Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce History: Lee Perry Rides The Subway

With Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two due in stores today, we look back to 1998, when the Beasties rode the wheels of steel with 'Scratch.'

In 1998, the Beastie Boys had entered a new phase in their career. Buoyed by the success of 1992′s Check Your Head and ’95′s Ill Communication, they had become a respected, downright revered act, the kind capable of doing whatever they want, with whomever they saw fit. They had certainly earned that right, and on their Hello Nasty album, they were determined to take full advantage.

And while we can only speculate how songs like “I Don’t Know” (featuring Miho Hatori, then of Cibo Matto, on guest vocals), the Krautrock-indebted “And Me,” the jazzy, bossa-nova instrumentals-laden “Sneakin’ Out the Hospital” and “Song for Junior” ended up making the cut, we know for sure that the Beasties’ “whenever/whomever” mantra was directly responsible for Nasty‘s most out-there cut, “Dr. Lee, PhD.”

As the title implies, it features none other than Lee “Scratch” Perry, the legendary Jamaican dub icon/ amateur shaman/ madman whom the Beasties had famously featured on the cover of the second issue of their Grand Royal magazine, shouted-out on ’94′s “Sure Shot” and toured with in Japan in ’96. Over the course of its five minutes, Perry grunts and whinnies, bobs and weaves, plays the odd percussive instrument and drops dancehall toasts like, “The Beastly Brothers, and the Beastly Boys, with their beastly toys, they give ya some beastly joys.” Needless to say, it not only captures everything that was — and still is — wonderfully odd about Perry, but serves as a pretty good example of the kind of clout the Beasties had achieved at this point.

And so, with their new album, Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two, out on Tuesday (May 3), we decided to dig a little further into the Beasties/Perry collaboration. Much like we did on Monday, we’re taking you back in time … all the way back to April 1998, when MTV News sat down with Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA to discuss the (then) upcoming Hello Nasty and the experience of working with Scratch in the studio. And, as you can probably guess, it certainly was an experience.

“Lee Perry dresses kind of wild, kind of different than the average bear, and he came in on Halloween, so it was pretty cool,” MCA told us. “We went to his hotel and picked him up, and he walked to the studio with us, and he has all these mirrors on his shoes and different color bits of spray paint on his clothes. So he was just walking down the street, and nobody really thought he looked out of the ordinary.”

“It was definitely interesting that the fateful night it happened was Halloween, it was perfect,” Mike D added at the time. “Because it was, like, downtown New York, where everybody’s nuts for Halloween anyway and then, Lee Perry in the midst of that, dressed how he was.”

After they got Perry to their studio — where he hammered out his verses in two takes — there was still the matter of getting him to a show he had scheduled for that night … and since there were no taxis to be found, the Beasties were forced to improvise.

“He just came in, immediately heard the track, had his lyrics written out on a poster, one of his posters, just knew exactly what he was doing, like, ‘OK, give me the mic, let’s do this.’ Did like two takes, did like a couple background vocal takes, and then he had to go do a gig that night, a little further downtown,” Mike D laughed. “And there’s no cabs, no car service, so we actually had to take the subway. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry on the subway, which that, in itself was amazing.”

What do you think of Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two? We want to hear from you in the comments below!