Beastie Boys: Licensed To Ill (Vinyl LP)

Beastie Boys: Licensed To Ill (Vinyl LP)

Regular price €34.95 €0.00 Unit price per

Licensed To Ill’s title was a pun based on a 1965 imitation James Bond film, Licensed To Kill. Strangely, the album pre-dated a real James Bond movie entitled Licence To Kill by three years. Was it art imitating art imitating art? The album’s gatefold artwork was famously done by collage artist World B Omes and depicted an airplane crashing into the side of a cliff. Held up to a mirror, the plane’s serial number, 3MTA3, reads like “EATME”, and not by coincidence. Etched into the matrix are more naughty slogans, supposedly all Rubin’s idea (the group hated it) that both embraces and lampoons rock’n’roll excess.

Lyrically, Beasties were also walking that tightrope between goofing on frat-boy culture and rock star clichés, and being the archetypes of their intended ridicule. Blurring those lines paid off commercially, enabling them to crossover into the rock world. The catalyst was “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!),” written by Yauch and his friend Tom Cushman. Essentially a hard rock song with a drum machine, “Fight For Your Right” may have tricked MTV viewers who weren’t in on the joke into thinking that Beastie Boys were the next Twisted Sister. “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (featuring guitarist Kerry King from Def Jam labelmates Slayer) drove the gag home.

Ironically, the inspiration for these songs came from another hip-hop group – Run-DMC, whose “Rock Box” had combined rap and rock elements two years prior. Run-DMC was the template for Beastie Boys in so many ways: the loud drums and the shouted vocal delivery where bandmates would complete each other’s lines. And then, of course, there’s the fact that Run-DMC actually wrote pieces of Licensed To Ill, including “Slow And Low,” which they originally recorded (with Rubin producing) as a demo that never made it onto their own albums.

What might get overlooked in retrospect is how advanced Licensed To Ill sounds. Hip-hop was evolving fast, but nothing else by the end of ’86 had such complex structures, where songs would pause halfway through and go in entirely different directions, like “The New Style,” which was subsequently sampled on over 250 records. Beastie Boys proved themselves to be more than just another copycat rap act, but something else altogether, coming out with a unique and diverse musical palette.

The sample selection spread across the album’s 13 tracks (technically only 10 of which contain samples) are really an amalgam of four distinct cultures: hip-hop (The B-Boys, Joeski Love, Mantronix, Kurtis Blow, Doug E Fresh, Schoolly D, etc), old soul, disco and jazz records that hip-hop adopted as its own (Cerrone, The Jimmy Castor Bunch, Barry White, Bob James, Kool & The Gang), hard rock (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC) and punk (The Clash).

On March 7, 1987, Licensed To Ill topped the Billboard 200, the first hip-hop album ever to do so. It then stayed there for seven straight weeks, Bruce Hornsby And The Range, Genesis, and Janet Jackson be damned. We were well on our way to living in a hip-hop world. By 2015, Yauch, Horovitz, and Mike D were certified diamond, with 10 million in sales – an accomplishment shared by no other hip-hop record released in the 80s.

History has been kind to the album in this respect. By simultaneously appealing to the mainstream music fans, the upper echelon of music critics, and all echelons between, the masses were – and continue to be – enthralled by Beastie Boys.

30th Annversary Edition.

  1. Rhymin’ & Stealin’ 
  2. The New Style 
  3. She’s Crafty 
  4. Posse In Effect 
  5. Slow Ride 
  6. Girls 
  7. Fight For Your Right
  8. No Sleep Till Brooklyn
  9. Paul Revere 
  10. Hold It Now, Hit It 
  11. Brass Monkey 
  12. Slow And Low 
  13. Time To Get Ill 

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