10 Endangered Alphabets You Should See Before It's Too Late

The Glagolitic script carved into wood
The Glagolitic script carved into wood
Courtesy of Tim Brookes

The Arabic and Simplified Chinese scripts aren't in danger of going anywhere anytime soon, but the same can't be said for Balinese, Mali, Pahawh (or Pahauh) Hmong, and the other 100-some alphabets that Vermont-based writer Tim Brookes has cataloged in his online Atlas of Endangered Alphabets, which is set for a soft launch on January 17. The featured alphabets—which Brookes has loosely defined to include writing systems of all sorts—are vanishing for varied reasons, including government policies, war, persecution, cultural assimilation, and globalization.

“The world is becoming much more dependent on global communications and those global communications take place in a relatively small number of writing systems—really something between 15 and 20,” Brookes tells Mental Floss. “And because that’s the case, all the others are to some degree being eroded.”

The atlas will include a bit of background information about each alphabet as well as links to any organizations attempting to revive them. By creating a hub for these alphabets, Brookes hopes to connect people who want to preserve their language and culture, while also showing the world how beautiful and intricate some of these scripts—including the 10 below—can be.

1. Cherokee

Although the Manataka American Indian Council says an ancient Cherokee writing system may have existed at one point but was lost to history, Cherokee was more or less a spoken language up until the early 19th century. Around 1809, a Cherokee man named Sequoyah started working on an 86-character writing system known as a syllabary, in which the symbols represent syllables. Most remarkably, Sequoyah himself had never learned how to read. At the time, many Native Americans deeply distrusted writing systems, and Sequoyah was put on trial for witchcraft after tribal leaders caught wind of his new creation. However, once they realized that written Cherokee could be used to preserve their language and culture, they asked Sequoyah to start teaching the syllabary. “The Cherokee achieved 90 percent literacy more rapidly than any other people in history that we know of,” Brookes says. “[Sequoyah’s syllabary] is one of the greatest intellectual achievements of all time.”

After a period of decline in the years following the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Cherokee language education saw somewhat of a revival in the late 20th century. The predominance of English and the Latin alphabet has made these efforts an uphill battle, though. Brookes says it’s difficult to find people who can teach the script, and even among Cherokee translators, few are confident in their grasp of the writing system.

2. Inuktitut

A stop sign containing the Inuktitut script
A stop sign in Nunavut, Canada
Sébastien Lapointe, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Nine different writing systems are used among Canada’s 59,500 Inuit. Many of these are based on the Latin alphabet, but the one shown above uses syllabics that were first introduced by European missionaries in the 19th century. Since it’s difficult and costly to represent each of these writing systems in official documents, many Inuit officials write and hold meetings in English, all but ensuring the demise of their mother tongue. However, Canada’s national Inuit organization, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, is now in the process of developing one common script for all Inuit. “Our current writing systems were introduced through the process of colonization,” the organization writes on its website. “The unified Inuktut [the collective name for Inuit languages] writing system will be the first writing system created by Inuit for Inuit in Canada.” It remains to be seen what that script will look like.

3. Glagolitic

A tablet containing the Glagolitic script
The Baška tablet, which was made around the year 1100
Neoneo13, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

It’s widely believed that Glagolitic, the oldest known Slavic script, was invented by missionaries Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius around 860 CE in an effort to translate the Gospels and convert the Slavs to Christianity. The name Glagolitic stems from the Old Church Slavonic word glagolati, meaning to speak. Some of the symbols were lifted from Greek, Armenian, and Georgian, while others were entirely new inventions. Nowadays, academics are typically the only ones who can decipher the script, but some cultural institutions have made efforts to preserve its legacy. In 2018, the National and University Library in Zagreb launched an online portal containing digitized versions of Glagolitic texts. In addition to being a source of Croatian heritage and pride, the alphabet has also become an object of tourist fascination. Visitors can view monuments containing Glagolitic symbols along the Baška Glagolitic Path on the Croatian island of Krk. And in Zagreb, the capital city, it’s not hard to find gift shops selling merchandise adorned with Glagolitic writing. However helpful this may be to the tourism sector, it's no guarantee that more Croatians will want to start learning the script.

4. Mandombe

The Mandombe script
Moyogo, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

This African script is unusual for several reasons. For one, the Mandombe alphabet reportedly came to David Wabeladio Payi—a member of the Kimbanguist church in the Democratic Republic of Congo—in a series of dreams and spiritual encounters in the late ‘70s. One day, he was looking at his wall when he noticed that the mortar between the bricks seemed to form two numbers: five and two. He believed these were divine clues, so he set out to create a series of symbols based off those shapes. Eventually, he assigned the symbols phonographic meaning and turned it into an alphabet that could be used by speakers of the Kikongo and Lingala languages. Perhaps most remarkably, the pronunciation changes depending on how the symbols are rotated. “It’s one of about three writing systems in the world where that’s true,” Brookes says. Unlike most of the other alphabets on this list, Mandombe is growing in popularity rather than declining. However, because it’s primarily being taught in Kimbanguist schools and used only for religious texts, it will be a challenge to convince the rest of the population to start using it. Elsewhere in the country, the Latin alphabet is used (French is the official language). “What it’s up against is, in essence, exactly the same forces that a declining script is up against,” Brookes says. For this reason, many new alphabets can be considered endangered.

5. Ditema tsa Dinoko

In a similar vein, Ditema tsa Dinoko is also a minority script, and it's too new to tell if it will stick around. A team of South African linguists, designers, and software programmers invented this intricate, triangular-shaped alphabet in just the last decade in hopes of forging a single script that could be used by speakers of indigenous languages in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Because the symbols were inspired by artworks and beadwork designs that are typical of the region, the alphabet is also a celebration of culture. “One of the really interesting features of African alphabets is how deeply embedded they are in what we would call graphic design,” Brookes says. “Instead of imitating the shapes or structures or layout of other writing systems, such as our alphabet, they often start from a completely different point of view and draw on designs that are found in war paintings, weaving textiles, pottery, and all of those other available graphic elements.” The colors used in the alphabet aren't necessary to understand the script, but they hark back to the alphabet's artistic origins while also functioning as a kind of font. For instance, different writers may use different colors to give their text "a certain feel or emotional resonance," Brookes says.

6. Mandaic

The Mandaic script
Courtesy of Tim Brookes

This ancient, mystic script dates back to the 2nd century CE and is still being used by some Mandaeans in Iraq and Iran. According to mythology, the language itself predates humanity, and the script was historically used to create religious texts. Charles Häberl, now an associate professor of Middle Eastern languages and literatures at Rutgers University, wrote in a 2006 paper that Mandaic is “unlike any other script found in the modern Middle East." And unlike most scripts, it has changed very little over the centuries. Despite its enduring quality, many of the speakers in Iraq have fled to other countries since the U.S. invasion in 2003. As these speakers assimilate into new cultures, it becomes more challenging to maintain their linguistic traditions.

7. Lanna

The Lanna script
Courtesy of Tim Brookes

According to Brookes, the Lanna script was primarily used during the time of the Lanna Kingdom in present-day Thailand from the 13th century to the 16th century. It’s still used in some regions of northern Thailand, but faces stiff competition from the predominant Thai script. The word Lanna translates to "land of a million rice fields." The script is one of Brookes’s personal favorites as far aesthetics are concerned. “It is so extraordinarily fluid and beautiful,” he says. “They developed this script to indicate not only consonants, but then the consonants have vowel markings and other consonant markings and tonal markings both above and below the main letters, and so you have this amazingly joyous and elaborate writing system, and it’s like a pond of goldfish. Everything is just curving around and swimming in all these different directions.”

8. Dongba

The Dongba script
Courtesy of Aubrey Wang

Members of the Naxi ethnic minority in China’s Yunnan province have been using this colorful pictographic script for well over 1000 years. The pictures stand for tangible objects like mud, mountains, and high alpine meadows, as well as intangible concepts such as humanity and religion [PDF]. Historically, it was mainly used by priests to help them remember their ceremonial rites, and the word Dongba means "wise man." However, the script has undergone something of a revival in recent years, having been promoted by people working in the arts and tourism industries. It’s also taught in some elementary schools, and it remains one of the few pictographic scripts that’s still in use today. At the same time, Brookes says he's seen little evidence of efforts "to create a circumstance where the script is actually used in a functional, everyday fashion." With the predominant Chinese script looming large throughout much of the country, Dongba's days may be numbered.

9. Tibetan

A student writes the Tibetan script
China Photos/Getty Images

Some of the world’s alphabets and languages are endangered for political reasons. Tibetan is perhaps the best-known example of that. The Chinese government has cracked down on language instruction in recent years, with the aim of promoting Mandarin, the predominant language—although some have argued this policy comes at the expense of minority languages. In Tibet, many schools now conduct the bulk of their lessons in Mandarin, and Tibetan might be taught in a separate language course. Chinese officials put a Tibetan activist on trial in January 2018 for “inciting separatism”—partly because he criticized the government’s policies on Tibetan language education. He was sentenced to five years in prison. In general, “the story behind endangered alphabets is almost never a pleasant or cheerful one, so that’s the human rights side of it,” Brookes says.

10. Mongolian

The Mongolian script

Anand.orkhon, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Some have likened the appearance of the traditional Mongolian script to a kind of vertical Arabic. The script traveled to Mongolia by way of a Turkic ethnic group called the Uighurs in the 1100s. Beginning with Genghis Khan, Mongol leaders used the script to record historic events during their reign. Later, when Mongolia became a Soviet satellite state, the country started using the Cyrillic alphabet in the 1940s, and the traditional script was largely cast aside. The traditional alphabet is still used in inner Mongolia and is returning to Mongolia, and the renaissance of Mongolian calligraphy has bolstered its usage to some degree. Nonetheless, it, too, remains endangered.

Whiten Your Teeth From Home for $40 With This Motorized Toothbrush

AquaSonic
AquaSonic

Since many people aren't exactly rushing to see their dentist during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's become more important than ever to find the best at-home products to maintain your oral hygiene. And if you're looking for a high-quality motorized toothbrush, you can take advantage of this deal on the AquaSonic Black Series model, which is currently on sale for 71 percent off.

This smart toothbrush can actually tell you how long to keep the brush in one place to get the most thorough cleaning—and that’s just one of the ways it can remove more plaque than an average toothbrush. The brush also features multiple modes that can whiten teeth, adjust for sensitive teeth, and massage your gums for better blood flow.

As you’d expect from any smart device, modern technology doesn’t stop at functionality. The design of the AquaSonic Black Series is sleek enough to seamlessly fit in with a modern aesthetic, and the charging base is cordless so it’s easy to bring on the go. The current deal even includes a travel case and eight Dupont replacement heads.

Right now, you can find the AquaSonic Black Series toothbrush on sale for just $40.

Price subject to change.

 

AquaSonic Black Series Toothbrush & Travel Case With 8 Dupont Brush Heads - $39.99

See Deal


This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.


20 Crafty Facts About Beastie Boys

L to R: Beastie Boys Ad-Rock (Adam Horowitz), MCA (Adam Yauch), and Mike D (Michael Diamond) pose in Portugal 1998.
L to R: Beastie Boys Ad-Rock (Adam Horowitz), MCA (Adam Yauch), and Mike D (Michael Diamond) pose in Portugal 1998.
Martyn Goodacre/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When a group has been around as long as Beastie Boys—particularly a band that has made such an indelible impact on popular music—every person’s connection to them is likely to be very different, and very specific. I wasn’t a huge fan of Licensed To Ill (1986) as a kid and missed the Paul’s Boutique (1989) heyday by just a few years, so my first strong memory of them was navigating Check Your Head while my parents succumbed to Parental Advisory paranoia and confiscated the CD to “protect me” from the band's corrupting influence. But it was too late. By the time mom and dad started fretting over the trio’s infrequent, and innocuous, f-bombs, I had already become a diehard fan, infected (like so many others) by their uniquely intoxicating combination of rap, funk, and punk that wasn’t just fun and exciting to listen to but self-referential, self-reflective, and actively inspiring.

Of course, they also had bars and absolute bangers. (“Intergalactic” will always and forever leave a smoldering crater on any dance floor.) But after disbanding in 2012 following the untimely death of Adam "MCA" Yauch from parotid cancer, remaining members Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond have spent the past few years reflecting on their experiences as a group—first with the exceptional Beastie Boys Book, and then with the Spike Jonze-directed Beastie Boys Story, a kinda-sorta live recitation/performance of key moments from their career. Between those two projects, they offered some intimate and unprecedented insights into the journey the three of them went on to become one of the most important and influential hip-hop bands in the history of the genre.

1. Beastie Boys originally wasn’t just a name, it was an acronym.

Beastie Boys formed in New York City in 1981 as a hardcore punk band. The name stood for “Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Inner Excellence,” which made no sense with a second “Boys” tacked on at the end. (They subsequently admitted that the acronym was invented after coming up with the name.) It also was immediately inaccurate, since the founding members included Adam Yauch, Michael Diamond, John Berry, and their female drummer Kate Schellenbach.

2. Beastie Boys’s first hip-hop single was basically a prank call set to music.

Released in 1983, “Cooky Puss” marked the first appearance of Adam Horovitz on a Beastie Boys recording. The single became an underground hit in New York City clubs, earning them minor renown and establishing a path incorporating hip-hop into their sets.

3. A lawsuit earned Beastie Boys their first real money as musicians.

“Beastie Revolution” the B-side of "Cooky Puss," earned Beastie Boys their first real income as a group when British Airways sampled the song in a television ad without the band's permission. A lawyer successfully sued the airline for $40,000, which was enough for the band to rent an apartment together in Manhattan's Chinatown, which they used as both living and recording space.

4. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard "Rock Hard," Beastie Boys’s first single as a full-fledged rap group.

After hiring NYU student and future Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin as their DJ—based purely on his dorm room speaker set-up, which included a bubble machine—Beastie Boys began recording rap music in earnest, inspired by early genre luminaries like the Funky 4 + 1. In addition to dropping Schellenbach as their drummer—an insensitive decision the band later regretted—the guys yielded to Rubin’s expertise as a producer with just one other single (T La Rock’s “It’s Yours”) under his belt.

For “Rock Hard,” Rubin sampled AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” which was subsequently withdrawn because they hadn’t sought permission. Decades later, the Beasties appealed directly to Angus Young for the rights to sample the song to add to their 1999 compilation The Sounds Of Science, but Young again refused.

5. Beastie Boys got into trouble on more than one occasion with their music sampling.

“Rock Hard” marked the first—but certainly not the last—time Beastie Boys ran into trouble with sampling. (More on this later.) But during the same period, they recorded the song “I’m Down,” which featured a Beatles sample, but given Michael Jackson’s ownership of the Fab Four’s catalog, they were similarly rebuffed. (A single featuring “I’m Down” and “Drum Machine,” a track credited to “MCA & Burzootie,” was unofficially released in 2007.)

6. Beastie Boys opened for Madonna during 1985's "The Virgin Tour."

Beastie Boys at the West 42nd Street subway station in Times Square in 1986.
Beastie Boys at the West 42nd Street subway station in Times Square in 1986.
Michel Delsol/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Beastie Boys became tour mates with the Queen of Pop after her manager contacted Def Jam Records looking for Run-D.M.C. to open for her Virgin Tour. Run-D.M.C. charged too much. After label chief Russell Simmons told Madonna’s management that their second choice, The Fat Boys, were unavailable (even though Simmons never managed the Fat Boys), he volunteered Beastie Boys for the sum of $500 per week. They spent most of that time antagonizing Madonna’s teenage fan base with raucous, sophomoric stage hijinks, while recording the final tracks on their debut album, Licensed to Ill.

7. Licensed to Ill became Beastie Boys's calling card—and, almost as quickly, an albatross around the band's neck.

With Licensed to Ill, Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin wanted to capitalize on the novelty of a full-length rap album by one of the few (if only) white performers in the genre. To create it, Beastie Boys threw themselves into a misogynistic, lunk-headed frat boy perspective they initially targeted for ridicule, not celebration. But “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” became an anthem for exactly the kind of people they were trying to make fun of, and their subsequent 1987 tour was heavily populated by exactly those kinds of drunken louts. A stage set-up featuring a giant inflatable penis and go-go cages filled with girls also didn’t dissuade critics from thinking they endorsed the lifestyle chronicled on their record. By the time they realized how far they had strayed from their satirical intentions, Beastie Boys had become worldwide rock stars.

8. Beastie Boys broke up after Licensed to Ill—but they didn’t know it.

Disillusioned by their own success with a record they’d come to dislike, the band was slow to begin recording a follow-up for Def Jam—especially after they realized they allegedly hadn’t earned any money at all from it, despite selling what would add up to more than 9 million copies over the next three and a half decades. Simmons claimed they breached their contract to record new music even though he had encouraged them to keep touring, which in turn kept them from recording new material. After the end of their final Licensed to Ill-related tour dates, the Boys went their separate ways, thinking it was just a break. But after they reconnected at the beginning of the recording process for Paul’s Boutique, Yauch told Diamond and Horovitz that he’d actually quit the band temporarily without telling them.

9. Adam Horovitz attempted to launch an acting career.

During the time after Licensed to Ill, Horovitz moved to Los Angeles and attempted to embark on an acting career (not counting his performances as a member of Beastie Boys in Krush Groove and the Run-D.M.C. vehicle Tougher Than Leather). He co-starred opposite Donald Sutherland and Amy Locane in the now-lost Lost Angels. In 2015, Horovitz told GQ that he hadn't seen the film since it screened at Cannes in 1989—and had no interest in seeing it again. He hasn't given up on acting entirely; he has taken on small roles in the intervening years, including a part in Noah Baumbach's While We're Young (2014).

10. Beastie Boys expected Paul’s Boutique to be their comeback. It wasn’t.

One very positive thing did come out of the time Horovitz spent in Los Angeles: He invited Diamond and Yauch to visit, and the three of them met Mike Simpson and John King, hip-hop producers for the Delicious Vinyl record label who employed computers for pioneering sampling techniques. The trio immediately fell in love with their sound and hired them to create the musical backdrop for Paul's Boutique, their 1989 follow-up to Licensed to Ill.

Contrary to popular belief, clearing all 105 samples used on the album (including 24 on the final track “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”) was relatively easy. But even if they were thrilled by the dense sonic tapestry that accompanied their evolving lyrics, fans weren’t immediately taken by the record. Opinion has changed over time though; today, Paul's Boutique is considered a masterpiece—both as a musical endeavor and a technical marvel.

11. Check Your Head catapulted Beastie Boys back to the top of the charts—and inspired a new creative freedom.

Prior to Paul’s Boutique, Beastie Boys signed a multi-album contract with Capitol Records. So even when their comeback fizzled, Capitol was obligated to give them money for another record. They used their advance to create G-Son Studios in the then-sleepy Los Angeles neighborhood of Atwater Village, where they not only had equipment and record space but a basketball hoop and a skateboarding half pipe.

Though they played on their earliest recordings, they really learned—and in many cases, taught themselves—to play the instruments on Check Your Head. The various influences of their adolescence, from hip-hop to punk to funk, pushed them to experiment and combine these sounds into what became a watershed moment for rap and rock reaching tenuous harmony.

12. Beastie Boys's creative endeavors during their time in Los Angeles weren’t only musical.

Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch and Adam Horovitz in 1993 from an archival photo used in “Beastie Boys Story,”
Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch, and Adam Horovitz circa 1993 in a still from Apple TV+'s Beastie Boys Story (2020).
Apple TV+

Around the same time they were recording Check Your Head, Beastie Boys created Grand Royal, a record label that allowed them to release music by artists they liked—starting with Luscious Jackson, an all-female rock/rap band featuring their former drummer Kate Schellenbach.

Over the next decade, they created Grand Royal Magazine, where they evidently officially coined the term mullet; launched the clothing label X-Large (whose name makes it really difficult to find vintage articles on eBay); and founded the New York-based publicity firm Nasty Little Man. After the release of Ill Communication, Yauch mounted the two-day Tibetan Freedom Concert, the biggest benefit concert since 1985’s Live Aid.

13. Beastie Boys helped usher in the Internet era for their fans (or at least people who went to their shows).

In the early 1990s, a computer programmer named Ian Rogers created a website (on the pre-World Wide Web) to answer questions and explore trivia about Beastie Boys. Within a few years, his little FAQ site became the definitive resource for all things related to the band. After launching Grand Royal Magazine, the band decided to make the out-of-print first issue available for free online and reached out to Rogers to have him help them.

Rogers initially turned them (and the money their label offered) down. But the Beasties persisted, and soon enough, he had created an official site where the band could publish information and updates—you know, all the stuff that every band does now. During their tour in 1995, Beastie Boys handed out floppy disks to ticket buyers (a decision they came to regret because people would throw them on stage during their performances). But their forward-thinking efforts to preserve their own legacy would become the standard for anyone creating their identity on the net for decades to come.

14. Spike Jonze directed "Sabotage," which is regularly cited as one of the best music videos of all-time.

Mike Diamond, Spike Jonze and Adam Yauch prepare for the “Sabotage” music video in a scene from “Beastie Boys Story,”
Mike Diamond, Spike Jonze, and Adam Yauch prepare to shoot the “Sabotage” music video in a scene from Apple TV+'s Beastie Boys Story.
Apple TV+

In 1994, Oscar-winning filmmaker—and frequent Beastie Boys collaborator—Spike Jonze directed the video for "Sabotage." The video, an anarchic parody of ‘70s cops shows that perfectly complemented the song’s energy, was shot around Los Angeles with no permits. “[W]e just ran around L.A. without any permits and made everything up as we went along,” Yauch told New York Magazine. Even today, more than 25 years after its original debut, "Sabotage" is regularly cited as one of the greatest music videos ever made.

15. Several Beastie Boys videos were directed by Nathanial Hörnblowér, Adam Yauch's alter ego.

Sabotage” marked a transition point for the band as they regained the success they had during their Licensed to Ill days, except on their own terms. The music video cemented their superstardom and brought Yauch's alter ego, Nathanial Hörnblowér, into the spotlight. When "Sabotage" lost the award for Best Direction to R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" at the 1994 MTV Music Video Awards, Hörnblowér stormed the stage to express his outrage (as a very confused Michael Stipe looked on). The official story is that Hörnblowér is Yauch's uncle from Switzerland. The real story is that Hörnblowér is a pseudonym for Yauch which he first enlisted on Paul’s Boutique (he created the cover art).

16. According to the band, Hello Nasty is Beastie Boys's best album.

If Check Your Head and Ill Communication felt like two parts of the same creative workflow, 1998's Hello Nasty—which is named for how the phone was answered at Beastie Boys's New York-based PR firm—marked the full realization of the band's independence and imagination. Long, weird, and fearless, the album effortlessly shuffles from booming dance floor fillers to introspective instrumentals, feeling entirely unrestrained and free for the first time. "Hello Nasty is our best record," Ad-Rock wrote in Beastie Boys Book then included a list of all the reasons why, including the fact that: “It has the song 'Intergalactic,' and that song is the f***in’ jam, right?!”

17. According to the band, To The 5 Boroughs is not their best album.

To the 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys's follow-up to the Grammy Award-winning Hello Nasty, arrived in 2004, and it arrived with both some counterproductive restrictions and some heavy personal baggage. A planned tour with Rage Against the Machine was canceled after Mike D broke his collarbone in a bike accident, and by the time he healed, Rage had broken up. A year or more ensued with the Boys just living life, growing up, engaging in more ordinary adult activities. 9/11 and the cultural fallout affected the recording of the album, right down to the title, but Yauch initiated the process of recording insisting that the album be all rap—meaning no instrumentals or digressions like they’d done in the past.

“A good path to creating something mediocre is having rigid rules for what you’re making,” Horovitz wrote in Beastie Boys Book. The combination of these “rules,” and an effort to make something more “serious” and politically-minded, might have hobbled what remains a record with some amazing moments but nothing fully coherent.

18. Hot Sauce Committee was originally named for Elvis Presley's driver.

Rebounding from To The 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys decided to swing in the opposite direction for their next album and record an album of all instrumentals. The result was The Mix-Up, which they toured while wearing suits like an old-school funk band. Moving forward after that album, which netted them a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album, they started work on a follow-up, a two-part opus that would bring their eclectic style full circle one more time. Though it became known as Hot Sauce Committee, one prospective title was Tadlock’s Glasses, which referred to Tadlock, one of their tour bus drivers, who worked for Elvis Presley. Presley gifted Tadlock a pair of gold-framed glasses that became a prized possession.

19. It will be tough for crate diggers to find the original albums that went into Hot Sauce Committee.

Hot Sauce Committee was conceived as a collage of samples from records that didn’t exist, which meant they would play instrumentals in different styles, then cut them up in a computer and combine them to feel like samples—even though the original “sources” didn’t actually exist. (In Beastie Boys Book, you can see some of the fictional albums they sampled, as they created fictional artists and titles and even designed cover images.) Ultimately, only Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 came out, because the band actually lost the recordings for Pt. 1 on a train. (If anyone finds it, let us know!)

20. There’s a reason you haven’t heard Beastie Boys’s music more since 2012—and it’s not (just) because they disbanded.

Beastie Boys Mike D (left) and Adam Yauch leaving their hotel in London in 1987.
Beastie Boys Mike D (left) and Adam Yauch leaving their hotel in London in 1987.
Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Following Adam Yauch's death on May 4, 2012, the band effectively disbanded. (There is evidently some music recorded in 2011 that may one day see the light of day, but nothing yet.) Yauch’s will expressly forbid the use of any Beastie Boys music in advertising of any kind, in perpetuity. What this means is that companies cannot use a Beastie Boys song in their commercials.

Ad-Rock and Mike D have continued to record and produce music in the years since Yauch's passing, but they honor his legacy and their longtime partnership by refusing to ever perform again as Beastie Boys without him.