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Music

Why The Beastie Boys dropped 'Fight For Your Right' from their set

@TylerGolsen

During their initial wave of success in the late 1980s, The Beastie Boys were mainly seen as obnoxious feat boys who were aping hip hop as a joke. One of the first successful white rap outfits, The Beasties shared a label with legendary pioneers of the genre like LL Cool J and Run-DMC. But compared to those acts, Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA seemed like a novelty.

While it hasn’t exactly aged gracefully, Licensed to Ill still provides proof that The Beasties were more than gonzo voices and casual misogyny. With genuine hooks that relied on incorporating elements of rock and metal music, The Beasties were bringing in old-school rhyming styles that showed they had done their homework. Their presentation was tongue-in-cheek as well, leaning into their goofiness as three Jewish kids from New York City.

The rest of the world had a harder time catching on, however. That’s because The Beastie Boys’ first major hit, ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party!)’ seemed to double down on the gratuitous and ignorant attitudes that most casual listeners had associated with the trio. With its chant-along chorus and pro-party stance, ‘Fight For Your Right’ was quickly adopted by frat boys across the nation as their new anthem. The only problem was that The Beastie Boys were making fun of those very people.

“The only thing that upsets me is that we might have reinforced certain values of some people in our audience when our own values were actually totally different,” Michael Diamond later observed. “There were tons of guys singing along to ‘Fight for Your Right’ who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them.”

After the band concluded their tour in support of Licensed to Ill, they made a conscious decision to turn away from their previous image and style. Embracing sampledelia and retro fashions, The Beasties transformed on their follow up, Paul’s Boutique. When they went back out on the road, ‘Fight For Your Right’ no longer had a place in their setlists. 

The Beasties didn’t completely disown the song. One-off performances in 1992 and 1994 showed that the trio were OK with revisiting their past, but after their appearance at the 1994 Lollapalooza tour, The Beastie Boys never again performed the song. At their final show in 2009, ‘Fight For Your Right’ was left off the setlist.