It’s 3 p.m.! Let The A.V. Club briefly make use of the waning hours of your productivity with some pop culture ephemera pulled from the depths of YouTube.
The Beastie Boys were masters of synthesis, skipping from punk to hip-hop to jazz, from the east coast to the west, gradually sort of turning into avatars for that very ‘90s brand of everything-goes sample-crazy alt-rock collage. The only album of theirs, in fact, that didn’t herald some grand reinvention was 1994's Ill Communication, on which they took another crack at the sprawling, dusty live-musicianship of Check Your Head. (By the time of ‘98's Hello Nasty, they’d have moved on again.) Anyway, the album itself isn’t anyone’s favorite by the trio, but the singles sure fucking slam: “Root Down,” “Sure Shot,” “Get It Together,” and “Sabotage” are among the best tracks the Beasties ever created, thanks in part, you’ve got to assume, to their comfort with the style. For the first time in their career, they weren’t attempting something new.
Their performance on Letterman a few months after the record’s release is noteworthy not just because you can see Letterman introduce them with characteristic sarcasm as “fly, fresh, dope, and phat,” and not just because you get to see the track’s enormous wall of sound recreated in real time, with pulses of organ, supplemental drum rolls, and Ad-Rock’s effortless one-chord riff. No, the real reason to watch the clip is to bear witness to the way the group managed to get a different type of hat for every single person on stage, taking the stage with a baseball hat, two types of flat-caps, a sideways visor, a bucket hat, and a beanie, all at the same time. It was a great era for the Beastie Boys, and also for hats.