When The Beastie Boys' “Make Some Noise” first appeared on the interwebs I was pretty happy to play it for everyone. I played it for my buddy Tres, and I was surprised by his tepid reaction. “Meh,” he said, “it’s just The Beastie Boys.” Tres is a good man, and he usually has a fine taste in music, but I guess he was not too impressed with The Beastie Boys simply being themselves. Few things please me more.
I have always been hooked by the opening bars of a Beasties' single; the beats transforming me into a metronomic bobble head. And the beats of “Make Some Noise” are particularly good. By the time Ad-Rock snaps into his lyrics the song has dug in deep. The verses of all three MCs here, as in nearly all of their songs, are silly, clever, archaic, anachronistic, bombastic, witty, and formulaic. There is no need to overstate their rapping skills; they’re not the best and they’re not trying to be, no matter what they claim. What they are is a satisfying interplay of vocal textures and trippy word play. While it is clear that a lot of thought and work goes into constructing their songs, the dominating nasally delivery and the general goofiness gives the sense of people always on the verge of breaking into a party.
They exploit that impression in this song. “A party on the left/A party on the right,” goes the chorus, placing the Beasties right in the middle of a world of lovable scoundrels and reprobates, in which their role is to voice the unending imperative to “make some noise.” They have changed over the years of course, and the call for shenanigans is tempered by the subtle political awareness that to invoke carnival is to question the rules through which society maintains order: “We gonna party for the motherfucking right to fight.” With that line, The Beastie Boys echo something that Public Enemy was trying to tell them years ago.
MCA is dead. I have never been saddened before by the death of a famous person that I only knew through their work. I’m not imaginative enough to believe that I have a personal relationship with someone I see only in mass media, and I didn’t believe I had one with MCA either. It’s just that The Beastie Boys have been part of the background of my life since I was a very young man. In them there was something of that youth and its passing. God, whatever phrasing I try out sounds melodramatic and false, that last sentence included. I guess I just wanted The Beastie Boys around to help me make fun of getting older while recognizing that it was happening. I wanted them to continue to take the piss out of squares that don’t understand the joy of not giving a fuck—not you Tres, you’re not a square, even if you don’t like this song. Instead, MCA is dead.