Sunday, January 22, 2012


Well, there's nothing like it.  The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique didn't sound like any record that came before it, or anything since.

I remember buying it when it first came out, but I don't remember why I bought it.  I liked a bunch of songs on their debut album, Licensed To Ill. But it seemed like a novelty album, and it's appeal was... I'd describe it as douche-y.  Also their style was very derivative of Run-D.M.C.'s (understandable as they were a big influence and both groups were produced by Rick Rubin).

I think I may have heard "Hey Ladies" and thought that they didn't sound like they'd progressed too much. But the music was so much... thicker. I was intrigued.  So I picked it up.  When I first listened to the record, I was puzzled.  What the hell?  I know a lot of other people had the same experience.

But every time I came back to the album, I liked it a little bit more. I was always catching new references in the lyrics and in the music.  In fact, there is an entire website that explains every reference and lists every sample.  And there's a great book about the album that tells you just about everything about how it was made - it's part of the excellent 33 1/3 series.  You couldn't make an album like this today without a multi-million dollar sample-clearance budget and probably an army of lawyers.  I mean, they sampled The Beatles! You just couldn't do that today, but back then, there were no rules about it.  It was a cool era: other hip-hop LPs like Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and de la soul's 3 Feet High and Rising were similarly dense with samples, but no one can (legally) release albums like those today.  It's interesting to note, though, that this album was about the time where hip-hop's mainstream started losing interest in the Beasties.  On Licensed, they were signed to Def Jam and were managed by RUSH (both owned by Russell Simmons).  On this album, they left New York for L.A., ditched Def Jam and signed to Capitol (who didn't really have a hip-hop team in place), left RUSH management, and moved on from producer Rubin to The Dust Brothers.

Today, it's one of my favorite albums, and unlike Licensed To Ill, it's aged really well, and still sounds ahead of its time.

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