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Boomin' Bros 

Beastie Boys are ill and always will

Wednesday, Jan 19 2000
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Photo by Glen E. FriedmanThe Beastie Boys have always fallen on the wrong side of hip-hop's authenticity tracks. It's not just that they're white -- though it doesn't help -- but their constantly evolving sound has rarely synced up with hip-hop convention. But rather than seem out of step, the Beasties have remained one step ahead, evolving from the original rap brat pack to hip-hop's most mercurial merchants of groove.

From its dozen-plus-year span to the dazzling cover art, the Beasties' Sounds of Science ranks as one of the few singular retrospectives in a musical genre not known for its long-term memory. The two-CD set takes you way back, from their nuevo-punk days in the early '80s ("Egg Raid on Mojo"), up through the funky fusion of their 1998 effort, Hello Nasty. Reflected in the dizzying collection of songs (42 in all) is the Beasties' chimerical ability to work in diverse soundscapes. While most of us were introduced to the Beasties through Rick Rubin's cock-rock production on the 1986 Licensed To Ill ("Slow and Low," "She's on It"), it was 1989's Paul's Boutique where the Beasties came into their own. Songs like "Hey Ladies" and "Shake Your Rump," despite their juvenile themes, were years ahead of the rap game with their dense collages of breakbeat science. The return to punk roots on albums like Check Your Head ("So Whatcha Want") and Ill Communication ("Sabatoge") only hardened the gristle of the band's sonic punch, and with Hello Nasty ("Body Movin'," "Intergalactic") they came back to the underground with an album that made everything from calypso to bossa nova to dub sound lowdown and funky.

What's never changed has been the group's youthful (some might say adolescent) spirit. True, they've outgrown their days of MTV-fueled debauchery, but their three-man-weave rhyme style is still a throwback to the old-school days of the Cold Crush Brothers and house-party harmonizing. Yet despite the lack of lyrical sublimity, the Beasties have managed to avoid obsolescence with a body of work that's allowed itself the room to be silly ("Boomin' Granny"), sophisticated ("Remote Control"), even sanctimonious ("Bodhisattva Vow").

The only letdown with Sounds of Science is that it doesn't include License To Ill's "Paul Revere," the song that best captures the Beasties' unlikely knack for indelible anthems. Though the track seems nothing more than a frat-rap fantasy of cowboys on the hunt for babes, beer and bills (in order of priority), it's the one song from the 1980s whose lyrics every hip-hop junkie remembers in their entirety. Play it at any club and watch people start to chant, "I did it like this, I did it like that, I did it with a whiffle ball bat, sooooo . . .," outing the closet Beasties groupie in us all.

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