It’s been two-and-half years since the Beastie Boys (Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, Adam “MCA” Yauch and Michael “Mike D” Diamond) unleashed their landmark Licensed to Ill debut LP and crashed through our stereos, radios and TVs with the hell-raising anthem “Fight for Your Right.” That Rick Rubin-produced album took the industry by storm and went on to become the most successful rap record of all time with more than 4 million units sold domestically. Well, that infamous and loveable(?) trio of swaggering decadence has resurfaced with a new label, new producers and a new LP.
The Beasties have switched to Capital Records and enlisted the Dust Brothers, which includes Matt Dyke (Tone Loc), as producers reportedly due to a royalties dispute with Def Jam Records and Rubin. In any event, amid much skepticism, the group is none the worse for the wear. Most of the screaming guitars and numbing bass drum thuds have been superseded by intricate sampling, subtle nuances and a greater urban slant. But the Boys’ raunchy attitude and deliriously off-the-cuff raps are completely unfettered. Moreover, the new musical approach has yielded what is perhaps rap’s most dazzling and mind-boggling display of sampling ever.
The Beasties have added another wrinkle to the fold — social consciousness! The song “Johnny Ryall” is an in-depth portrait of a homeless character, while “Egg Man” denounces racism. Elsewhere, however, as in the rocking “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun,” “High Plains Drifter” (which samples the Eagles’ “Those Shoes”) and “Car Thief,” the threesome delivers their familiar, satirical yarns of violence. The disc’s best dance jams are “Shake Your Rump,” the single “Hey Ladies” and the Sly Stone homage “Shadrach.” The absence of a crossover hit may hinder this LP’s impact, but Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D have triumphantly averted the sophomore jinx.