With the recent death of founding member Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, it is worth exploring The Beastie Boys history and diving into their legion of influential songs and hip-hop/rock/salsa styling. Though it is still unknown if Mike D and Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horowitz will continue making music or retire or just sporadically guest star, the group still managed to release 8 well-received albums in their career, and have touched on a multitude of genres.
1. Licensed to Ill
Licensed to ill debuted in 1986, and The Beastie Boys capitalized on their frat-boy white hip-hop sound. When hip-hop was dominated entirely by black culture, the hip-hop trio were largely written off as one hit wonders who were poor rappers and a fad. It didn’t help that their lyrics revolved primarily around partying, and their video for ‘Fight for Your Right” depicted a huge frat-boy party. The album holds up over time as a classic hip-hop album, and though its release was polarizing, they had longevity in spades.
2. Paul’s Boutique
Paul’s Boutique was a grand statement. Being released three years after their debt, many thought the Beasties were just sort of…gone. But here comes a sophomore album that relied on heavy multilayered production from the Dust Brothers, mixed with crunchy faceted beats, Paul’s Boutique is commonly seen as The Beastie Boys crowning achievement. The record was a massive risk, and though it took some time, it remains a pioneering hip-hop album.
8. Check Your Head
Their third album placed the emphasis back on live instrumentation, and though it wasn’t as critically well-received as the group would have probably hoped, it does stand the test of time. This album was singularly focused on stripped down what they would explore further on the following albums.
4. Ill Communication
Ill Communication was a massive step forward. It combined salsa beats and world sounds, with their traditional rapping style, to make a record that swept over many genres and cultures, yet maintained a certain beastie Boy aesthetic. it included a rock/rap classic ‘Sabotage” which still retains its status as one of the best songs of its kind, as well as the opening single, Sure Shot.”
5. Hello Nasty
Their fifth album was really an odd creation. it involved many aspects and sometimes entire instrumental pieces, to create a sort of Frankenstein of an album. They explore electronic drum n bass and more traditional sooothing pop sounds. Upon release, it earned a galvanizing reaction, yet over time stood as an interesting albeit bloated album.
6. To the 5 Burroughs
Burroughs was released after a 6 year gap from their last album, and it was considered an ode toNew York City. the album stripped away excessive production, and returned the Beastie Boys to their rap roots, though with a more melancholy approach. No longer were the boys angry and rapping about money, but they looked inward and outside the city, to craft an album meticulously designed to be respectful and singular.
7. The Mix-Up
The boys always explored instrumentation, so it seemed only a matter of time until the promoted the idea for a full album, releasing the entirely instrumental The Mix-Up. The album was well received, but at this point, the boys were considered past their prime and staying safe in their sound. The Mix-Up followed an ode aesthetic. instead of being to the city, it was an ode to music itself by stripping down the vocals and bringing up the instruments.
8. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
Hot sauce wasn’t out to reinvent the world, but it truly brought the Beastie Boys to a new audience who found comfort in old school hip-hop. The boys gathered some special guest spots, and delivered an album that promised charm and appeal to old and new fans alike. It isn’t a classic, just yet, but over time, especially if the band end on this album, it could be considered a top-tier production.
The Beastie Boys are somewhat prolific, but they have always delivered quality albums and turned their sound from frat-boy rap into something else entirely, while always retaining what makes them who they are. Their rhymes are attractive and their flow is superb, they managed to rule in a world dominated by black culture and being written off as frat boy goons. In hindsight, they are frat boys with style and aplomb.
Image Source, The Beastie Boys 2001 Promotional Cover