In the predictably amusing and somewhat informative “director’s commentary” accompanying this reissue, Mike Diamond recounts an anecdote from the Beastie Boys’ early days. He had cooked and carved a turkey, chomped magic mushrooms, put the meat in a pizza box and offered the sliced poultry to strangers on the streets of Manhattan. “People are not so quick to take a slice of turkey from some dude tripping,” the 43-year-old says with a laugh.
In 1989, the public reacted in much the same way to the B-Boys’ revolutionary sophomore album, Paul’s Boutique. Nothing like this audacious, alien LP had ever been made, especially by a supposed novelty act. Burned-out from promoting License to Ill—a practical joke that went multiplatinum—the three retreated to L.A. and set out to prove they were far more than dipshits into tits and Schlitz.
Partying in Hollywood, the Beasties stumbled on the dense, groovy turntable mash-ups of the Dust Brothers, three stoner record-geek DJs. Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock rented a gaudy mansion from Alex Grasshoff, an aging TV hack who shot schlock like CHiPs, and began penning their greatest, funniest, most surreal narrative rhymes to the sound collages.
The Dust Bros. advised paring the backing beats; nobody had rhymed over such busy, rich and psychedelic tracks. One hundred and four popular songs (by our count), mostly from the then-uncool 1970s, can be heard throughout—often lifted with chutzpah from millionaire legends like Paul McCartney, the Eagles and Pink Floyd. Predictably, copyright laws were reevaluated after this sampling smorgasbord. It’s safe to say such a record can never be made again.
This stunning remaster makes a never-bettered high-water mark sound more luxuriant. The mix even spruces up the lifted tunes, such as Sly Stone’s intensely funky “Loose Booty,” as heard in “Shadrach.” The lengthy suite of off-the-cuff pastiches on Side B (the “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”) is the genre’s Abbey Road. Hip-hop had found its Beatles—and not just because the Fab Four’s tunes were being stolen.