Afrika Bambaataa made the introduction of the then Beat Kings to the Native Tongue collective. After noticing there penchant for hilarity, the collective renamed them The Beatnuts in deference to their over-the-top silliness.
The name stuck and the Corona, Queens Dominican-American Jerry “JuJu” Tineo and Jackson Heights' Colombian-American Lester “Psycho Les” Fernandez started producing under the new moniker.
The early '90s were defined by the sounds of DJ Premier and Evil Dee, but The Beatnuts found their niche first producing for the British invasion of the Stereo MC’s and fellow Native Tongue affiliate Monie Love.
In a two-year time span, they produced songs for other breakout artists including Common (then known as Common Sense), Fat Joe, Da Youngsta’s, Pete Nice and a full album for young Black Sheep protégé, Chi-Ali.
Also during this time, The Beatnuts provided remixes for MC Lyte, Da Lench Mob, Naughty by Nature and others.
In 1993, The Beatnuts released their debut album, Intoxicated Demons: The EP. It featured 11 songs, including the two singles "Reign of the Tec" and "No Equal".
The album was filled with odes to hedonism, partying and generally playful lyrics that leaned towards debauchery. The sample-heavy jazz beats spoke to their craftsmanship behind the boards and the album was a critical success with mainstream publications like Allmusic, Entertainment Weekly and the Hip Hop culture bible at the time, The Source Magazine.
In 1994 they released the full-length album, The Beatnuts: Street Level.
Street Level surpassed the preceding EP as a commercial success and landed on the Billboard charts. Its two featured two singles, "Props Over Here" and "Hit Me with That", failed to become commercial hits, but still spoke to a fan base of party-goers looking for a lighter Hip Hop feel and supportive of Hispanic MC’s, which was still a rarity in the major label system.
Three years later the duo released, “ Stone Crazy” in 1997, which featured one of the earliest appearances of Christopher “Big Pun” Rios, who was featured on the song "Off the Books", a single that charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
Although the album was not a critical success, the new movement of Hispanic Hip Hop showcased by Fat Joe, N.O.R.E. and The Beatunuts would contribute to eventual pride-filled slogan “Latins going platinum” when Big Pun was the first to sell 1 million records of his debut album Capital Punishment in 1998.
The Beatnuts rode the wave into 1999's “A Musical Massacre” which was their most commercially and critically successful album. It reached #35 on the Billboard 200 due to its hit single "Watch Out Now" and the album’s eclectic and content variety which was not present on their past releases.
“Watch Out Now" is the most commercially successful Beatnuts single ever, reaching #84 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the second Beatnuts single to appear on the pop chart.
Although undervalued in their creativity, the infectious energy of The Beatnuts lives on and we should reflect on their impact during this Hispanic Heritage Month.