Like most people, I came to Paul’ Boutique late and let face it, as great as it was, License to Ill was a novelty album for sophomoric guys. Really, Check Your Head is when I became a true fan of the Beastie Boys and that is why it is this month’s induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame. Released just eight months after Nevermind, the Beastie Boys rode the wave of alternative music mixing live instrumentation, the first time they played on the majority of the songs since their punk beginnings while keeping their hip-hop esthetics. Check Your Head pushed the boundaries of rap as far as Paul’s Boutique did but was assessable right off the bat.
Pass the Mic was a great introduction to the Boys new sound as the first single from the album, the passing of the mic would satisfy the hip-hop purists while attracting the new alternative crowd with the fuzzed out guitars. Later in the album they would go full out rock stars with Gratitude (setting the stage for one of their biggest hits Sabotage off their next album). And much like Sabotage, the song is built around a killer bass groove courtesy of MCA.
Even though they plugged in for the album, there are plenty of clever samples that made Paul’s Boutique revolutionary. So What-Cha Want is built off of When the Levee Breaks. And like a few songs on Paul’s Boutique, Finger Lickin’ Good drops the track and just lets a couple seconds of Bob Dylan’s Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues before going back to the weird mix of Aquarius and Dance to the Music. The Biz vs. The Nuge lives up to the name as it is just Biz Markie singing over Ted Nugent’s Homebound. And what would Pass the Mic be without the Jimmie Walker famous “Dynamite!”
They push their sound even further in the second half of the album when they go back to their punk roots with punky version of Sly Stone’s Time for Livin'. Something’s Got to Give is a trippy ride. They even throw in some funky instrumentals for good measure. We may have lost a true legend a couple weeks ago in MCA, but his work with the Beastie Boys will live on forever with the great albums he left behind.