Mike D says his greatest fear is Beastie Boys being compared to 311

The legendary rapper reflects on his career in an extensive new interview

Mike D, photo by Heather Kaplan
Mike D, photo by Heather Kaplan

Amber is not the color of Mike D’s energy. The former Beastie Boys member recently sat down with Vulture for an in-depth conversation on his time with the band, his life after their dissolution, and his views on modern culture. He revealed numerous insights into his views on the Beastie Boys’ legacy, but there’s one thing he hopes never to hear in relation to the rap icons.

Mike D said he cringes “when somebody says, ‘You gotta hear this. They’re like you guys.’ That usually doesn’t end well.”  He added that being shown Cypress Hill by Dee Barnes was “the best-case scenario,” but he hopes never to have Beastie Boys and 311 mentioned in the same breath: “Not that it’s ever happened, but my fear would be that someone would be like, ‘311. You love those guys, right?’ I’m sure they’re nice people — [their music] isn’t my cup of tea.”

The rapper/producer/radio DJ had plenty of interesting, less tongue-in-cheek things to say, as well. We pulled some highlights for you below, and you can read the whole thing here.

On the modern music his kids listen to:
I find myself interested in the different phases of music my kids have been into, from commercial rap like Kanye and Drake to the hard core that I grew up on like Black Flag and Bad Brains. And then there’s getting into Slayer, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin — the emergent testosterone classics… I kept asking myself why that music hasn’t been totally replaced. It was weird to me that I wasn’t hearing things that my kids related to that I couldn’t embrace. When they did hit on something, I was like, Finally!

When they started listening to $uicideboy$. I was like, “That’s it. That checks the boxes.” It’s really loud, I can’t really relate, I don’t really want to listen to it. I understand exactly why it’s good and I see exactly the music it’s combining, but I don’t need to participate and I’m good with that.

On living a nomadic life for his kids:
After what happened with Adam [Yauch], I realized that life can be short. Especially being a parent, the moments I appreciate most are when I’m with my kids and we’re all experiencing something together. It’s very difficult to do. Your kids get older and become more autonomous, and when you’re in that cave of Brooklyn or LA you’re going to default to a certain mundanity of existence….

It’s that I want my kids to experience diversity. I think it’s important to travel the world with them. And it’s also about breaking open the myth that the United States is this leading majority. We’re not. Indonesia, where we’ve been living, is going to overtake the US in population within my kids’ lifetime. I want to my kids to have the opportunity to see themselves as a citizen of the world and not only America — whatever the hell America means today. At this point, in the world of Trump’s politics, there’s so much upside to be had by breaking down the whole idea of nationalism. My kids’ peers at school are from all around the world, not just the Upper West Side or Brooklyn. I really think that helps them think differently about the world in a positive way.

On Beastie Boys’ bootlegged country album:
I probably shouldn’t even bring attention to the fact it exists. [I remember a song called] “Sloppy Drunks.” Even talking about this — it makes me think that it’s hard to convey how truly Monty Python–esque it was to live in the Beastie Boys’ world.

On the absurdity of Beastie Boys’ early days:
 After we started working with Russell Simmons as our manager, one of the first hip-hop shows we played was at this club called Encore in Queens — Jamaica, Queens, I believe. We were so fucking stupid. We were like, “Oh, we have a real gig. We’re going to rent a limousine to get us there and get us back. We’re going to go out.” We’d take all the money we were going get, all $125 or whatever it was, and hire that limousine. So we got the limo and because Run-D.M.C. was wearing Adidas suits at the time, we wore matching Puma suits — that’s where it was at. We were opening for Kurtis Blow, I think, so it was a big deal. So we get there and we, this bunch of white kids from Manhattan dressed in Puma suits, step out of the limo. The first comment we heard was, “Who the fuck are you guys, Menudo?”

I’ll say that when we pulled up in that limo wearing our Puma suits — that was the first and last time we did it. We realized we looked like fucking clowns and we felt like fucking clowns. We had to learn to be ourselves, and we made it work culturally and were accepted as rappers because were able to be ourselves and not anybody else.

On figuring out what to do after the death of Adam “MCA” Yauch:
It took a while. Yauch dying was so tragic, on so many levels, that it took a profound period of grieving to then be able to start figuring out what I wanted to do.

I like doing the radio show because it replaces the process we had as a band of generating ideas by playing music for each other. Now I do that with guests on the show. Actually, when I produce other people’s records, asking “What have you been listening to?” is always my starting point. So those are things that would take place in the band that still take place now. I guess what I’ve also realized is that I like it when people approach me about something that feels outside my comfort zone. Whether it’s curating a music-and-visual art show with Jeffrey Deitch or working on a wine list for a restaurant. I’m interested in trying to do things that I feel like I have no business doing. Because that was part of what we did as a band. We weren’t afraid to try shit.

On Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz’s post-Beastie Boys career:
With Adam, it’s so hard for me to say because I love him so much and think he’s so supremely talented and funny. The band was an incredible outlet for all of that and if you have an outlet like that, it’d be unreasonable to think there’d be an immediate transference of that outlet to a new one. It’s going to take trial and error; you have to be okay with failing in the process of finding those new outlets. Adam also has a young child. My kids are much older. Young kids are a hands-on-deck experience. For what it’s worth, I will say that his writing for our book has been so great — dude is very, very funny. I would even nominate him to be in the category of classic New York funny person à la Woody Allen, Chris Rock, Noah Baumbach. Adam belongs in that group.

On what they wanted to do after 2011’s Hot Sauce Committee Part Two:
Full disclosure, the plan was always to put out Hot Sauce Committee Part One. You can file it under the category of “funny to us.”

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