Still doing it, huh? Many assumed that Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds Of Science, marked the end of a long and illustrious career for the Boys, especially on the intro to the album’s only original song “Alive”. Here, Mike D states, “I have never been more ready in my entire life to do this right now. It’s all been leading up to this moment. My whole life, all right now, all right here,” suggesting that maybe this was the last song they would ever record. Of course, in retrospect we realize that he was probably just talking to the soundman after a long night of do-overs and multiple takes. But Adam, Adam, Mike, and Mike have deaded the rumors of retirement, returning after a six year hiatus (after escaping capture by Sasquatche) to do it once again.
With To The 5 Boroughs, The Beastie Boys come full circle, returning to the roots of rap music, employing hard hitting drums, heavy bass, and classic hip-hop vocal samples as hooks. This back-to-basics approach carries much of the album, with samples from Public Enemy, EPMD, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, and other 80′s hip-hop heroes helping drive the point home. “Rhyme The Rhyme Well” is a heavy three minute romp blessed with Yo Bum Rush The Show era Chuck D, who’s sampled presence helps start off every verse in an incredibly dope manner. Again on “Hey Fuck You”, the trio attacks today’s wack emcees, with a classic sample from Funkmaster Wizard Wiz (!), adding validity to each verse with classic rap attitude, “well if you don’t like it, then hey, fuck you!” This moves right into “Oh Word”, another throwback that sounds like a leftover Whistle beat, with classic, off the wall Beasties braggadocio. Then, of course, is the second single, “Triple Trouble”, where the crew revives the tired-but-true “Rapper’s Delight/Good Times” sample (now under the manipulation of DJ Mix Master Mike), halfway through the song deciding to rhyme the rest of it with British accents. Tantalizing!
While this sense of humor is present throughout the entire album, the Beastie Men get a little more mature on many of the album’s other songs, inserting their various political stances wherever possible. Sure, it’s nice to see them twenty years later joining Chuck to party for their right to fight, with songs like “Right Right Now Now”, “We Got The” and “All Life Styles”. However, somebody should have told the new celery chewing, tree hugging, Beasties that each of the hooks on these three songs sound almost exactly the same (keyword: “we got?”). And if there is room for other complaints, “Crawlspace” just doesn’t seem to work.
But the complaints are few and far in between, as the original white rappers have once again reinvented themselves, constructing a solid album of great songs with simple, funny, and endlessly quotable lyrics, all sewn together by the usual oddball samples and skits. The overall theme of To The 5 Boroughs is New York City, as evidenced on perhaps the album’s best track “An Open Letter To NYC”: “Dear New York I know a lot has changed, two towers down, but your still in the game”. It’s obvious the post-9/11 Beasties wanted to bring it back to that old New York rap with this release, and what better crew to do so, than one that pioneered that era?
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