I’ve lived in this east village neighborhood for over 30 years, and I don’t recall ever seeing a public artwork at the corner of 14th Street and Avenue A, let alone anything as monumental as this Beastie Boys mural by the legendary Shepherd Fairey. I first noticed the mural at 7:00 AM on the morning of October 4th as I approached the L train stop. This is what it looked like on that morning:
At the very top left corner of the mural, if you zoom in with your phone, you can read this message:
Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten
From the Battery to the top of Manhattan
Asian, Middle-Eastern, and Latin
Black, White, New York You Make it Happen
Even though it didn’t say Beastie Boys yet, everyone knows that’s the Beastie Boys, and “Posse in Effect” is a popular song from their 1986 album, Licensed to Ill. So, yeah.
When I came back home later that day, a bit more work had been done but there’s still blank spot at the bottom right. A day or two later, the mural was complete and looks as it does in the first photo and the one below, which is to say that it looks amazing .
Shepherd Fairey‘s art has a long been influenced by music, especially punk and hip-hop. Here is his statement from Instagram on what motivated him to create this mural.
The crew and I just completed an 8 story Beastie Boys mural as part of the NYC Hip Hop 50 celebration at the corner of 14th and Ave. A. After my best childhood friend started at NYU in 1990, I began putting up street art in the Village on a regular basis so this location is significant for me. This is also an area where the Beastie Boys hung out and they recorded their first E.P. down the street at 171 A, [which is] where the Bad Brains also recorded their ROIR album.
The mural is based on a Licensed to Ill era Beasties photo by Glen Friedman, who also shot their Check Your Head cover. When the Beastie Boys’ album Licensed to Ill came out, I was exhilarated by their metamorphosis into a hip-hop group from a punk band because I had mainly been listening to punk. Even though I liked RUN-DMC and the hip-hop from Beat Street and Breakin’, I felt awkward being into hip-hop as a white kid.
Licensed to Ill was instantly infectious and a thrilling sonic encapsulation of bratty teen rebellion. It was (and is) a great hip-hop album. The Beasties blew the doors open for me to embrace other hip-hop and they kept evolving musically and spiritually while redefining what was possible within the genre. I’m forever grateful to the Beasties for their contribution to culture and the soundtrack of my life, and for their embrace of, and contribution to, this mural project!
The work on the mural was hot and grueling so thanks to my crew of Rob Zagula and Jon Furlong as well as Amanda, Oscar, and Sher who were local help from the the Lisa Project crew. It takes long hours and intense physical effort to paint at this scale and I’m incredibly grateful for the hard work from everyone. This project also would not have happened without the intense efforts of Wayne and Rey from the Lisa Project and the generous support of Hard Rock Hotel NYC.