Founded in 1981 by MCA Adam Yauch (vocals) and Mike D Mike Diamond (vocals) who in turn recruited Adam Horowitz to replace two incumbents Kate Schellenbach (drums) and John Berry (guitar) to record two indie singles before being signed to Def Jam', a label operated DJ and Beastie's friend Rick Rubin. It proved to be a match made in heaven for both sides were interested in the arrival of Afro-American Rap and Hip Hop, not to mention Heavy Metal, and hardcore punk and set about to release the act's debut Licensed To Kill (1986), an album that proved to be one of the very first successful attempts at merging the aforementioned Afro sounds with White American style Rock. The disc proved to be both entertaining and funny with cover tracks of classic metal acts like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC along with the theme tune from the old American TV show Mr. Ed. But the real gem on the disc was (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) a track that made 11 U.K. on it's own and helped push the album to 7 U.S. overall, add to that the No Sleep Till Brooklyn making U.K. 14 and they had a successful album on their hands.
On the following tour they were dogged by controversy in the press, not to mention a dispute with Def Jam' not helping matters any leaving Paul's Boutique (1989) struggling to make 14 U.S. and 44 U.K. a pity really for it contained a lot of classic Rock in the style of Beatles and Pink Floyd mixed with Hip Hop that may have cemented it's grip on the White culture. After a long vacation that saw them relocate to California, they would return in 1992 with Check Your Head to a 10 U.S. position. Now drifting so far out of their Thrash roots to be unrecognizable they returned with Ill Communication (1994) and a one-off collaboration single with Ted Nugent titled The Biz Vs The Nuge. For the album's part, it proved to be one of their most mature efforts to date featuring loads of Hardcore mixed with funky tracks and laid back swing. Despite being relatively unknown in history it was a roaring success in the day getting 10 U.K. and 1 U.S.
Yauch converted to Buddhism and the lot played a benefit concert for the needy of Tibet before switching to a more electronic/hardcore/instrumental feel for two mini albums Root Down (1995) and Aglio E Olio (1995). Adding guest musician Eugine Gore (violin), Eric Bobo (percussion) and co-writer Money Mark Ramos Nishita (claviers) to complete the instrumental album The In Sound From Way Out! (1996). But their sound would drift into a more harmonic region shortly after their trans-Atlantic number 1, Hello Nasty (1998) to complete several singles. In1999 they summed up the 20th century portion of their career with the best of compilation The Sounds Of Science (1999), followed by From The 5 Boroughs (2004), an album that got widespread attention, mostly due to marketing that saw them even perform on the famed late-night TV show, David Letterman. It was the first album the band produced themselves and reached No.1 on the Billboard album charts, No.2 in the UK and Australia, and No.3 in Germany.
The album was the cause of some controversy with allegations that it installed spyware when inserted into a computer's CD-ROM. The band denied this allegation, defending that there is no copy protection software on the albums sold in the US and UK. While there is Macrovision CDS-200 copy protection software installed on European copies of the album, this is standard practice for all European releases on 'EMI/Capitol Records', but this is not installed on the computer host.
By now, however, their Metal and punk roots were drifting far behind them into a more traditional Rap direction.
They worked with Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization, on their 2007 summer tour. The next year they won a Grammy for The Mix-Up (2007) album in the "Best Pop Instrumental Album" category at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in 2008.
Hot Sauce Committee was supposed to arrive in 2009 but was delayed (see later). That June, the group appeared at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and performed the new single from the album titled Too Many Rappers alongside rapper Nas who appears on the track.
On July 20, Yauch announced on the band's official YouTube channel and their fan mailing list, the cancellation of several tour dates and the postponement of the new album due to the discovery of a cancerous tumor in his parotid gland and a lymph node. The group also had to cancel their co-headlining gig at the Osheaga Festival in Montreal, Canada as well as a headlining spot at 2009's Lollapalooza and also another headlining spot for the first night of the first night of the All Points West Festival in Jersey City, New Jersey.
In late October 2010, the story of the album delay came when the band sent out two emails regarding the status of Hot Sauce Committee (part 1 and now 2) to their online mailing list. An email dated October 18 read: "Although we regret to inform you that Hot Sauce Committee Part 1 will continue to be delayed indefinitely, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 will be released on time as originally planned in spring of 2011." Things got even more confusing with a set of e-mails that essentially said (in a confusing way) that part 1 was scrubbed and part 2 would resume with the contents of part 1 instead of part 2. So... Hot Sauce Committee Part Two came to be in 2011!
The band was announced as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in December 2011.
On May 4, 2012, Adam Yauch died from cancer at the age of 47.
On May 3, 2013 a children's playground in Brooklyn was renamed for Adam Yauch.
In June 2014, it was announced that the name "Beastie Boys" had been retired out of respect for Yauch.
Footnote: The origin of the band's name has no story other than Yauch messing around with words. Other names considered were Young Aboriginies and Young And The Uselless.