To Kids These Days, the Beastie Boys must seem like a fixed, eternal part of the pop culture universe, like a constellation that periodically comes in and out of view but you always know is out there somewhere.
Which is weird for an old fart like me who remembers their first album, Licenced to Ill, coming out in 1986. (If you’re counting, that was 25 years ago.) It was catchy, yes — the first rap album ever to reach No. 1 on Billboard — but it sure sounded like a one-hit wonder. Who ever thought a cruder, brattier version of Run DMC would go on to be a career artist?
What happened next is, to me, still astonishing. The Beasties dropped producer Rick Rubin, disappeared into the studio with the Dust Brothers, and emerged with an album, Paul’s Boutique, that remains one of hip-hop’s great triumphs. It’s over 20 years old and it still sounds ahead of its time. It’s hard to think of too many examples where a band took such a qualitative step forward with a single album. Maybe Radiohead’s jump from The Bends to OK Computer?
What’s crazy in retrospect is that Paul’s Boutique didn’t do that well. The band went quiet for the next five years and lots of people had forgotten about them, including me, when the video to the right dropped on MTV. (Back then, kids, MTV was a “music video channel.” And popular.)
Check Your Head dominated 1992, my sophomore year in college. It was full of massive, undeniable bangers, which led it to double platinum status and pretty much set the template for albums to come.
Fast forward to 2011. Once again they’ve been off the radar for a while; there hasn’t been an album of original hip-hop since 2004’s To the Five Boroughs. Matters were further delayed by Adam Yauch’s cancer scare in 2010. But Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 is finally out, and it’s fantastic. “We’re gonna party for the right to fight!”
This is the lead single, “Make Some Noise.” Resistance is futile.