We pick our fave Beastie Boys songs
On ”Ch-Check It Out,” the first single from ”To the 5 Boroughs” (in stores June 15), the Beastie Boys compare themselves to ”Nick at Night/With classics rerunning that you know all right.” And that’s not far off. Early on, hip-hop heads dissed the three New York white boys as inauthentic. But 18 years after they had to fight for their right to party, the Beastie Boys have ended up as the only still-thriving purveyors of old-school hip-hop. That doesn’t mean they haven’t experimented along the way, though. Ch-check out Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock’s finest moments:
”Rhymin’ and Stealing” (”Licensed to Ill,” 1986)
The Beastie Boys didn’t invent rap-rock (that was Run-DMC), but on guitar-flooded tracks like ”Rhymin”’ they and producer Rick Rubin invested the hybrid with the energy and (obnoxious) attitude that helped suburban kids develop a taste for hip-hop. Incorporating samples from both Led Zeppelin (”When the Levee Breaks”) and Black Sabbath (”Sweet Leaf”), ”Stealin”’ offers hilariously unconvincing pirate/gangsta fantasies: ”Skirt chasing, free basing/Killing every village/We drink and rob and rhyme and pillage.”
”Fight for Your Right (To Party)” (”Licensed to Ill,” 1986)
”Fight” both imitates and mocks the signifiers of then-popular hair metal; the squiggly guitar solo and dead-simple beat could have come from a Mötley Crüe tune. After ”Fight,” plain old rock could never be quite as cool.
”No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” (”Licensed to Ill,” 1986)
Sorry, Fred Durst — despite modeling your entire career on this thunderous track, you’ve yet to come close to its impact. And you’ve never come up with a boast as cutting as ”While you’re at the job working 9 to 5/The Beastie Boys at the Garden, cold kickin’ it live.”
”Sounds of Science” (”Paul’s Boutique,” 1989)
The Beasties made an astonishing leap on their second album, working with producers the Dust Brothers to create head-spinning sample collages (similar to the Brothers’ later, more commercial work for Beck’s ”Odelay”). Less a song than a multipart suite, ”Science” moves from a pseudo-country beginning to an up-tempo finish that samples the Beatles and includes some of the Boys’ most nimble-tongued rhymes (”Dropping science like when Galileo dropped the orange”).
”Eggman” (”Paul’s Boutique,” 1989)
A sample-dense track that features ”Superfly”’s bassline and nonsensical lyrics about yolk-and-shells assaults equals Beastie perfection. Bonus points for sampling both Cheech & Chong dialogue and Bernard Herrmann’s ”Psycho” score in the same track.
”Hey Ladies” (”Paul’s Boutique,” 1989)
Admittedly, the only hit single from ”Paul’s Boutique” was a return to the frat-boy ethos of ”Licensed to Ill,” but it’s infectious and funny enough that we forgive such sexism as ”Sucking down pints till I didn’t know/Woke up in the morning with a one-ton ho.” It also features the greatest — and possibly only — cowbell break in hip-hop history.
”So Whatcha Want” (”Check Your Head,” 1992)
After the baroque ”Boutique,” the Beasties returned to simplicity, adding live instruments to their tracks. With vocals and drums that swim together in an ocean of distortion, ”Whatcha Want” demonstrated that by ’91, classic-sounding hip-hop somehow came off as alternative rock. What else were the Beasties doing headlining Lollapalooza in ’94?
”Pass the Mic” (”Check Your Head,” 1992)
Even more raw than ”Whatcha Want” (it doesn’t even have a chorus), the grimy MTV hit ”Pass the Mic” served as a reintroduction to the Beastie Boys after the commercial failure of ”Paul’s Boutique.” ”Well I’m on till the crack of dawn/Mowing down MCs like I’m mowing a lawn,” the trio rap in, as they say it, ”the old-school way.”
”Sabotage” (”Ill Communication,” 1994)
The Beasties’ early rap-rock flirted with heavy metal, but the relentless, mosh-inducing ”Sabotage” recalls the group’s pre-hip-hop origins as a hardcore band. It is also, for some reason, the only Beasties song to be covered by Phish. But we won’t hold that against it.
”Intergalactic” (”Hello Nasty,” 1998)
Perhaps the most fun Beasties song ever, the robot-voiced ”Intergalactic” includes some of the trio’s catchiest rhymes — just try to get the sing-song line ”Mario C likes to keep it clean” out of your head. For all the Beasties’ lyrical irony, ”Intergalactic” reveals that, for them, hip-hop is pure joy.
Agree with our list? What are your favorite Beastie Boys songs?