When the Beastie Boys made their first album, License to Ill, the sales went through the roof. The hit single “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” had taken MTV by storm. Then came “No Sleep till Brooklyn,” “Paul Revere,” and “Brass Monkey.” The Beasties were on top, and were ready to pop a second album.
But things went downhill fast. The group was getting a bad rep as “frat hip hop”. The Rick Rubin production formula that had worked so well for them on License — simple beats, rock guitars, juvenile lyrics — was also their albatross. The guys did not want to go down as another light-weight white rap act with no staying power.
When their follow-up was released, 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, the Beasties showed that they were here to stay. Ad-Rock, Mike D, and MCA threw down a record that still rings throughout the hip-hop community to this day.
Produced by The Dust Brothers, who later did Beck’s Odelay, the album was a heavy-duty layer of samples from all over the map. The beats were anything but simple. The tune “Shake Your Rump” alone has samples from 12 different tunes. The radio hit “Hey Ladies” sampled 15 songs.
Ad-Rock once said that the album came together easily because the Dust Brothers were already putting together loads of instrumental material that they intended to use in clubs.
"The Dust Brothers had a bunch of music together, before we arrived to work with them. As a result, a lot of the tracks come from songs they'd planned to release to clubs as instrumentals – "Shake Your Rump," for example. They'd put together some beats, basslines and guitar lines, all these loops together, and they were quite surprised when we said we wanted to rhyme on it, because they thought it was too dense. They offered to strip it down to just beats, but we wanted all of that stuff on there. I think half of the tracks were written when we got there, and the other half we wrote together."
Public Enemy’s Chuck D once said that the “dirty secret” in the black hip-hop community back then was that “Paul’s Boutique had the best beats.”
This year marks 25 years since Paul’s Boutique hit the streets. MCA died in 2012, but the Beasties are as relevant as ever. To mark the occasion of the 25th anniversary, a mural is being painted on the street corner where the album cover art was snapped.
Image via YouTube