Like the Vanilla Ice review, this one is unavoidable. If I were to do this White Rapper Series without writing a piece about the Beastie Boys, that would've been the ultimate fail on my part.
Recommend this product?
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: the Beastie Boys are one of those acts that don't truly get their due from the Hip-Hop populous. Despite being pioneers who seamlessly mixed rap and rock and broke down the door for every other white Hip-Hop act to follow, the trio of Mike D, MCA, and Ad Rock are usually forgotten when people go around discussing "legends" in Hip-Hop. Sure, you'll see fellow Hip-Hop artsts giving them props, and they'll be tributed on VH1's "Hip-Hop Honors" show, but most of the modern audience doesn't truly realize just what they accomplished in their time. One can attribute it to blind racism, but I couldn't simply say that: when you consider that this goofy white counterpart to Run DMC originally started out in the early 80s as a punk rock group, it was easy to write them off at the height of their career as culture vultures who were exploiting this sacred black art form to make a quick buck. But there are many people who know that the Beasties are great and do what they can to bring their better material to light. And when they reccoment what record in paticular to listen to, they all point unanimously to their 1989 sophmore effort, "Paul's Boutique".
But let's give a little history lesson before we talk about the album itself: While the Beastie Boys had initially found success with their debut album "License to Ill", they were written off, by both critics and fans, as a one-hit-wonder novelty act whose careers would be over by the following year. In addition, the group found themselves estranged from their producer Rick Rubin following a litigious dispute, which ended with them leaving Def Jam Records. To get away from all this drama, the Beasties flew across country to Los Angeles, where they befriended the Cali-based production team The Dust Brothers. And together, the Beasties and the Brothers worked together with the intention of creating a new album with more creative depth than their debut. Upon its release on Capital Records in the summer of 89, "Paul's Boutique" didn't do very well commercially or critically. Unlike its predecessor, the album didn't even crack the Top 10 of the Billboard charts. It was a complete 180 from their debut in both style and substance, so it went underappreciated for quite a long time. But now, over twenty years later, the album has been praised by Hip-Hop purists as the group's magnum opus and one of the most important Hip-Hop albums ever released. But is "Paul's Boutique" really worthy of all the praise it receives now, two decades after it's release?
The answer is a resounding bass-filled "Hell yeah!" ... word to Dr. Dre.
But what is it that makes "Paul's Boutique" such a landmark album? Well, the first thing that needs to be noted is the production techniques used by the Dust Brothers. Sampling other pieces of music certainly wasn't a new thing to Hip-Hop, but this was one of the first records to do it to such an extent that it made sampling its own art form. Various different songs and sounds are woven together perfectly to create an original musical landscape, giving the album a staggering array of layers and textures that has yet to be rivaled even to this day (sorry DJ Shadow, but its true). And it's not just rotted in one genre either; the list of artists sampled are incredibly diverse, including Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Pink Floyd, Sly & the Family Stone, the Commodores, Bob Marley, Johnny Cash, the Ramones, and many, many others. It almost sounds as if they were intending on making a collage of different music genres to show how they're all connected in some way. It's always cliche to say there will never be another record like the one you're praising, but in this case, it's actually true: changes in copyright law required all samples to be cleared with their creators, so sampling different artists on a grand scale like this would be way too costly for any artist or record label. In that respect, "Paul's Boutique" truly is a one-of-a-kind album.
For a perfect example of the extensive sampling that was done, lets look at "The Sounds of Science", one of the album's standout tracks. For this particular song, the Dust Brothers use various songs by The Beatles as the musical backdrop. First, we find the Beasties rhyming over a slowed down sample of "When I'm 64", throwing out braggadocio raps. But then a litte over a minute in, the song stops, with the crowd noise from "Sargent Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band" and the jet engine from "Back in the U.S.S.R." filling in as the break. And soon after, the song switches up the pace completely, as the Beasties spit rapid-fire rhymes over a mix of the opening drum beat to "Sargent Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" and the guitar riffs from "The End". This is when the Boys are really on their A-Game, and you can miss some of the lyrical gems if you don't listen close enough (my favorite is "I figured out who makes the crack / it's the suckers with the badges and the blue jackets"). Throw in a few vocal samples from KRS-One ("Right up to your face and DISS YOU!") and Pato Banton ("I do not sniff the coke, I only smoke the sensamilla"), other minor musical samples from Issac Hayes and James Brown, and lyrical references to Sir Issac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Muhammad Ali, Adidas and Filas, and Jesus Christ, and you got one hell of a weird song. And it is AWESOME.
But you can't solely credit the Dust Brothers for the greatness of the album. I mean, I know the original plan was for the Brothers to release it as an instrumental record for the club scene, but I don't know if it were to have the same effect on the fans had the Beastie Boys not convinced them to lend them the beats. Its what the Beasties do with the beats that make them stand out even more. They craft off-the-wall party jams ("Shake Your Rump" and "Shadrach"), songs for the women (the intro "To All the Girls" and the disco-flavored lead single "Hey Ladies"), strong storytelling joints (the rock-star turned alcoholic bum "Johnny Ryall" and the wild crime spree "High Plains Drifter") and classic braggadocio joints ("3-Minute Ride" and the previously mentioned "Sounds of Science"), retaining much of the playful immaturity that was all over their debut. What's more is that 95% of the lyrics on this album can read as sort of a pop culture almanac, with references to Sadaharu Oh, Fred Flintstone, Jack Kerouac, Geraldo Rivera, and "A Clockwork Orange" only being the tip of the iceberg.
But its not all fun and games for these Brooklyn natives. The Beasties might sound goofy for the most part, but they take on some serious subjects in a few of these songs. And while they overtly take stick-up kids and physically abusive boyfriends to task on "Car Thief" and "What Goes Around" respectively, most of the messages they are trying to get across are actually rather subtle. The perfect example can be seen in "Eggman", my personal favorite track on the whole album. Over the funky bassline from Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly", the Beasties rap about a popular teenage pastime of throwing eggs at people. It seems like a silly subject to rap about, even coming from the Beasties, but the serious way they approach it gives it a different view: they're satirizing the senseless violence that could be found in gangsta rap, which was had already made its way to modern America in the previous year or two. And when you listen to the songs closing moments, you can see that the Beasties had specific targets in mind for their vandalism: "You make a mistake and judge a man by his race / you go through life with egg on your face / woke up in the morning, peculiar feeling / looked up and saw egg dripping from the ceiling / families, punk rock, the businessman / I'll dog anybody with an egg in my hand / not like the crack that you put in the pipe / but crack on your forehead, here's a towel, now wipe!" These anti-violence and anti-racism sentiments are also expressed, albeit more obviously, on the menacing "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun".
And if you thought you've heard anything, wait till you get to the finale: "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" is actually nine smaller songs combined into one 12 minute medley, something similar to what the Beatles would do to close out their magnum opus "Abbey Road". Like the Abbey Road Medley, it serves as a microcosm of the album, throwing the best ingredients of their style in the melting pot and blending them to perfection. This medley is the Beastie Boys in a nutshell: strange and spontaneous, but still heart-filled fun to the fullest. While it functions as one entire epic piece, the 9 parts would be separated into individual tracks when the album was remastered and re-released for its 20th anniversary in January of 2009. But whether you hear them seperately or as one, the result is still the same: an incredible piece that closes the album perfectly.
Say what you want about the Beastie Boys being goofy or immature, but you just can't deny the obvious influence they've had in Hip-Hop. Simply put, if they had not been there to open the door, then all the other acts I've covered in this series wouldn't be here now, and that's the truth. They have made their mark, in more ways than one, and the biggest of them all is "Paul's Boutique". What else can I say about "Paul's Boutique" that hasn't already been said? In my eyes, simply calling it a 'classic' doesn't do it justice. It is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. The innovate production techniques defies music genres and provides a dense structure for the album, one that is revealed more and more with every repeated listen. Combine it with the Beasties' out of this world rhyme style and you have an album unlike any other. It may not have gotten much recognition upon it's release, it certainly has it now, and it deserves every bit of it.
I'll sum it up like this: "Paul's Boutique" not just the greatest album ever released by a white rapper; its one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums ever released PERIOD, and your Hip-Hop collection is incomplete without it.
FINAL RATING: 5 Stars
1. To All the Girls (NOT RATED)
2. Shake Your Rump (5 Stars)
3. Johhny Ryall (5 Stars)
4. Egg Man (5 Stars)
5. High Plains Drifter (5 Stars)
6. The Sounds of Science (5 Stars)
7. 3-Minute Ride (4 Stars)
8. Hey Ladies (5 Stars)
9. 5-Piece Chicken Dinner (NOT RATED)
10. Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun (5 Stars)
11. Car Thief (5 Stars)
12. What Comes Around (5 Stars)
13. Shadrach (4 ½ Stars)
14. Ask for Janice (NOT RATED)
15. B-Boy Bouillabaisse (10 Stars)
a) 59 Chrystie Street
b) Get on the Mic
c) Stop That Train
d) A Year and a Day
e) Hello Brooklyn
f) Dropping Names
g) Lay It on Me
h) Mike on the Mic
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