Hello Nasty (Deluxe)
Hello Nasty was the sound of a band that either had nothing to prove or realized there was no point trying to prove it. Their biggest hits (“Fight for Your Right,” “Sabotage”) had been jokes, and their most ambitious statements (Paul’s Boutique) had been flops—what did they know about the music industry that they didn’t learn by embarrassing themselves? Part of the album’s success could be chalked up to public profile: In 1996, the band hosted the first Tibetan Freedom Concert, drawing in a diverse, socially conscious audience that probably hadn’t given them a second thought since Licensed to Ill, not to mention reasserted (ahem) their true identity as a group of smart, passionately curious dudes you could grow and learn with.
It also reflected a broadening sense of what alternative music was and could be. Beck, Cornershop, DJ Shadow, Luscious Jackson, Bran Van 3000—it was a funkier moment, more global, more inclusive and eclectic. Most of the time, Hello Nasty doesn’t even sound like one band. But in its range—the psychedelic boom-bap (“Intergalactic,” ”Body Movin’”), the Buddhist bossanova (“I Don’t Know”), the jazzy mixed-grill instrumentals (“Song for Junior,” “Sneakin’ Out the Hospital”)—lay a sense of discovery and experimentation that doubled as a rallying cry, proof that maturity has more to do with exploring what you don’t know than persisting in what you think you do. Remembering an interview in which he was asked if “Song for the Man”—a lounge-y callout of sexual harassment—was hypocritical in the wake of their past, Ad-Rock, in the Apple TV+ documentary Beastie Boys Story, said, “I’d rather be a hypocrite than the same person forever.” So here they were, mostly back in New York now, jamming in lower Manhattan sub-basements, pressing record with one hand and rushing over to their instrument just in time for the cue, doing what they’d always done: change.