“Licensed to Ill” was the 1986 debut album of punk-rock rappers, the Beastie Boys. Produced by Def Jam Records’ Rick Ruben, this album successfully blended punk rock, metal, and hip hop to create a very unique sound and essentially create an entirely new genre. The revolutionary album went on to sell well over 5 million copies and was featured in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Five Hundred Greatest Records of all Time”, ranking number 217.
The majority of this album’s great songs use samples and beats from well known songs by other bands. A good example of this is the albums premiere song, Rhymin & Stealin, which uses the drum beat from Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” and the guitar riff from Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf”. In fact, the only songs that weren’t sample-based were Girls, Fight for Your Right, No Sleep ’til Brooklyn, and Slow and Low. Still, the bands well delivered rhymes and perfectly executed spins were enough to make each song feel like an original work, even if the music was written by someone else.
Aside from being the Beasties first album it was also one of their best. The album established the Boys as loud, obnoxious white rappers with a blatant disregard establishment. Songs like “The New Style”, “Hold it Now, Hit it”, “It’s Time to get Ill” show off their ability to kick phat beats, shoot smooth spins and spit ridiculously white rhymes while “Fight for Your Right” and “No Sleep ’til Brooklyn”, which features Slayer’s Kasey King, show off the groups punk-metal side. My favorites, though, are “Girls” and “Brass Monkey” which best display them for the fun-loving crackers they are beneath all that bling. Do they even wear bling? I dunno, but they sure are fresh.
While the majority of this record is gold, it does have it’s flops. “Posse in Effect”, for instance with it’s boingy laser sounding snare effect is probably the single most annoying song ever written. It’s like some kind of cancer that starts in your brain, slowly and painfully killing your nervous system rendering you incapable of even attempting to escape the horrible sound emitting from your speakers. You’re just sitting there, the paralysis now in full effect, and you notice your bleeding out of your ears. Soon after this you will begin to cough up feces. I’m not sure how this happens, but my theory is this song is so bad that when you listen to it your lungs and intestines are somehow liquefied and become one. It’s disgusting and painful. This all comes to an end when you are generously allowed to die. Thank God it’s finally all over. “Slow and Low”, which was originally written by Run D.M.C. but was left off of his album for obvious reasons, is just bad. No cancer, ear blood, or oral defecation. It’s just bad.
All in all, though, this is a solid album that established the Beastie Boys and paved a new road for both rock and rap alike. Despite a few terrible songs, most of this records offerings are catchy tunes with clever sample work and solid rhymes. Well, about as solide as any white rap can be. The last thing worth noticing is that 7 of the 13 songs on Licensed to Ill pay tribute to White Castle. I’m not joking. It’s pathetic and awesome at the same time.
|1. Rhymin & Stealin|
|2. The New Style|
|3. She’s Crafty|
|4. Posse In Effect|
|5. Slow Ride|
|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|
- established a genre
- clever sample work
- solid beats and spins
- “Posse in Effect” and “Slow and Low” are some of the worst songs I’ve ever heard
- They are so white they make me feel black
White Castle references: 7. Seriously.