First off, I just have to complain about my internet provider, Frontier. I know that I am not the only person around here who has been having trouble with them. But, for the last month or so their service has been intermittent at best. Although, the service, or lack there of, has been the reason that I have not been the net much. But to be honest, I have had some really bad days that have coincided with these days that it might be difficult to know where the stupid internet is the problem for a lack of blog entries or was it my back. To be honest, it’s been a combination. But, when I don’t have the net, I have to go ‘Old Skool’ with my research with my now-dated rock reference books.
Back around this time in the year, I was getting ready to graduate from St. John’s School of Medical Technology. The Class of 1986 was going to be the last class to graduate from the class, as the hospital was closing its door. It was bittersweet to say the least. When you spend a year of your life going through such intense training, that when you got into the “real world” of hospital lab work, you could not believe how prepared you were to work with nearly any instrumentation your new employer used. So, after graduation, in July of 1986, Jill, Graham and I all moved to Oxford, Ohio, where I had just accepted my first job to work in the lab at McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital, which was tiny.
Often, I have referenced our time in Oxford, mainly for two reasons: 97-X WOXY FM and Looney T Bird’s Records. Between those two, my musical horizons grew exponentially. Besides all of the alternative music to which I was being exposed, rap music was just becoming an album genre thanks to Run-DMC’s Raising Hell and today’s subject, the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill.
Where Run-DMC were the one of the first rap artists to incorporate rock rhythms in the music, even “covering” Aerosmith’s classic rock nugget “Walk This Way”. All of a sudden, rap was no longer a bunch of novelty records, but the next logical step for rock music to take. Now, at the point, all of Run-DMC’s albums had been produced by a budding record producer Rick Rubin, who at the time, was doing his work in his college dorm room, or at least that’s what the legend says. As Raising Hell was changing what the teens and college students listened to, Rubin was readying another rap album that would take the rap-rock hybrid to it’s next level. That album was by three Jewish MCs who collectively called themselves the Beastie Boys, and that album was the now classic Licensed to Ill.
Rubin and the Beasties did not just work with rock beats or a whole song of a funky rock song. No, these guys took drum samples from Led Zeppelin in order to construct a whole new sound for hip hop. And, the Beasties themselves did their best Run-DMC-style of rapping, by trading lines or phrases within a line, but with the snotty accents of white punks on dope. Funky, the songs where, but totally based in the honky culture. All of a sudden, like Elvis Presley in the Fifties, the Beastie Boys were making hip hop palatable for the white suburban kids to join in the hip hop nation. Now, hip hop of all styles were reaching all corners of the Earth. But, to me, the Beasties were still paying homage to their rap forefathers and were finding acceptance from kids of all races.
As a matter of fact, I knew rap had arrived when I was out at my in-laws for a family outing. I was always trying to ask my older nephews what music they were into, when on that day, they were blasting Licensed to Ill. Now, I was sitting with the adults, when one of the nephews’ fathers said that this music was a fad. I tried to point out why I disagreed with him as the Beasties were making use of new technology by taking parts of different songs to put those parts into a new context. That sampler was becoming as important to our generation as the guitar was to the Baby Boomers. Additionally, I said that this band was not afraid to add a real thrash metal guitar solo by Slayer’s Kerry King to the song “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”.
I quit my defense when it was very apparent that the young Gen X-ers really were going to piss off their parents with hip hop like their parents had with the music of the British Invasion. Still, in the Beastie’s music, you could hear all kinds of sampled references to white suburban culture, like the Green Acres TV show theme song or a short CCR snippet. Everywhere you listened, you heard more and more that white suburbanite could relate to. And, all of it was wrapped in the HUGE beats and DEEP base that hip hop was becoming known for. And, then, you listened to the lyrics, and you heard the in-your-face Run-DMC-esque rhymes delivery of three snotty punks who somehow ended up in a frat house in college. Sure, the rhymes could be misogynist, but show me a guy in their teens and twenties who have their world view worked out.
What was cool about the Beastie Boys is that they were able to continually grow and become one of the most appreciated hip hop acts of all-time. In 1989, they dropped the whole Ill shtick for their second album, Paul’s Boutique, where they worked with the Dust Brothers to created a sound out of the tiniest of samples seemingly thrown on top of each other to create a claustrophobic sound that caught the public off guard and did not sell well.
Then, in 1992, the Boys reached back to their punk days to play their own instruments along with samples and beats taken from the rock world to create their third album Check Your Head. On this album, they were growing up. They were concerned about society and the plight of Earth. Out, was the lyrics of the snotty frat boys, and in was the lyrics of more mature young men nearing the age of thirty. From this point onward, the band became one of the immortals of rock music. They appealed equally to the inner city kid as the college kid or the young working adult in a hospital lab in southwest Ohio.
If you are going to dive into the Beastie Boys’ catalog, simply follow their music chronologically to get the full story. For better or worse, my boys grew up listening to the Beastie Boys. As a matter of fact, we were at Disney World in 1998 when they dropped their fifth album, Hello Nasty. We got in line at Virgin Music Mega-Store (RIP) just to hear the album the day it was released. Of course, I bought it. The CD looks like hell now since it went through three people in the house all listening to it. And, then, we all mourned in 2012, the year the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, when Adam Yauch, known as MCA, passed away after a battle with cancer. The band had just released another brilliant album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, the year before, with MCA’s weakening voice heard alongside Mike D (Mike Diamond) and Ad-Rock (Adam Horowitz).
Besides their brilliant music, the Beastie Boys created some of rock’s most iconic videos, such as “Fight for Your Right” and “Sabotage”. Their collective creative was second-to-none, as they were involved deeply in both their music and videos.
But since Yauch’s passing, the Beastie’s voice has been closed. He died too young, as did the Beastie Boys. But that was one helluva ride they took us on.