The guys who make up this Beastie Boys tribute band aren't joking around. They call themselves Pollywog Crew, and it’s three dudes on the mic: Jay also known as MCJ, Jeff or Jeff-D, Dino, who goes by D-Rock, and their DJ, Lu-man.
It's clear that the air surrounding the Beastie Boys is bittersweet, especially after the devastating passing of the colossally iconic Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, after his battle with cancer. Pollywog Crew respects the band they pay tribute to entirely, and were inspired to do everything in their power to keep the spirit of this polarizing hip-hop group alive and thumping.
After sitting down with Pollywog, I spent the evening watching them rehearse, and the entire time I kept getting goose bumps and had an unusual craving for some "Brass Monkey."
VICE: First Question: What is a Pollywog?
Jeff D: It’s a tadpole. A Pollywog is a tadpole.
D-Rock: They look like sperms.
But, why Pollywog Crew then? Isn’t that like Tadpole Crew? And what does the name have to do with the Beastie Boys?
MCJ: The Beastie Boys' first album was called Pollywog Stew. It was a punk album and they basically were a crew, so we took the name pollywog and threw it in. Pollywog Stew, Pollywog Crew.
So it's basically like tadpole stew? Yum.
MCJ: Pretty much.
What influenced you guys to create a Beastie Boys tribute band?
MCJ: Our great dislike for the Beastie Boys. [laughs]
But seriously, why?
MCJ: To me, they're one of the most influential bands in my life. I absolutely, have always loved the Beastie Boys.
So why now?
Jeff-D: If not now, when?
MCJ: When MCA passed it was the perfect time to do a tribute band.
D-Rock: Yeah, I agree with that. It was a combination of MCA passing away, and I think that it was also the desire to get out and perform the songs that we loved so much. I guess there was also the feeling of, you know, that you're not going to see them doing this as three anymore. Now it's just two. That's sad. But at the end of the day, we wanted to let that live through us, and the people that love the Beastie Boys will appreciate that.
Cool. So how do all of you know each other?
Lu-Man: I met Dino through his girlfriend cause I used to work with her in North Hollywood. He came through a couple of times to spin and we both were just on the same level as far as music and everything.
Jeff-D: I know Dino through Jay.
But how do you know Jay?
Jeff-D: Through Dino. [Laughs]
MCJ: Dino and I used to play table tennis.
MCJ: Ping Pong.
Really? Did you guys really play ping pong together? Like, in a team or something?
MCJ: [Laughs] Okay, so Dino and I met each other in October of 1995. Our friendship just stuck. We, in the past, have performed together. We had a music project a few years ago.
What kind of music? Was it similar to the Beastie Boys?
MCJ: It was comparable to the Beastie boys. I will say that.
What was comparable about it?
MCJ: Just because we were a hip-hop group and we combined all the elements, such as the Beastie Boys do. Like trumpets, noise... I mean, we were different. You could just tell we were influenced by them.
What about you, Lu-Man? Do you feel like the Beastie Boys influenced your spinning?
Lu-man: Oh, definitely. Hell yeah. Even before DJ’ing, the Beastie Boys were the main group. Every beat they were using was original, same with every sample and every song. I got into them more when I saw they had a DJ. They had DJ Homicide before Mix Master Mike.
So I take it you liked DJ Homicide?
Lu-man: Yeah, I heard about him when I was growing up cause he’s from where I’m from. I could relate. I don’t really know what happened with them [the Beastie Boys and DJ Homicide] but when Mix Master Mike came out, it blew my mind.
Why do you come to practice every day? Like, why are you here?
MCJ: What hit the nail on the head is, you know, people aren't going to get to see the Beastie Boys anymore. I want the closest thing to our love of the Beastie Boys. The closest thing to give the people what the Beastie Boys had. You know, if it's a show, if it's all of us doing their music to the best of our abilities, I want to give that to the people. Also, we have on our fan page where you can make donations for cancer....
D-Rock: Yeah, we basically set up an account with them [American Cancer Society] so we are able to donate a portion of our proceeds towards the fight of cancer. Our plan is to raise awareness in some of the younger kids out there to get regular checkups as preventative measures that can possibly save their life one day.
Jeff-D: I meet every day, I mean, twice a week [laughs] because in the circle of friends [aside from Jay and Dino] that I'm in, I am the only one that loves the Beastie Boys. I really am. People nowadays take them with a grain of salt. When I got the opportunity to share this with two other guys, I couldn't pass up on it. I remember the first day the Beastie Boys came into my view of music. Like, I remember sitting there listening to it.
How old were you?
Jeff-D: 13 to 14 years old. And this is my opportunity to share that with other people, through me and two other dudes that love it as much as I do. I mean, I'm gonna be straight up. I don't give a fuck about giving to cancer. I don't care about how many people come to shows. I don't care about interviews or photo shoots. I just wanna learn my part, and be a part, and show up. And if we're doing it for good, then great: If no one likes it, I do.
Okay, well I'll just end the interview now, since you don't like it.
Jeff-D: No, no, no. It's not that I don't like it. It's just that it's not why I'm here. I understand what you're doing, but I just wanna be a part of it and whatever that means. Like, I'm not necessarily being a part of it to help cancer, but if we're helping cancer doing it, then that's what I'm a part of. Like, when I say I don't give a fuck... about anything, I'm saying that it's not why I'm doing it. I mean, my stepfather passed of cancer a few years ago, and it was heartbreaking, and so, I give a fuck about cancer. It was just... my goal was to just...... fuck cancer.
MCJ: We can rewind the tape.
Jeff-D: Yeah I just want to be a part of something bigger than me.
D-Rock: Yeah, that's an important thing. It's bigger than each and every one of us, and I think that you know, everybody has love to a certain degree, and this kind of pushed us to where we're emulating somebody else that we love; Idolizing. I think this is like, honestly the highest compliment you could give somebody, as far as you know, doing something like this.
So, you're doing it to honor the Beastie Boys.
D-Rock: But we also enjoy it. I mean, this is something that we like. I think in the end it's like, you check your ego at the door before you come and do what we came here to do. We’re doing something that we love, and we’re contributing towards the fight of cancer, which is a win-win for all of us.
Photos by Aaron Amara Davis