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Beastie Boys L.A. exhibit opens

Personal items tell story of pioneering hip-hop trio

By Richard Guzman, The Orange County Register
Published: December 22, 2022, 6:00am

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Using personal items found in the musicians’ own homes and storage units, a free exhibition takes a deep and personal dive into the life and career of a pioneering hip-hop trio. The Beastie Boys are the subject of a new exhibition simply titled “Exhibit,” which opened at the Beyond the Streets and Control Gallery in Los Angeles earlier this month and runs through Jan. 28, 2023.

“To me, the Beastie Boys were one of the most influential group of artists. They’re an important piece of historical and cultural relevance,” said Roger Gastman, the founder of the gallery who partnered with Los Angeles-based concert producer Goldenvoice for the exhibition.

It includes hundreds of items such as handwritten lyrics, clothes worn by the group members, musical instruments, old merchandise items and even an iconic boom box.

“It’s just a great experience that takes you through the world of the Beastie Boys,” he said.

The Beastie Boys, comprised of Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “MCA” Yauch, formed in New York in 1981 after some of the members were briefly a part of the hardcore punk band the Young Aborigines. The guys renamed themselves and transitioned into hip-hop rockers, releasing their breakthrough album “License to Ill,” in 1986.

With songs like “Fight For Your Right,” “Brass Monkey,” “Paul Revere” and “Girls,” the album became the first rap record to top the Billboard charts. The trio released several more albums, including the critically acclaimed “Paul’s Boutique” in 1989, which was composed almost entirely of samples, as well as 1992’s “Check Your Head” and 1994’s “Ill Communication,” which was widely celebrated for its innovative mix of hip-hop, funk, punk rock and jazz.

The group disbanded in 2012 following the the death of Yauch after a battle with cancer. That same year, Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Gastman got the idea to launch an exhibition about the group after reading “Beastie Boys Book,” which was written by Diamond and Horovitz in 2018 and gives a detailed history of the band along with rare photos. He then contacted the band’s management to ask a few questions.

“We said ‘Hey, all the lyrics, stage costumes, instruments, where is it all? What are you all doing with it?’” he recalled.

Gastman worked directly with Diamond and Horovitz for several months, meeting up with them to go through their homes and storage spaces to sort through and collect personal items to put on display.

Some of the items Gastman collected include the boombox seen in several of their music videos; a pair of red Adidas worn by Diamond as well as a red physical education T-shirt work by Horovitz in the “Right to Party” video; and the handwritten lyrics to various songs including “Sure Shot,” which was penned in blue ink on yellow notebook paper.

Also on display is their 808 drum machine, which was a crucial element in their transition to hip-hop as well as vintage merch, like a small pin that reads “Beastie Crew.”

“It’s an original item they made even before they were a band. Mike D had it in a box in a music room in his house. It was like OK, this is the beginning,” Gastman said.