There are two inescapable, irreconcilable facts about the beloved hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, and the obsessively beloved sci-fi franchise Star Trek. Fact #1: The Beastie Boys music is part of the Star Trek universe. Fact #2: The Beastie Boys have songs that directly mention Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and more — even though this music was written about 250 years earlier than these people are supposed to exist. It’s a paradox, or it would be, except there is one simple explanation… the Beastie Boys are gods.
Okay, when I say “simple,” I admittedly mean “incredibly complicated” — although next to most parts of Star Trek’s labyrinthine, intimidating canon, proving Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock are omnipotent brings is comparatively straight-forward. Please keep this in mind, since the explanation begins with a reminder that there are two Star Trek universes out there, and we’re going to talk about both. There’s the classic timeline of the 1960s show and The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and all that, and the “Kelvin” timeline, which split off in J.J. Abrams’ first Trek movie, which was set before the events of the original TV series. It’s how Abrams was able to tell a story with the classic characters without ruining the original franchise’s beloved continuity and riling up its legion of obsessed fans.
The first appearance of the Beastie Boys comes in the first Trek movie set in the Kelvin universe, when a young James T. Kirk plays “Sabotage” while driving his stepfather’s vintage car off a cliff. It’s the year 2245, and the audience sees Kirk hit play on the car’s music system, so it’s not just the movie’s soundtrack — Kirk is definitely and intentionally listening to the Beastie Boys’ 1994 hit “Sabotage.” Although we only hear the band’s music in the Kelvin universe, the Beastie Boys were releasing their music centuries before the two timelines split, which proves that the band must exist in both Trek universes.
Despite operating primarily in the 20th century, Beastie Boys somehow know these future U.S.S. Enterprise crew members, who won’t exist for 250 years. The band referred to them in three songs, and the first mention happened in 1989, when the Beastie Boys released the album Paul’s Boutique. The “Stop That Train” portion of “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” contain these lyrics:
Same faces every day but you don’t know their names
Party people going placed on the D-train
(Stop that train, I wanna get off)
Check it, trench coat wingtip going to work
And you’ll be pulling a train like Captain Kirk
In 1998’s Hello Nasty, “Intergalactic” mentions the captain’s first officer by name:
If you try to knock me you’ll get mocked
I’ll stir fry you in my wok
Your knees’ll start shakin’ and your fingers pop
Like a pinch on the neck of Mr. Spock
And two more of Kirk’s trusted comrades are name dropped in “The Brouhaha,” off the 2004 album To the 5 Boroughs:
Communicator check one-two, one-two
This is Bones McCoy on a line to Sulu
Set the bullshit to warp factor one
Check your tricorder, set your phasers on stun
Obviously, it’s not just the crew names. The Beastie Boys knew about the Vulcan nerve pinch ability, long before Earthlings became aware of Vulcans or that there were any sentient aliens in the universe. They knew the precise terminology people in the future would use when describing space flight. Weirdly, they could have known about tricorder technology because it presumably began in the 1990s (as it did in our universe) but it’s still uncanny.
Some kind of time travel must have occurred to make this paradox possible, which makes sense because it’s surprisingly easy to travel through time in Star Trek. Reboot a warp drive, have a bad transporter accident, get too close to any celestial body doing anything weird, and you could be thrown through time. Many ships have time-travel technology, including the Enterprise, who went to 20th century Earth three times — the first trip was to 1920s New York when Bones briefly went crazy (also a long story), while the second was to 1968, when the Beastie Boys were merely Beastie Toddlers.
The third visit, however, offers a possible explanation, and the answer is humpback whales. In the year 2286 (in the classic Trek universe), a mysterious space probe flew to Earth and started causing havoc for unknown reasons. Spock discovers the signal the probe emits is much like the call of a humpback whale. Unfortunately, they’ve been extinct for a century, forcing the Enterprise to fly 300 years back in time to 1986 San Francisco in an attempt to catch themselves some whales… which is the same year the Beastie Boys released their first studio album, Licensed to Ill.
Could the Boys have met Kirk, Spock, Bones and Sulu during their brief sojourn on Earth? It’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely. Kirk and crew stayed mainly in the Bay Area during their time there, while the Beastie Boys only played three concerts that summer, in Florida, Maryland and Washington D.C. While we don’t know how long Kirk and crew visited 1986, it’s highly implausible that they stayed more than a few weeks, and chances are the Beastie Boys were busy recording License to Ill. However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that some combination of Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock made a brief jaunt to San Francisco while the Enterprise crew did their whale hunting.
But even if we could prove they did meet up, it wouldn’t explain the bigger mystery: Why aren’t 23rd-century people freaked about this band that could seemingly see into the future? It’s not like the Beastie Boys’ music isn’t still being played. In Star Trek Beyond, “Sabotage” is found in the wrecked U.S.S. Franklin’s music library, so it’s safe to assume it’s in the library of most starships through the future equivalent of Spotify. And when the Franklin blasts “Sabotage” into space to destroy a cybernetically-linked horde of enemy ships (long story, but the music makes them explode), Bones asks, “Is this classical music?” which Spock confirms:
More importantly — much more importantly — why isn’t Kirk specifically freaked out by centuries-old music that mentions he and his co-workers by name? Maybe Spock, Sulu and Bones have never listened to the band, but we know Kirk is a huge fan, not only because he plays it during his stepfather-hating antics in his childhood and fully rocks out to it in Beyond, but because in the second movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, he plays another Beasties song when simultaneously romancing two cat-women:
This song is the Fatboy Slim remix of “Body Movin’,” included in tour editions of Hello Nasty and its eventual deluxe release. And Kirk is listening to this Beastie Boys deep cut on vinyl. The man’s a superfan, which means he must have listened to “Intergalactic” — not only is this one of the band’s biggest hits, but the song and the album both won Grammys in 1999, and also he’s listening to Hello Nasty right in the goddamn scene. (He could technically be listening to The Sounds of Silence anthology, but that also has “Intergalactic” on it.) It’s unlikely he’s never heard “Stop That Train” and “The Brouhaha”; it’s unfathomable that he somehow never heard Ad-Rock rap about a Vulcan named Mr. Spock.
Yet he doesn’t notice it. No one in either Star Trek universe notices it. So not only did someone need to travel through time to make the namedrops happen, someone had to have the power to fundamentally alter reality in this tiny but exceedingly weird way. Who has this power but the gods?
It’s what fits all the criteria. It explains the time paradox, because the Beastie Boys could travel through time at will, meeting the U.S.S. Enterprise crew one day in 2286, and rapping about them the next day in 1989. It’s the only sensible reason that Kirk and every other Beastie Boys fan in the known galaxy could listen to their namedrops and never manage to see the association.
Plus, Star Trek is chock full of gods, god-like beings and people (and a computer or two) who think they’re gods. To be fair, Starfleet usually classifies these beings as aliens, but if they can alter reality itself, is there really a difference?
However, there are only two races in Star Trek that have the power to travel through time and manipulate reality to this degree, the Prophets and the Q, and only one of these would be interested in pulling a useless stunt like this. The Q — that’s their collective name and individual name — are immortal, omnipotent beings who are very bored, and thus tend to go around to various civilizations and mess with them. Sometimes they put all of humanity on trial to see if it’s worth keeping, sometimes they trick Captain Picard into thinking he’s died and gone to heaven as a gag. (The same Q did both of these things, by the way.) Commemorating the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise through 20th-century human music and then preventing that same crew from recognizing those shout-outs when they listen to them? That’s a Q move for sure.
The question now is, did a Q bring news of Kirk and crew to the Beastie Boys in the 1980s, or are the Beastie Boys themselves members of the Q?
This, unfortunately, is a question we cannot answer for certain. A Q could have given an exceedingly random hand to an Earth band, but three Q coming to Earth, starting a rap group and hanging around for a few decades to enjoy an immensely popular musical career is much more in line with Q antics. Why would a single Q tell the Beastie Boys about Kirk and rerig reality in a way no one notices what they’ve done? Who could possibly gain anything but the band?
And here we come to our final answer. The only reasons the Beastie Boys would prevent the Enterprise crew from recognizing their names in the band’s lyrics is because 1) the Beastie Boys didn’t want them to notice; and 2) they also didn’t want to change their music. Then why bother to mention Kirk and the others at all if they were going to prevent them from realizing the connection? There is only one sensible explanation, and since their music came out in the 1980s, long before the timeline split, it applies to both the classic and the Kelvin universes.
It’s not about the namedrops at all. It’s about three bored Q who decide to spend some time becoming Earth music stars for a few decades. Thanks to their ability to travel through time, they would know exactly how Starfleet works, what technology they use and who some of its greatest heroes are. They decide to mention them in some of their songs, possibly without even thinking about it. Eventually, they quit and go off into the universe into a different time to do something else when it suddenly dawns on them — if the people in the 23rd century hear this music, they’ll know something was chronologically up with the Beastie Boys. The band will no longer be remembered for its music, but because of its mystery.
Like many recording artists, Q (Mike D), Q (MCA) and Q (Ad-Rock) love the music they created and can’t bear the idea of changing it. After all, they know people are going to continue loving their albums for centuries! There’s only one way their musical legacy can live on and wholly intact — they must use their omnipotence to alter reality so that their listeners cannot connect their lyrics to the real people mentioned in them, while leaving the music as it was intended.
It’s the only logical explanation, and I believe Mr. Spock would agree. The Beastie Boys are Trek gods, and James T. Kirk — in the Kelvin universe, at least — has great taste in music. And if the classic universe’s Captain Kirk isn’t a fan, it’s his damn loss.