Aha Moment: Beastie Boys

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Young Jean Lee is a playwright who’s become an it-girl of experimental theater in New York City. Her play The Shipment is a study of black identity, though she is Korean-American; most recently, she created a wordless piece called Untitled Feminist Show performed by a half dozen women in the nude.

Growing up in the late 1980s in Pullman, Washington, Lee was one of the only Asian kids. Attempting to blend in, Lee toed the line, dressing in Esprit and listening to Tiffany and New Kids on the Block. But a Rolling Stone review convinced her to splurge on Paul’s Boutique, the Beastie Boys’ 1989 album.

“It basically rewired my brain,” she remembers. “This album, it’s confusing and it’s messy. It’s meticulously constructed but things are put together because of how they sound and feel.” The record’s mix of '70s funk samples and lyrical nonsequiturs exposed Lee up to a radically new style of creative expression. And she was blown away by the cowbell.

“The album really opened my mind to unconventional structures,” Lee says, “the idea of playing with form and the idea of things just being right together without necessarily having a clear logic behind them.”

Is there a book — or a movie, album, or other work of art — that has changed your life? Tell us in a comment below or by e-mail.


Video: "Hey Ladies" by the Beastie Boys

Music Playlist

  1. All I Want for Christmas is You

    Artist: Mariah Carey
    Album: Merry Christmas
    Label: Sony
  2. Egg Man

    Artist: Beastie Boys
    Album: Paul's Boutique
    Label: Capitol
  3. Hey Ladies

    Artist: Beastie Boys
    Album: Paul's Boutique
    Label: Capitol
  4. Lighten Up

    Artist: Beastie Boys
    Album: The In Sound From Way Out!
    Label: Capitol
  5. Groove Holmes

    Artist: The In Sound From Way Out!
    Album: Beastie Boys
    Label: Capitol
  6. You Got It (The Right Stuff)

    Artist: New Kids on the Block
    Album: Hangin Tough