westerners as really immature, with a lot of dangerous toys. If we don't get our minds and thinking in check, we'll basically blow up the planet.
"So it seems like a good time to turn to the Tibetans."
The Beastie beat
When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where: WUST Radio Music Hall, Washington
Tickets: Sold out
Call: (202) 638-2008