The lyrics were written about an annoying engineer named Mario Caldato Jr., who got frustrated with the slow pace of Beasties' recording sessions. The trio felt he was sabotaging their music by trying to push through instrumental tracks they were unhappy with in order to get something completed.
Adam "King Ad-rock" Horovitz talks about this song in the liner notes of the Beastie Boys anthology: "'Sabotage' was recorded as an instrumental, and the vocals weren't added until two weeks before the record was completed. It was the last song on Ill Communication to be finished."
The video, which was directed by Spike Jonze, was a parody of '70s cop shows such as CHiPs and Hawaii Five-0. It featured the three Beasties with shaggy hair and huge sunglasses, running around the city chasing a man with a briefcase and doing other cop stuff.
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