Aside from the speckled grey hair and beard, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz doesn’t look that different from the impish dude that Beastie Boys fans remember. But while the 48-year-old rapper is still following creative pursuits, he’s mostly kept a low profile since the 2012 death of Adam "MCA" Yauch.
With the Beastie Boys on what could well be a permanent hiatus, Horovitz has filled the void in numerous ways: He is set to appear in Noah Baumbach's upcoming comedy-drama While We're Young as Ben Stiller's Brooklyn-dad buddy, has played bass in comedian-singer Bridget Everett's band and has been scoring movies like the romance Truth About Lies and No No: A Dockumentary about baseball player Dock Ellis.
Today, Horovitz is sitting in New York's Num Pang, a local sandwich shop that recently partnered with the rapper on a sandwich (pastrami served with his favorite sides: Wise chips and Virgil's cream soda), with all proceeds going to charity. True to Horovitz’s punk-rock roots, recent endeavors like this and While We're Young are more a function of organic relationships — he linked with the Num Pang owners after a chance meeting at a dog park — than career strategizing.
"I don't know what I'm going to do. It's weird. I'm used to having other people [plan] for me."
"I've known Noah for 20 years and he's just in our family circle," Horovitz tells Rolling Stone. "I play in a band with our friend Bridget [Everett] and I invited him to come one night last year. Afterwards, we were having drinks and he was like, 'You wanna be in a movie?' I said, 'Y'know, one of your movies. Do I have to audition?' And he said, 'No, I'm asking you if you want a part in one of my movies.' 'Of course.'"
The film deals, in part, with youth subculture and the ability (or inability) to let go of your past, a subject Horovitz can relate to as he sees the New York he grew up in turn from bodegas to luxury condos. "My friend Ada Calhoun is finishing a book about St. Marks Place and basically every generation since Peter Stuyvesant days have been like, 'When I was at St. Marks Place, that's when it was cool,'" says Horovitz. "So the 'kids today' thing has been going on for centuries. It's a silly argument. It's always been the same.
"But it is sad that there's a fucking Duane Reade or CVS or fucking bank every other block. I don't know who has all this money to do all this banking. It's bizarre. That's why I like a place like [Num Pang]. And then they're going to have 200 of these places and we're going to hate them and say, 'I wish Starbucks would come back.'" He laughs.
Nostalgia's been on Ad-Rock's mind since at least 2013, when the two surviving Beastie Boys announced that they would be writing a memoir set for release later this year. Ad-Rock laughs when asked if 2015 is still a feasible release date for the as-yet-untitled book. "No!" he says. "It's nowhere near that. There's no way it's going to happen [before 2017]. I might get sued by saying this, but I'm just being realistic."
Horovitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond have started writing the book separately. "I write a bunch of stuff and I send it to Mike, and Mike writes a bunch of stuff and he sends it to me. We just comment and have arguments on what we wrote," Horovitz says. "It's more difficult to remember than it is emotionally. It's fun. I'm remembering the fun things; not the depressing things. It's going to be a weird book. [Publisher Spiegel & Grau] are giving us the freedom and leeway to do whatever we want."
"It's sad that there's a fucking Duane Reade or bank every other block. I don't know who has all this money to do all this banking."
Looking back has its limits, however, as Ad-Rock scoffs at the idea of a 30th anniversary commemoration next year for the group's debut album Licensed to Ill. "Twenty-five should've been a bigger deal, but I didn't even notice," admits the rapper. "Thirty is a bland anniversary. Maybe the 50th."
Beastie Boys have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. But being in one of the most successful hip-hop groups of all time doesn't make leaving a job after nearly 30 years any easier. Horovitz would like to score more films, but admits that "I hope that they'll be paying jobs in the future. That would be nice." Currently, he says, "it's more friends that say, 'Can you do this?'
"It’s a big challenge," adds Horovitz in a tone more resigned than sad. "It's like, 'What do you do with your life when your former life is no more?' I have to figure it out. I don't know if I ever will. It's been fun to just play bass in a band and play live, but be in the background. I'm used to having other people [plan stuff] for me. I don't plan anything, so at some point, maybe I have to start doing that."