Beck's musical style has been considered alternative and indie. He has played many of the instruments in his music himself. Beck has been known to synthesize several musical elements together in his music, including folk, Latin, hip hop, funk, many types of rock and blues. He has also done some remixes for fellow artists, notably David Bowie and Björk.
The four-time platinum artist rose to underground popularity with his early works, which combined social criticism (as in "MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack" and "Deep Fried Love") with musical and lyrical experimentation. He first earned wider public attention for his breakthrough single "Loser," a 1994 hit.
Two of Beck's most popular and acclaimed recordings are Odelay in 1996, and Sea Change in 2002. Odelay was awarded Album of the Year by the American magazine Rolling Stone and by UK publications NME and Mojo.
Odelay also received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. Both Odelay and Sea Change appeared on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Bek David Campbell was born in Los Angeles, California. Early on he was influenced by the city's diverse musical offerings—everything from hip hop to Latin music and his mother's art scene - she was former Warhol "star" - which would later reappear in his recorded and published work.
After dropping out of high school in the mid-1980s, Beck traveled to Europe and developed his musical talent as a street musician. In Germany. By the late 1980s, he was in New York City, involved in the punk-influenced anti-folk music movement.
In 1988, Beck recorded a cassette entitled "Banjo Story," which has since become available in bootleg form. He returned to Los Angeles and lived in a shed and took a variety of low-paying jobs, all the while continuing to develop his music. During this time, he met Chris Ballew (founder of The Presidents of the United States of America). They performed on the streets as a duo for a while.
In 1993 Beck released his first studio album, Golden Feelings on the Sonic Enemy label. It was initially released only on cassette. It has been estimated that only between 500 and 750 copies were made, making it a rare artifact.
AllMusic.com would later describe the album as "an extremely interesting, entertaining, and humorous document that proves that from the start, Beck had his heart set on making experimentation his only gimmick."
In 1993 Beck was signed to the fledgling label Bong Load Custom Records. His first release was "Loser," a collaboration between hip hop nuance producer Carl Stephenson and Beck. The song created a sensation when radio host Chris Douridas played the song on Morning Becomes Eclectic, on Santa Monica College radio station KCRW. That exposure led to a bidding war among labels to sign Beck. Eventually, he chose Geffen Records. Of all the record labels to offer Beck a contract, Geffen offered him the least amount of money, but the greatest amount of creative freedom.
On February 22, 1994, Flipside Records released Stereopathetic Soulmanure. A 25-track album, it contained the fan favorites "Satan Gave Me a Taco," "Rowboat," and "Thunderpeel," as well nonsensical spoken tracks, noise and live recordings. "Satan Gave Me a Taco" was acknowledged by Allen Ginsberg to be one of his favorite contemporary works of pop poetry.
In March 1994, Geffen released Beck's major label debut, Mellow Gold. The album, created with Bong Load's Rothrock and Schnapf, as well as Carl Stephenson, turned Beck into a mainstream success.
Independent label K Records released Beck's third album of 1994, One Foot in the Grave. The recording featured a number of notable musicians from the independent music scene, including Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson, The Presidents of the United States of America's Chris Ballew, and Built to Spill members Scott Plouf and James Bertram.
As a follow-up to Mellow Gold, Beck recorded an album of moody, low-key acoustic numbers. Eventually, Beck shelved the album and pursued a more upbeat approach.
Beck was introduced to the Dust Brothers, producers of the Beastie Boys' album Paul's Boutique. The result was 1996's Odelay. The lead single, "Where It's At," received much airplay, and its video was in heavy rotation on MTV.
Within the year Odelay appeared on countless "Best of" lists, and earned a number of industry awards, including two Grammys. Besides "Where It's At," three other singles were released from the album: "Devils Haircut," "Jack-Ass" and "The New Pollution."
Beginning in 1993, Beck contributed to Forest for the Trees, an experimental trip hop project by collaborator Carl Stephenson. The project released a self-titled record in 1997, followed by an EP in 1999. Beck added spoken word, harmonica, and various other instruments.
Odelay was followed in 1998 by the release of Mutations. Though the album was originally slated for release by Bong Load Records, Geffen intervened and issued the record against Beck's wishes. The artist then sought to void his contracts with both record labels, and in turn the labels sued him for breach of contract. The litigation went on for years and it remains unclear to this day if it has ever been completely resolved.
In the summer of 2010, Beck contributed songs to both The Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack, with "Let's Get Lost" and True Blood, with "Bad Blood." He also contributed songs to soundtrack of the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which was released in August 2010.
In 2011, he collaborated with Seu Jorge on a track entitled "Tropicália" for the Red Hot Organization's most recent charitable album Red Hot+Rio 2.