Born Michael Diamond on November 20, 1966, Mike D started out as the lead singer for a punk band. That group evolved into the Beastie Boys, the first major white rap act. The group scored with its first album, Licensed to Ill, in 1986.
From a middle-class Jewish family, Mike D attended one of New York's most unconventional private schools. It was at the Walden School that he got his first taste of rap and funk music.
While Mike D admired the sounds of hip-hop and rap, he started out as the vocalist in a hardcore punk band. He and Adam Yauch (later known as MCA) played in a band with Kate Schellenbach and John Berry. They landed gigs at such New York clubs as CBGB's. By 1983, the band had gone through some lineup changes with the departures of Schellenbach and Berry and the addition of Adam Horovitz, best known as Ad-Rock.
Mike D and his bandmates shared a similar sense of humor, and this came through in their first underground hit. Moving away from their punk roots, they released a rap single called "Cooky Puss," using a prank phone call to the Carvel Ice Cream company as one of its samples.
Licensed to Ill
In 1984, Mike D and his bandmates hooked up with Rick Rubin, a New York University student who co-founded Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons. Rubin served as the group's DJ for a time and then acted as their producer. The following year, the band toured with Madonna. Their obnoxious onstage antics failed to win over Madonna's fans, who booed and jeered at the rap trio. They had better success as an opening act for the legendary rap duo Run DMC.
Working with Def Jam Records, the Beastie Boys made it big with their first album, Licensed to Ill (1986). The song that helped carry them to the top was "Fight for Your Right (To Party)," which became a frat-boy anthem of sorts. Mike D set off his own fashion trend by wearing a car hood ornament as a necklace in the song's video. And the band developed a notorious reputation for being wild party boys after wreaking havoc on the tour to support the album.
Friction between the band and their record label led to a bitter split with Def Jam in the late 1980s. Moving to California, Mike D and his bandmates paired up with the producing team known as the Dust Brothers to create a more mature-sounding second album. Paul's Boutique, however, was largely ignored at the time.
Later Albums and Projects
As the Beastie Boys continued to evolve, Mike D stepped behind the drum kit for 1992's Check Your Head. The eclectic mix of funk, rap and hardcore influences won over listeners around the world. The band has continued to rack up best-selling albums over the years, including their most recent effort, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 (2011).
In addition to sharing vocals with the other Beasties, Mike D has taken a leading role in the band's other business ventures, including the 1994 launch of their own record label and magazine, both called Grand Royal. He worked with a variety of acts, including At the Drive-In, Luscious Jackson and Atari Teenage Riot. While the business had some great successes over the years, the label had to fold in 2001 because of financial difficulties.
Mike D was instrumental in launching another business in the 1990s. He helped create X-Large Clothing and remains an investor in the company to this day. Also around this time, Mike D created the persona of Country Mike and recorded a few country songs on his own. He has worked on other musical projects as well. He appeared on a tribute album for the Germs and produced a spiritual album with guru Bhagavan Das.
Mike D is married to director Tamra Davis. The couple has two sons.
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