On Monday afternoon, an eagle-eyed Beastie Boys super-fan named Eoin McLernon unearthed a nice little gem: the never-released video for “Too Many Rappers,” off the Beasties’ last album, Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2. This seems like a particularly appropriate occasion for the use of the word “bittersweet.”
The song dates back to the original release of the album in 2009, which was then titled Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 1. There was an image from that time of the Beasties, along with Nas, stomping through a grocery store; that, it turns out, is a still from this lost video. Eventually, the original release was disrupted by the announcement of Adam Yauch’s illness. In a short, sweet, and calming video message from the time, Yauch explained: “About two months ago I started feeling this little lump in my throat … I didn’t really think it was anything but then just recently … I started to think I should talk to my doctor … he sent me to a specialist and they did tests and I actually have a form of cancer.” He’d have to have surgery, he explained, and radiation, but he promised that “we’ll be back, doing this.” Then Adam Horovitz plugs his (totally made-up) Kenny Rogers–indebted country act.
And eventually, they did get back to work. The album was finally released in 2011, with “Pt. 2” tacked on as a sly nod to the upheaval. But all was not well: There were no announced tour dates in support of the release, and Yauch was missing from all promotional activity. About a year later, in May 2012, Yauch died, at the age of 47. The footage in the music video is presumably some of the last captured before he got sick.
In a post on a beastieboys.com forum (via Pitchfork), McLernon explains:
“Hey guys and gals, I rarely post on here but I believe I made a major discovery this evening. While on a bus journey watching the credits of the ‘Don’t Play No Game’ video on my iPad I spotted the name Neal Usatin. Recognising it from his previous work on Oscilloscope Labs projects I Googled the name to see what else he had worked on. During my digging on his website ‘sweetcutz.com’ I found his online résumé which curiously listed a credit on the unreleased ‘Too Many Rappers’ video, directed by Roman Coppola. Further digging unearthed the treasure we have been looking for these past few years, thought by some to not even exist. To me this is the biggest news from the boys since that sad, fateful day in 2012. So here it is, my fellow Beastie heads! Please enjoy, it’s better than I could have ever imagined!”
Well, no, not quite. The video, it seems clear, was never released because it was never finished. To stretch out to the full running time of the song, footage of the band and Nas is padded out — presumably either by Coppola or Usatin — with old and well-worn images. The result is decidedly amateurish, but there’s still greatness to be gleaned.
The impromptu foursome goes marching along through the aforementioned supermarket, where Ad-Rock wields tartar sauce to hammer home his point about the abundance of crab rappers, who are indeed rapping like crabs; over an old abandoned bridge; through parking lots and trees and acropolises. And the Beastie Boys remind us, once and for all, that when it came to walking toward the camera while rapping in unexpected and scenic locations, boy, they were some of the best we ever had.
It is of course particularly great to see Yauch rampaging with abandon. Some of his lines here are just fantastic, cutting away all curmudgeonliness insinuated by the song’s concept with a general shoulder-shrug “You think we really give a fuck?” vibe. It’s not on here, but on the slightly tweaked “[New Reactionaries Version]” that ended up on Pt. 2, Yauch makes one thing clear: “Have MCs over my house and make some brunch / But you rappers? We going out, going dutch.” And strangely enough, Yauch also repeatedly mentions death. He boasts that he’s been in the game since before you were born, that he’ll still be MCing after you’re gone. Specifically, he says he plans to make it to the year 3000 and inverts Nas’s famous line from “N.Y. State of Mind”: “I never die / cause death is the cousin of sleep.”
There is no significance to be gleaned there. It’s just an odd, discomforting coincidence for this particular track and video to now be a posthumous discovery. But it’s not anything like a rude reminder. It’s not like we forgot.