Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Amazon Reviews: The Beastie Boys "Licensed To Ill"

They are Most Def
5 Out Of 5 Stars

One of my criterion for a five star album is that it bent the popular culture in a direction where everything afterwards changed direction. The debut from The Beastie Boys did just that. The mere fact that they became the first rap act to have a number one album alone makes them historic, but the album itself still stands the test of time from 1986 on. Made by a trio of well heeled inner city brats, "Licensed to Ill" was noisy, brash, snotty and made like a punk rock album. It rocked harder than many current rock albums of the period.

That came courtesy of the sampling. Among the usual array of funk samples were lifts from Led Zepplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Clash and others. These upped the volume and the more jagged feel of "Ill," spiking the sound to match the juvenile force of the lyrics. Those words centered mostly on getting high, loose women, and partying your brains out in the most politically incorrect fashion possible. To that extent, "Fight For Your Right To Party" may be as radical a single as "Anarchy In The UK" was for the Sex Pistols.

That the Beasties also were traditional song structuralists made them more accessible. "Party," Girls" and much of the album used traditional song bridge chorus structure that made the songs concise punches of aggression and teenaged snottiness. Nobody was going to tell them what they could or could not do, which meant that their raps were punctuated by the heavy metal of a Kerry King (Slayer) guitar solo for "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." This was the album that made rap creep into the suburbs. "Licensed To Ill" was so radical an album that The Beasties never quite could make another one like it, despite their continued success (and their more mature attitudes as their success grew), making it not just a great album, but a call to arms for plenty of musicians to follow.


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