In the third verse of “Shadrach,” the 13th song on the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Mike D spits the line, “More Adidas sneakers than a plumber’s got pliers,” followed quickly by Adam Yauch (MCA) saying, “Got more suits than Jacoby & Meyers.”
Now, we don’t know if the Beastie Boys ever used the legal services of the firm whose ads were inescapable on daytime at that time, but this week, they’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of their second album with a pair of Adidas of their very own.
Last night, Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz (Yauch passed away in 2012 of salivary parotid gland cancer), unveiled the collaboration with Adidas Skateboarding at an art show launch for Beyond The Streets in New York City, an exhibition of their influences on culture over the past three decades.
“Few artists showcase the confluence of so many different elements of ’80s and ’90s subculture better than Beastie Boys,” says Adidas Skateboarding’s Cullen Poythress. “They represent skateboarding. They represent graffiti. They represent hardcore punk. They represent hip-hop. And they represent street fashion and style.”
A look back at photos of the band over the decades quickly reveals that they’ve long been wearing Adidas, but this marks the first time that relationship has been made official. It all came about after the release of last year’s Beastie Boys Book. Instead of a typical book-reading tour, Diamond and Horovitz put on a series of storytelling live shows featuring tales from the book. For that tour, they collaborated with Adidas on a special-edition shirt, with proceeds going to charity, and things just evolved from there.
Historically, the band hasn’t embraced commercial opportunity, never licensing songs for ads and rarely partnering with other brands. The only other official product tie-in was last year’s collaboration with Girl Skateboards, which is co-owned by their pal (and “Sabotage” director) Spike Jonze. Horovitz says the Adidas partnership felt right because they’ve actually been wearing them for decades. “Like, I love Coca-Cola, because it’s delicious,” says Horovitz. “And if it was just about McDonald’s fries, I’d be on board, because I use those products. Same with Adidas. I’ve used their Campus and shell toes, and Stan Smiths, and Rod Lavers . . . a lot of their products!”
When it came to designing their own pair, the two decided on vegan canvas in an off-white, accented with a light gray cotton jersey liner and matching three stripes. The Check Your Head-era, Eric Haze-designed Beastie Boys logo is stamped on the tongue and inside. “We just started talking with a couple of their design guys about different ideas for what we could do to the sneaker, and Mike and I were talking about the stripes, and what if they were cut out and you could see through the shoe,” says Horovitz. “Then we thought it’d be cool if it was like a sweatshirt on the inside, like a sweatshirt for your feet, and you could see the inside from the outside. That’s our twist.”
Oh, and don’t forget about the gum soles. “We’re suckers for the gum soles,” says Diamond.
The fact that a major brand is giving a pair of 50-something artists their own skateboarding shoe is testament to the Beastie Boys’ legacy. Much of that was forged in the initial failure and subsequent cult classic status of Paul’s Boutique, originally released on July 25th, 1989. Asked about how they reflect on that album’s legacy today, it’s clear Diamond and Horovitz don’t make a habit of dwelling on it.
“I’m trying to think of some joke that aligns with the moon landing, but I can’t really land the joke on that, so we’re going to have to go with that,” says Horovitz.
“We don’t spend a whole lot of time listening to, or analyzing, our own work, to be honest,” says Diamond. “But we’re happy that other people do.”
That said, a 30th anniversary does at least provide a few moments of reflection(albeit forced by a journalist’s questions). Diamond remembers the experience as much for the music that came out around it as the album itself. “It was an exciting time, and we were excited about what we were making, and part of why we were excited was, I remember when we were getting close to finishing it, Public Enemy had just finished It Takes A Nation of Millions, and De La Soul had just finished Three Feet High & Rising, and those were such amazing records, and in the history of hip-hop, and it just inspired us to really push even further.”
Horovitz is proud it’s even part of the same conversation as those two classics. “At the time, I thought it was the greatest record that was ever going to be made, the best rap record ever,” says Horovitz. “Then it sort of just came and went and just became one of our records. People say it’s part of a lineage of rap records that changed or took rap music in a certain direction, and I’m just happy we have a record that’s part of that lineage of rap music.”