The Beastie Boys say it's time to get Obama Illected
I have had a borderline freakish obsession with the Beastie Boys since I was eight years old—an amusing but admittedly pathetic disclosure necessary only because I loudly defined myself by it for the better part of my adolescence. And since proclaiming that you love the Beastie Boys these days is kind of like saying you think chocolate is quite tasty, let it be known that even back in 1987, when Woody Woodpecker dominated my lunchbox-sized TV set and Licensed to Ill never left the tape deck, I was one down eight-year-old, dancing spastically after school to "Girls" and "Brass Monkey" despite much parental protest. Many years later, after long since discovering that Brass Monkey is a drink and not a false idol as my suburban-housewife Sunday School teacher repeatedly insisted, I christened my starter vehicle with decals from Hot Topic and declared said Ford Tempo "The Beastiemobile," wallpapered my sterile Hamline U dorm with dreamy posters of the Boys, and hit up early chat rooms under the handle "BeastieGrrl79."
All of this insanity came to a head in 1998, when Mike, Adam, and Adam came to the Target Center on their Hello Nasty tour and completely rewired my (clearly unstable) brain with a performance that led me to proclaim I'd use my passion for music in a job someday. But like the pretend boyfriends of a girl with a maturing imagination, they just never came back. That is, until now: The Intergalactic three are coming through the Twin Cities for the first time in a decade in conjunction with Rock the Vote for their own "Get Out the Vote" tour targeting undeclared "swing states." It was news almost as startling as the fact that traditionally liberal Minnesota is being dubbed a "swing state" in the first place, especially considering the Obama alternative. The sadness of this realization diminished to an embarrassing degree, though, when lovably nasal-toned Mike Diamond (Mike D.) agreed to talk to me about the reasons behind the tour, which candidate he supports, and why he's been away from the Twin Cities for so long.
"We're actually big Minneapolis boosters," Diamond admits in an often-comic over-serious tone that seems to bond all three Beasties. "I have to say, to be completely honest—let's give credit where credit is due—[fellow B-Boy] AdRock has a bit of a fascination with Minneapolis. When he was on tour with his BS200 side project, he made sure to spend a lot of time there. On the last couple of tours, routing has come up and we have wanted to come partly because there's that record store that's incredible—you know the one with the downstairs?"
Diamond is referring to the legendary old Let It Be Records on Nicollet and 10th, the demise of which most all Minneapolis music lovers bemoan; I didn't have the heart to tell him about it. Several years before it closed to make room for condos, owner Ryan Cameron let AdRock into the super-secret VIP basement to shop his personal collection. In hopes of redeeming the state with something other than defunct record stores with cool reps, I explain to Diamond that the Twin Cities are usually pretty left-minded.
"You have Republican voters to thank for this, is what you're saying," he jokes, before adding that he will not endorse a candidate outright on the flyer, though they've endorsed Obama otherwise. "The tour is all about getting people out to vote for whomever they're interested in. For me and my partners, though, I think it's pretty clear...I feel impassioned and motivated and optimistic with what's been going on with the Obama campaign and the promises he's made and what he represents."
Diamond is right in saying that fans will likely know where the Beasties stand with this election, as the three have publicly aligned themselves with political causes in the past—fighting for more than a decade for Tibet's freedom from China's tight-fisted reign and peppering their latest rap album (2004's not-so-stunning To the 5 Boroughs) with plain and simple Dubya disses: "I'm getting tired of the situation/The U.S. attacking other nations/...George W.'s got nothing on me/We've got to take back the power from he" ("Right Right Now Now"). But the dudes really sock our soon-to-be ex-prez in the kisser on the unfortunately unreleased track "In a World Gone Mad," which MCA and Diamond furiously penned in 2003: "You and Saddam should kick it like back in the day, with the cocaine and Courvoisier/But you build more bombs as you get more bold, as your mid-life crisis war unfolds."
With his curly 'fro and wide, deep-set eyes, Diamond is usually considered the quirkier of the three band members, but on this day, his tone remains serious as he talks about why he and both Adams felt it important to dedicate a tour featuring an "eclectic" variety of friends (featuring Tenacious D and Ben Harper in St. Paul) to the battleground states of Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and others that might get skipped on a regular domestic tour. It's international traveling, however, that has opened the Beastie Boys' eyes to a larger image problem within the country.
"We're lucky, we get to go and travel the world, and we basically [spent] the last eight years experiencing people thinking of our being Americans as not a great thing," Diamond says. "It's really a shame, because we want to be really proud to be Americans and we love this country. So we found ourselves in the position where we're asking, as many are, 'Okay, so how can we do everything in our power that we don't see this election—like our prior two—end up being decided by a relatively small margin of votes and states?' We think [Obama's message] contains something that's so sorely missing from the last eight years of the Bush administration, where everything is secret; you don't need to know anything even if you want to. If you're gay, we're not a government for you. We are in two wars and an economic crisis, our welfare money is about to come to an end, healthcare is a mess, and the future of our children is at stake—this is such a crucial election."
By the end of my dream-date interview with Mike, it becomes painstakingly clear that the Beastie Boys have come light years from their days fighting for their right to party. Now is not the time to get ill—it's no sleep till Washington.
THE BEASTIE BOYS perform with Tenacious D and Ben Harper on SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 1, at ROY WILKINS AUDITORIUM; 651.989.5151.
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