Amongst the hype and fanfare of Beastie
Boys 1998 release Hello
Nasty, a lone magazine issue stands head and shoulders
above the rest. That issue was the September 1998 installment
of Spin, which tried to piece together various interviews
conducted with Beastie "insiders" into a narrative
timeline. The only draw back to this huge undertaking was
that the feature created as many questions as it answered.
For example, the fact that Mike
D, Thomas Beller, and Tom
Cushman had all been part of a mysterious early rap
side-project called the Beat Brothers left many fans scratching
their heads in wonder.
The Beat Brothers were formed in December of 1982. To put
this into context, Mike D had just finished up his first
and only semester at Vassar and had turned 19 a month earlier.
Also a month earlier Michael along with the rest of the
Beastie Boys had played two memorable shows one at CBGB's
and the other at Bard College. Thus, during Christmas vacation
he got together with friends Tom Cushman and Thomas Beller
and wrote the "Reading Rap." This just happens
to be the only known recorded work of the Beat Brothers,
supposedly it has a stay in school feel to it as Cushman
described it in the 1998 Spin article. "At the time,
the thing in rap was this stay-in-school concept, so we
wrote "The Reading Rap": Reading and rapping and
you'll be down / It's in the mix, hear it in the sound /
Hit the books, but don't hit the street / And avoid the ends that you might meet." Interestingly
enough Beat Brothers member Thomas Beller went on to become
a writer as well as an editor.
Beastiemania.com caught up with Thomas Beller in September
of 2002 and asked him what he recalled about his work in
the Beat Brothers. "Tom C, Mike D, and I were in high
school together at St. Ann's. We hung out together, often
at Mike's house. Somehow we had this idea to do a rap record.
We recorded it. The song was called "Reading Rap."
Tom and Mike were really good. I was appalling, awful, just
terrible. I saw Adam Horowitz
recently and, when trying to describe how I was awful when
he interrupted me and said, "ooh, you went smooth,'
and gave me this look like, 'my condolences.'"