Beastie Boys : Licensed to Ill


Earlier in the month, the RIAA certified this iconic album DIAMOND. That means 29 years after its first release the album has sold 10 million copies. In light of this occurrence, we’ve decided to make it Album of the Week. This is now the second Beasties album we bestowed the honor since we started doing this last year. They are the first group to be featured twice in the series.

Licensed to Ill hit the stores on November 15th, 1986. It was produced by the Def Jam’s co-founder Rick Rubin who went on to become a legendary producer in his own right.

Some call this the group’s Debut, but this is not entirely true because they had released 7 inch singles and tapes as a Punk Rock band. This is the first full length Hip-Hop release and the first Beastie’s album on Def Jam.

Many of the group’s biggest hits are on this one. These include “Fight For Your Right,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “Paul Revere.” It went platinum in February 1987.

I was a junior high student living in SW Detroit when this came out. At the time all of the kids my age were listening to one of two stations. Either the Pop/Rock 96.3 WHYT or HipHop/Soul 98.3 WJLB. WJLB had been playing HipHop for a few years during the day and at night it was ElectroFunk.

The first single off this album that dropped on both of these stations. It’s not the track you might think. The first single I heard as a kid off this album was “The New Style”. At the time the City of Detroit had no cable-TV service so none of us had MTV. We thought the Beastie Boys were Black. Even some of the Black kids thought so. It’s not like they were announced on the Radio as White/Jewish. The track was spinning but the album was not out yet.

Then “Fight for your Right” hit mainstream radio. All of the sudden the suburban kids were digging on the Beastie Boys, and they did have MTV. I found out what the Beasties looked like visiting cousins in the suburbs.

I went to go buy the cassette at a record store in Dearborn Michigan but they had sold out of thier first shipment. So I went down the street to another store and found it there. And I bumped the hell out of that tape in boomboxes back in the day. We used to bump the boombox while riding bike or skateboard, or playing baseball in an empty lot.

The Beasties were instant Pop & HipHop Gods and still very young. They had decades of great albums ahead of them and a hell of a strong start in Licensed to Ill. The lyrics were clever and comical and at times Juvenile and sexist. The story goes that this album was originally going to be called Don’t Be a Faggot, but Def Jam vetoed that idea. That was a sign of the times. Homophobia was in full effect and so was the AIDS epidemic.

Because the album contained samples of Led Zeppelin in “She’s Crafty”, a lot of older Zepp fans were totally pissed off about it. This made the Beasties seem hated on by the establishment, which made me and the rest of Gen-X like them even more! Other than guitar samples, the album is filled with oddball references, scratching and ass-kicking Roland 808 drum machine beats.

[ review by Alex Velocity ]

Tracklist (favorites in bold)

  1. Rhymin’ and Stealin’
  2. The New Style
  3. She’s Crafty
  4. Posse in Effect
  5. Slow Ride
  6. Girls
  7. Fight For Your Right (to Party)
  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

Album Moods
Aggressive Bravado Freewheeling Irreverent Outrageous Reckless Rowdy Sleazy Boisterous Celebratory Confident Fun Humorous Ironic Playful Raucous Silly Brash Confrontational Fiery Hedonistic Quirky Rambunctious Rebellious Rousing Street-Smart Swaggering

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