New York Series: The Beastie Boys ‘An Open Letter to NYC’

We come together on the subway cars Diversity unified, whoever you are

Despite how tiring and overwhelming New York can be sometimes, one of the glaring strengths of character which nearly every New Yorker possesses is their resilience. New Yorkers are generally filled with integrity and pride, and if something knocks them back they rarely stay down for long. Whatever problems New Yorkers may have with each other are quickly tossed aside when something drastic happens which forces them to bond together and defend their communal way of life. In ‘An Open Letter to NYC,’ the Beastie Boys draw inspiration from the unlikely alliance of New Yorkers after a time of crisis to demonstrate just how strong the city is.

An Open Letter to NYC’ was written as a tribute to the city following the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks and is written as a love letter of sorts to the melting pot of cultures that came together to defend the city the Beastie Boys call home. Unlike other songs which may only focus on a single borough, ‘An Open Letter to NYC’ makes it a point to reference each of the five boroughs, as they are all unique. The clash of cultures throughout different neighborhoods is what brings strength to the city, and makes it so different from every other place in the world.

The song describes the different heritages of people which make up the city, from Asian and Middle-Eastern to Latin and Black, and explains how no matter where you may be from, everyone is still the same. The overall message of the song is about how the cities’ fortitude comes from diversity, and that no matter what happens we are unified as a whole. Regardless of where you live or your occupation, if you live in New York you are part of something bigger.

The lyrics to “An Open Letter to NYC” are overwhelmingly positive, and come from a group of artists who know the city better than anyone. They know that no matter what happens New York will bounce back, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help by giving people a little nudge in the right direction. The song channels the feelings of togetherness which many New Yorkers felt following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and told the world that not matter what happens, we are strong.

“An Open Letter to NYC” should follow “Fight for Your Right,” “So What’cha Want” and “Sabotage” into the Beastie Boys’ hall of slang as anthems defining a moment in hip-hop history. Running on the rails of a bubbling keyboard, [this track] is a stylized shout-out to New York City, from Battery Park to Brooklyn. It may be the next phase in the post-9/11 healing process. Where Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” was about recovering from wounds, the Beastie Boys’ lyrics are about rising from the flames. There is little dark imagery, just a call for unity and Big Apple pride” – Michael D. ClarkHouston Chronicle, 2004

‘An Open Letter to NYC’ Lyrics:

Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten
From the Battery to the top of Manhattan
Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin
Black, White, New York you make it happen
Brownstones, water towers, trees, skyscrapers
Writers, prize fighters and Wall Street traders
We come together on the subway cars
Diversity unified, whoever you are
We’re doing fine on the One and Nine line
On the L we’re doin’ swell
On the number Ten bus we fight and fuss
You know we’re thorough in the boroughs ’cause that’s a must
I remember when the Duece was all porno flicks
Running home after school to play PIX
At lunch I’d go to Blimpies down on Montague Street
And hit the Fulton Street Mall for the sneakers on my feet
Dear New York I hope you’re doing well
I know a lot’s happened and you’ve been through hell
So, we give thanks for providing a home
Through your gates at Ellis Island we passed in droves
Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten
From the Battery to the top of Manhattan
Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin
Black, White, New York you make it happen
The L.I.E. the B.Q.E
Hippies at the band shell with the L.S.D.
Get my BVDs from VIM
You know I’m reppin’ Manhattan the best I can
Stopped off at Bleeker Bob’s, got thrown out
Sneakin’ in at four am after going out
You didn’t rob me in the park at Dianna Ross
But everybody started looting when the light went off
From the South South Bronx on out to Queens Bridge
From Hollis Queens right down to Bay Ridge
From Castle Hill to the Lower East Side
From ten-ten WINS to Live At Five
Dear New York, this is a love letter
To you and how you brought us together
We can’t say enough about all you do
‘Cause in the city we’re ourselves and electric too
Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten
From the Battery to the top of Manhattan
Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin
Black, White, New York you make it happen
Shout out the South Bronx where my mom hails from
Right next to High Bridge across from Harlem
To the Grand Concourse where my mom and dad met
Before they moved on down to the Upper West
I see you’re still strong after all that’s gone on
Lifelong, we dedicate this song
Just a little something to show some respect
To the city that blends and mends and tests
Since 9-11 we’re still livin’
And lovin’ life we’ve been given
Ain’t nothing gonna take that away from us
We lookin’ pretty and gritty ’cause in the city we trust
Dear New York I know a lot has changed
Two towers down but you’re still in the game
Home to the many, rejecting no-one
Accepting peoples of all places, wherever they’re from
Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten
From the Battery to the top of Manhattan
Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin
Black, White, New York you make it happen
Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten
From the Battery to the top of Manhattan
Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin
Black, White, New York, we make it happen

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