The Beastie Boys almost named their first album 'Don't Be A Faggot'

The Beastie Boys almost named their first album ‘Don’t Be A Faggot’

Jun 4, 2014

Jonah Hill appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday and gave a heartfelt apology for using an anti-gay term to insult a paparazzo. “Suck my dick, you faggot,” Hill snapped at the photographer.

Apologizing on air, Hill said, “I didn’t mean it in a homophobic way. …I wanted to hurt him back, and I said the most hurtful word I could think of at that moment.”

What does it even mean to not mean a term like faggot “in a homophobic way”? What he probably meant is that he meant it in an ’80s way.

There was a time when the use of the word “faggot” was so widespread, so commonly accepted as shorthand to mean weak, less than a man, that The Beastie Boys wanted to name their first album “Don’t Be A Faggot.” According to legend, the band only chose “Licensed To Ill” after Columbia Records refused to release it with their original title and forced them to change it.

Like everything the Beasties did in the ’80s, it was supposed to be funny. A testament to how much our culture changed in the ’90s, the band issued an official apology in 1999 for the previous decade’s slurs. “I would like to formally apologize to the entire gay and lesbian community for the shitty and ignorant things we said on our first record,” Adam Horovitz wrote in 1999. “There are no excuses. But time has healed our stupidity…. We have learned and sincerely changed since the ’80s…. We hope that you’ll accept this long overdue apology.”

“I think every person has the ability to effect change,” Adam Yauch later said. And the Beasties did change, drastically, becoming leading advocates for peace and tolerance in their music and setting a prime example of how to behave with integrity after Yauch’s passing. Time changes us, individually and culturally. Thankfully, over time we seem to expunging layer after layer of deep-rooted prejudice and learning to live with a greater degree of acceptance.

What’s truly bizarre about Hill’s snap is that he’s actually been an outspoken advocate for equality. He vocally lambasted Russia’s anti-gay policies during the Sochi Olympics, telling E! “I support anybody doing whatever they want to do to be who they are. I have tons of gay friends, gay family members. It’s like saying, why do you think people should breathe?”

That a person with pro-equality values can resort to calling someone a faggot when feeling defensive shows just how deep the roots run on adopted cultural insults based in hate speech. If you came of age during that time, they’re almost codified into your DNA.

The internet provides us a better tool for discussion we’ve ever had before. We can now more quickly agree that Hill’s insult was unacceptable, he can repent, and we can move on, having made incremental progress with yet another incident steering our values in the right direction.

“How you mean things doesn’t matter,” Hill said in his apology, “words have weight. And the word I chose was grotesque.”

Like The Beastie Boys, Hill seems like a pretty good guy—his error will probably be forgotten in time. But we should probably all take a second to thank whatever executive at Columbia refused to release the grotesque “Don’t Be A Faggot”—if the album had been released with that name it would haunt the Beasties’ legacy to this day.

If you missed Hill’s apology, watch below.

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