When the Beastie Boys dropped their second studio album, Paul’s Boutique, it was initially considered a commercial failure.
The group had taken an experimental turn from their highly successful debut album Licensed to Ill, swapping traditional beats and rhymes for more experimental sounds. It’s now seen as their landmark album and critically acclaimed as one of the best ever made. On Saturday, as the album celebrated its 25th anniversary, a mural was erected on the same corner were the cover artwork was photographed.
The mural, which depicts the outsized, caricatured heads of band members Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Adam “MCA” Yauch, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, was executed by New York native Danielle Mastrion, who, for years, has been painting murals of legendary figures—such as Nelson Mandela and Notorious B.I.G.—and locals across the city.
“I grew up in Brooklyn in the ’80s,” Mastrion told The Daily Beast. “So I remember being 4 or 5 years old and listening to tapes of the Beastie Boys. They were representing Brooklyn before it was cool to represent Brooklyn.” Last summer, a Brooklyn Heights park was renamed after the late MCA.
The idea for the mural, at Rivington and Ludlow, came about after Brooklyn resident LeRoy McCarthy had spent months campaigning to have the cross-section renamed “Beastie Boys Square” in honor of the iconic trio. While the hip-hop enthusiast had support of the majority of residence and businesses—75 percent to be exact—he was met with large opposition by the community board.
“Honoring art forms such as hip-hop, which was created in New York City, would enhance the city’s image as a Mecca of great things.”
According to McCarthy, the Community Board 3 of the Lower East Side changed the requirements for proposal on several occasion. Upon initial presentation in January, “David Crane, Transportation Committee Chair, led the change to include other blocks to be covered, and requested additional signatures for the petition during my presentation,” McCarthy revealed.
However, he claims, rather than waiting for the February meeting, the CB3 Board covertly voted against Beastie Boys Square at an earlier meeting. The committee also “changed the criteria for who can be honored with a street co-name,” enforcing that the person would have to be from the area.
In New York, the only rule is that a person must be deceased to be honored with a street name. Since Adam “MCA” Yauch, one of the group’s three members, passed away in 2012 after a three-year battle with cancer, the group technically qualifies. While the group may not have lived on that specific block, they did live in nearby Chinatown as well as practiced just a few blocks away from the intersection.
“I think they don’t have the foresight to see the benefits that honoring the Beastie Boys and hip-hop can have for the community and also for New York City,” says McCarthy.
Along with attracting locals, he believes that it would also draw tourists out of Times Square and other attractions, in turn supporting the local businesses. “Plus, honoring art forms such as hip-hop, which was created in New York City, would enhance the city’s image as a Mecca of great things.”
Wolfnights, the gourmet wrap shop where the mural is on display, helped petition for the street co-naming and sees frequent visitors searching for the site of Paul’s Boutique. “I suggested we could do something to bring attention to the Beastie Boys and also benefit Wolfnights,” McCarthy said of using the wall space outside, “especially with people noticing that it is the corner where Paul’s Boutique was photographed.”
This isn’t Mastrion’s first tribute to the Beastie Boys. In 2012, the artist was asked to contribute to the Centre-fuge Public Art Project, a rotating outdoor gallery which seeks to turn construction sites in the Lower East Side into works of art.
Two days before she was supposed to begin, Adam “MCA” Yauch passed away. Mastrion immediately decided to change her concept to a mural of the band. A second tribute came when she was invited to paint at the legendary graffiti and street art Mecca, 5Pointz, which will soon be demolished to make way for high-end condominiums.
McCarthy has spent the past few years sparking similar campaigns around the five boroughs, beginning in his own Brooklyn neighborhood, where rapper Notorious B.I.G. once lived.
“He is one of the greatest to have ever rapped on a mic,” McCarthy said, “and there has been nothing done in the 17 years since he passed away. I thought it would be great to have him honored with Christopher Wallace Way.” He’s also focused on the Wu Tang Clan in Staten Island and Big Pun in the Bronx.
“I’m not trying to honor every hip-hop artist who has a record,” McCarthy says, “but I think that in New York City—the birthplace of hip-hop—it would be great to have some type of landmark for acts in each borough.”