With the definite exception of Belly, this week has been filled with old school beats. I started with Wax Tailor, followed it up with Blackalicious, and after my minor detour to Nineties grrrl rock, I’ve returned to the old school beats of the Beastie Boys. Fair warning to anybody looking forward to post after post of this white boy trying to talk about hip-hop, this is not a trend that’s going to continue this week. In fact, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a lot more hip-hop in the top 40 itself. Yet here we are, the kid from upstate trying to identify with urban culture. It doesn’t matter that this time it’s three Jewish white guys instead of a band called Blackalicious, they are still more urban than I ever was when listening to them in my youth. Hell, even though I live in the city now, I still have a comfortable low-key middle class experience. Bumping So Wat’cha Want out of my grey Nissan Altima sedan doesn’t make me any harder than I am, it just gets me weird looks when I happen to be in the more…affluent areas of town.
I was introduced to the Beastie Boys way back when Fight for your Right was getting radio play (originally, not as a classic or throwback). I was in third grade. I remember this, because my teacher, Mrs. Cibrowski, kept getting angry at us for trying to sing it in class. While we were all telling anyone within ear shot that we had to fight for our right to paaaaaaaaarty, she told us that we had to fight for our right to reaaaaaaading lessons. I’m not kidding, she actually sang it out like that. She was a pretty cool teacher. It wasn’t until almost a year later that I was able to borrow License to Ill from one of my classmates and finally got to hear the rest of it. I thought it was so cool, but I wasn’t able to copy it onto my own tape at the time. I tried, using a tape recorder set next to a speaker of my parents’ stereo. They told me to shut it off, and that’s probably for the best since it sounded awful, distant and tinny. A couple of years later, I had started listening to the popular music station in my town, 93Q. I was cleaning my room some nice Saturday and listening to it, and suddenly I was struck with the fact that everything I was hearing was crap and I really wanted to hear the Beastie Boys again. I called in, and requested Brass Monkey, one of my favorite tracks off of their first album. The DJ sounded excited to take my call, and even told me that it was a great song and he would get it on as soon as he could. I listened all day to the station, and even though I heard the same songs over and over again, I never heard my request. I heard other people’s requests, but not mine. I listened for eight hours, had long since finished cleaning my room and was just waiting patiently by that point. Eventually, I was called downstairs to dinner and I turned it off. I never listened to 93Q again.
Today I listened to some, but not all, of the Beastie Boys albums: License to Ill (1986), Paul’s Boutique (1989), Check Your Head (1992), Ill Communication (1994), To the Five Boroughs (2004) and Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011). I DID NOT listen to Hello Nasty. I never liked that album. I have no legitimate reason for it, I didn’t like Intergalactic and was even less happy with Body Movin’ so I just never gave the album a chance.
That’s indicative of my issue with the Beastie Boys. As time goes on, I don’t really stray far from the “greatest hits” material. There’s still a warm spot it my heart for Brass Monkey, No Sleep Till Brooklyn, Looking Down The Barrel of a Gun, Sabotage and Sure Shot. But if you asked me to name a song, any song off of their last two albums, I could not do it. I own both albums and I still could not do it. I listened to both of them today, and yet I still could not do it. As the day wore on, I found myself skipping tracks to find the ones I wanted to hear and just ignoring the rest. Their influence on my musical tastes is undeniable. If not for the Beastie Boys, I would never have listened to Run DMC, which would mean that I wouldn’t have listened to Public Enemy, which means that my entire history of hip-hop would have started much later or not at all. I think that would be unfortunate, considering I really like hip-hop. And my love of hip-hop spread to other likes, and all of that lineage started with the Beastie Boys. So, even though their catalogue doesn’t have the longevity that their hits do for me, without them my musical trajectory would have been significantly different.
Rest in Peace MCA. You truly were cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.