The Beastie Boys would like to let you know they're not breaking up.
Never mind that they recently celebrated their 24th anniversary — which means it's really time for them to drop the "Boys" tag, don'tcha think? — and despite the fact that their last album, 2004's To the 5 Boroughs, failed to make a massive commercial splash, the B-Boys have no intention of calling it quits.
But now they're faced with the prospect of doing press for an honest-to-goodness greatest-hits package, Solid Gold Hits, a career-spanning retrospective that's similar to 1999's The Sounds of Science except that it's one disc and reeks a whole lot more like a farewell release from a band just itching to let go. Which is probably why the press release that accompanies Solid Gold ends its first paragraph by asserting, "No, the group is not breaking up."
"We just figured that since we're putting out the greatest-hits album, people would say, 'That's it, they're breaking up,' " Mike D laughed. "So we figured we'd just cut to the chase and put that in the press release, but people just ask us about it anyway. It's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't kind of thing."
And that's a pretty fair assessment of the Beasties' current situation too. In today's musical landscape, dominated by beefy MCs, raccoon-eyed punk rockers and nubile pre-teen popsters, the Beastie Boys' salt-and-pepper hair, old-school tag-team rap style and blatant nostalgia trips — brought to the forefront on 5 Boroughs (see "A Beastie Boys Lyrical Guide To The 5 Boroughs And Beyond") — make them look positively Paleozoic.
But it's not like they're going to change their flow almost a quarter-century into the game. In fact, if anything, their longevity has left them in a rather odd position as rap godfathers who can still count on an army of loyal fans to buy their new albums — 5 Boroughs, 1998's Hello Nasty and 1994's Ill Communication all debuted atop the Billboard albums chart — but with enough classic cuts to necessitate a greatest-hits record.
"Yeah, but the whole industry is pretty weird now, because like Hilary Duff has a greatest-hits album out," D said. "ODB had a greatest-hits [album] before he died. So all the kids are doing it these days. You can just put out one album and then you can have a greatest-hits record too."
"Kenny Loggins has a greatest-hits album, so does Gordon Lightfoot," MCA added. "So we figured if those guys have greatest-hits albums out ... we'd get in business with those dudes."
Fair enough. But as Beastie fans prepare to snap up Solid Gold Hits, which is due in stores November 8, there's still one question on all their minds: Just when will the B-Boys drop a new album? It's a rather demanding query, especially since they seem to spit out new albums roughly every 4.5 years, but in light of today's political climate — the Boys are not shy with their criticisms of President Bush (see "Beastie Boys Take On Bush With First Song In Three Years") — they're bound to release a new disc soon. And besides, it'd be a great way to dispel all those nasty retirement rumors.
"We don't put out records too often, and we've been doing it for a while, so that puts us in a high-risk category for rumors," Mike D sighed. "So here's what I'm going to do. I'm issuing a challenge to Madonna. She's coming out with an album soon [Confessions on a Dancefloor, due November 15], and we can't compete with that, but we're going to compete with the one after that. We're going to go head-to-head with the next Madonna album. By that time we'll be ready. Maybe."