Music is the soundtrack to our lives. And on Christmas Day 2012, four days after the world was supposed to end, GuysNation columnist Bryan Lienesch was given the book ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’. As he flipped through it, an idea dawned on him right then and there: he would attempt to knock all 1,001 albums off his list. Not just before he dies, but as fast as life would allow.
This is the Bucket Beats List.
With the fourth installment of the Bucket Beats List, we transition from one of the pioneers of punk to a band that actually gave up on their punk rock dreams and pioneered a genre of their own. Or, at least, pioneered the genre for their race.
The roots of hip hop and rap in the ’80’s came from very real, very dark places in American culture. So when three affluent white, Jewish kids in their 20’s proclaimed themselves emcees and produced a record as such, it was initially perceived with skepticism and outrage.
Some thought they were making fun of hip hop, others thought it was just a misguided, immature gimmick. But what the critics didn’t see in the Beastie Boys’ work with Licensed To Ill was the sleeping beast they awoke: suburban America.
Young, hormonal teenagers across America were bubbling with adolescent angst and Licensed To Ill was their call to arms. Just listen to the lyrics in ‘Fight For Your Right’ and you hear, for the first time, a hip hop group that identified with teens that grew up in Pleasantville and begrudged the social norms around them.
So when Licensed To Ill flew off the shelves of record stores faster than any hip hop album before, the Beastie Boys became immediately legitimized. The critics and the music snobs began to understand the feelings and emotions the Beastie Boys laid on track after track weren’t so outside-the-box. In fact, it sort of made sense. The Beastie Boys didn’t reinvent the wheel, they just reengineered it for a wide swath of people that originally thought they weren’t invited to the party.
As they say, the rest is history. Nearly half of Licensed To Ill looks like a Beastie Boys best-of compilation which speaks to just how insanely deep the thirteen-track record is. It’s a smorgasbord of mashed-up riffs that had previously never been paired together. In 45 minutes of music on one album, you hear rock, rap, and elements of jazz, metal, and, yes, even punk.
So if you were to call Mike D or MCA or King Ad-Rock “inside-out Oreos”, I would say I couldn’t agree more, but it has nothing to do with race. No, it’s because these three men blended flavors no one had thought to before.
How else could the heavy guitar rips from Led Zeppelin’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ lead into a hip hop song about being pirates of rap?
That would be ‘Rhymin And Stealin’, Licensed To Ill’s first track, and the Beastie Boys don’t get any less apologetic from there. At any turn, the lyrics and stylings of the album beg for the band to be misunderstood. Does ‘Girls’ show the trio’s latent sexist side? Is ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ a bit pretentious? Does ‘Paul Revere’ reveal the band’s delusions of grandeur?
If you’re asking yourself those questions, you’ll never understand what these New Yorkers were about. They just wanted to have fun, and the fact that Licensed To Ill has served as a staple party anthem for the 27 years since its inception does nothing more than scream “mission accomplished”.
2. Fight For Your Right
1. No Sleep Till Brooklyn
Least favorite tracks?
3. The New Style
2. Slow And Low
1. She’s Crafty
Do you really need to listen to this album before you die?
You’ve probably already heard half the album, so why not?
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for social media shenanigans!