It wasn’t a very loud thing. Nor did they spew out profusely dripping praise to all that is hip-hop, but the Beastie Boys have paid their dues over the last 30 years. In their own special way, they thanked the more traditional hip-hop community for the opportunity while being unapologetically themselves.
With the release of Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 today, the Beasties have return a sound they are widely credited for helping create. The same one that blossomed a generation of new hip hop fans that used them as the link between the streets they aspired to rock with and the suburbia they actually lived in.
It’s crazy to think how un-hip hop their actual inception was.
In 1981, it was the punk scene that put all paths on a crash course for each other. The original Beastie Boys did feature Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) at all. In fact, Michael Diamond (known as Mike D) was on vocals and Kate Schellenbach was on drums while Ad-Rock front his own rock outfit, the Young and the Useless. But the groups constantly crossed paths. After drug problems caused their original guitarist to leave the band. Ad-Rock filled in as 16 year old who knew all the words anyway.
Enter the legendary Rick Rubin.
Their working relationship stemming from Rubin’s admiration for their 1984 EP Cooky Puss, that laid the groundwork for what we know them for now even it was more of an inside joke than genuinely intended hip hop. And Rubin, for a brief time, was their DJ.
1986 changed everything. They put their instruments aside and spawned Licensed to Ill, the debut magnum opus of a sound that was cultivated as a punk band. The album incorporated the rash, recklessness of the punk scene with the a genre-mashing energy that was symbolic of the rap genre. The hip-hop side could point to the flows and beats as something all their own and there was also a shared angst. The rebellious nature of the music, as well as its critical and commercial success was huge for Def Jam at the time as their artists began to legitimately crossover.
The Def Jam of today would be largely unrecognizable to a hip-hop head from the mid-80s but it was on the backs of the Beastie Boys and Run DMC that the label was able to make itself the hip-hop gold standard for so long. Imagine hip hop’s landscape without its flagship label? It’s like R&B without Motown, largely nonexistent. And the community pays homage.
Even now, it’s amazing how beloved they still are in a community that has only recognized a few white artists as significant contributors.To coincide with the new album, a 30-minute, comedic re-imagining of their classic, ”(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” called Fight For You Right Revisited, featured Hollywood A-listers Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Toby McGuire and John C. Reilly as Beasties past and future, is being released. But what’s also incredible is just how little the actual Beasties of the present have lost on their fastball all these years later.
All in their mid-40’s, Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA (Adam Yauch) still crank out a bassy, spacey original product, while enlisting the help of Nas and Santigold to deliver a sound so thoroughly hip-hop and yet thoroughly them. The rhymes are familiar. The beats jam like you’ve heard them a million times and the energy, as always, is infectious.
There are no signs of the new album’s two year delay due to MCA being diagnosed with cancer other than the 2009 Grammy nominated “Too Many Rappers” which still fits well in the package. Santigold’s downright Blondie-esque turn on “Don’t Play A Game That I Can’t Win” is another standout track.
The spirit bottled over the album is remarkable. Making obvious their history as a transformative force, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 is the Rock ‘N Roll hall of famers’ eighth studio album yet 25 years after the first, you can’t name many things that have aged finer.
The respect they’ve earned over the years can clearly be traced back to their beginning when they, consciously or unconsciously, made the decision to be what they were. While mainstream music outlets may have forced them down people’s throats, at no point could you say you were being force feed a farce.
Their avant-garde approach took the elements of hip-hop they loved. Infused the punk parts they knew and filled a void for what hip hop was missing then and maybe even today, without ever trying to be more than three Jewish kids who loved music and partying, and two and a half decades later, they’re one of the longest running hip-hop acts ever.
The intrepidly individual results, speak for themselves. Hard not to respect that.