Some people wouldn’t know good Hip Hop if it hit them over the head with a sledgehammer, others just wouldn’t Hip Hop if it hit them with said hammer. Years ago I was handing out HipHopDX fliers after one of their concerts and countless people scowled and told me they didn’t listen to Hip Hop. I guess the previous 2 hours of sample-based production and rapping was just good old fashioned rock music. Punk rock roots and guitar proficiency aside, Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D created as influential a sound template for Hip Hop in the late 80’s as any of their counterparts.
What makes Paul’s Boutique even more sacred is that after the sampling crackdown in 1991, an album like this will never happen again. Along with Public Enemy‘s It Takes A Nation and De La’s 3 Feet High & Rising, Paul’s Boutique is the definitive sample-based album. After splitting from Def Jam after their debut, they tapped The Dust Brothers to replace Rick Rubin on the boards. Along with the Beasties, they sampled, experimented and sampled some more. The massive collage was composed of over a hundred samples, two dozen alone coming on the epic “B-Boy Bouillabaisse.”
“Shake Your Rump” remains one of most dynamic Hip Hop songs of all-time; constantly changing and evolving throughout it’s 3 minutes. It is a concept that seems so foreign 20 years later, nearly as alien sampling Zeppelin and Bambaataa on the same song, or hearing three emcees trade bars rather than verses. Curtis Mayfield‘s “Superfly” has been sampled too many times to count, but it has never sounded as fresh as it does on “Egg Man,” layered over again and again by other samples. Not to mention, you get classic lines like “Sometimes hard-boiled, sometimes runny/it comes from a chicken, not a bunny, dummy!“
As for this 20th Anniversary Edition, the money really comes with the packaging; the digitally remastered disc comes with all the original vinyl artwork and a fold out poster. Considering they recorded over a hundred songs for the album, a bonus disc with some cutting room floor selections would have been a nice touch to commemorate the period. But for a real fan or anyone who doesn’t have the album, it is an easy purchase.
No matter what the group does in the twilight of their career, Paul’s Boutique will always define the Beastie Boys. It is the perfect balance between their frat boy rap debut and the hard edge funk that carried their next two albums. They weren’t fighting for their right to party or fighting to free Tibet, they were just trading bars while making obscure pop culture references. It may not have the anthems like “No Sleep Til’ Brooklyn” or “Sabotage,” but it does have Ben Franklin with a kite.