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Old School Archives

LL Cool J and Beastie Boys bring hip hop to Britain in rare footage from 1986

In 1986, hip-hop was on the verge of becoming the behemoth of the genre which is undoubtedly the biggest in the world today. Here, we are going 34 years back to revisit the time that the pioneering LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys came to London Town to put on a show that was unlike anything that the English capital had witnessed before.

The performance was put on by Beastie Boys and LL Cool J’s label at the time, Defjam, who had just signed a distribution deal with CBS UK and they wanted to bring out all the stops for the introduction of hip-hop in Great Britain at London’s famous Brixton Academy.

The Beastie Boys stayed in London for a few days as they sought to announce themselves in the U.K. which Adam Horovitz details all about their memorable stay in the 2018 Beastie Boys Book, hilariously revealing that they wanted to try local cuisine and one of the first things the group did when they arrived was to eat a scotch egg.

During their stay, Horovitz revealed that a mutual friend had arranged for The Beastie Boys to spend an evening at none other than Mick Jones from The Clash’s house, an occasion which he describes as being one of my favourite nights ever. “It was one of those times in which you can’t believe this is actually happening to you. (But in a really good way.)”

Horovitz then detailed the memorable even further: “Someone’s at the door. Yup. It’s Joe fucking Strummer! Our new close friend Mick Jones had said some people were coming over; and maybe we could have some beers, hang out, and go see a movie. We could’ve either gone back to the hotel to eat, then sleep, or done this. Tough call. Now Joe Strummer’s here and we’re all drinking Red Stripe Crucial Brews, which are delicious, and the doorbell rings again…

“It’s fucking Johnny fucking Rotten! He’s with this cool-ass German lady (who was the mom of Ari Up from The Slits) and we are now officially drunk, and freaking out. In Mick Jones’s living room. We’re getting ready to go see a movie, and one more person shows up on our way out. Take a guess… could be any-fuckin’-body, right? It is one of the coolest people in the world. Ever. Paul Simonon.”

For The Beastie Boys’ show, all of their new friends were in attendance to witness the evolution of punk that DefJam had to showcase. Horovitz said this of the gig: “Everything on the trip led up to the big launch party for Def Jam. The party ended up being like the finale of a movie when everything gets wrapped up all neatly. Everyone we met that week was there. Even Paul Simonon. Our performance that night was awful, but for us it was as fun as cannonballing into a swimming pool. London is awesome.”

The show was nothing short of absolutely spectacular with The Beastie Boys and LL Cool J shortly becoming household names in the years that would follow. The crowd had visceral energy that night that made that London stay a memory that The Beastie Boys would eternally cherish and sparked a special relationship they would have with the UK.

The audience caused carnage from the very moment that the evening began as the evolution of music continued with the arrival of hip-hop from the other side of the Atlantic. The approval of The Clash and Johnny Rotten is proof of the relationship between hip-hop and punk, it also signalled a passing of the torch moment as their shared anti-establishment ethos carried on through these new upstarts who were the voice for the next generation.

Watch the footage, below