Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique

2009-08-25 13:01
 
Paul's Boutique
 

Paul's Boutique may have 'bombed' when it first dropped in 1989 – it only peaked at #24 on the Top Hip Hop/R&B charts - but two decades later it's sold over 2 million copies and is recognised as a postmodern hip-hop masterpiece that patented the blueprint for the attention-deficit disordered MTV rap generation. Recently re-issued to celebrate its 20th birthday – with added commentaries - Mike 'D' Diamond, Adam 'Ad-Rock' Horovitz and Adam 'MCA' Yauch's Boutique sounds as frenetically funky as it did way back when.

The first thing that smacks you upside your head is the minefield of samples which spaz out of control as the Boys mainline a century of music history. "Shake You Rump" slams The Sugarhill Gang's "8th Wonder" and Afrika Bambaata’s "Jazzy Sensation" into Led Zep's "Good Times, Bad Times" and the Average White Band's "Cut the Cake". "Egg Man" mashes up Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly" and Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise" into Elvis Costello's "Pump it Up" and the film themes from Jaws, Psycho and Cheech and Chong's Next Movie.

And it gets even crazier. Sole single "Hey Ladies" samples Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie", The Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz", Malcolm McLaren's "Hey DJ" and a slew of classic funk and disco smashes including Cameo, Kurtis Blow, the Commodores and James Brown! Who cares if it only charted at # 36 on the Billboard Top 100. Not Mike D. "F**k that!! This is the record, with no f**king single!....Fuck 'Brass Monkey'! None of that fast-rapping commercial shit!" he declared, dismissing the fly white guy rap braggadocio of their debut License to Ill.

Most crews would've been content to milk the rap rock dollar for their entire careers. Not the Beasties. They wanted conceptual, not con-shizness. And they found it by brainstorming rap's first hip-hopera. Rolling Stone certainly thought so, hailing Paul's Boutique as the Pet Sounds and Dark Side of the Moon of hip-hop. The Dean of Rock critics, Robert Christgau called the album "an absolutely unpretentious and unsententious affirmation of cultural diversity, of where they came from and where they went from there".

And there is a method in all this attention-deficit-disordered madness beyond the cool factor of getting sued by the Beatles. See, it isn't just their copyright shagging pilfering of the best bits of The Beatles "Back in the USSR", "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", "The End" and "When I'm Sixty-Four" that makes "The Sound Of Science" such a head rush. It’s the minefield of pop cultural punch lines they drop that name checks a 21st century consumer scape ranging from Range Rover, Adidas, cocaine and condoms to Ali's Rope-a-Dope boxing moves, Shea Stadium, Robotron: 2084, Galileo, and Jesus Christ!

Toss references to Cézanne, Jelly Roll Morton, Fred Flintstone, Yosemite Sam, Humpty Dumpty, Harry Houdini, Patty Duke, Star Wars, Club Med, Kangol and Puma into the mix and you start to realise just what the Boys are doing. They're tagging their tunes! "High Plains Drifter" invokes Clint Eastwood's lone ranger, Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Steve McQueen, Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle and Dirty Harry in its dexterous deconstruction of gangsterism. And "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" is a metallic rap rock knockout that gives Die Hard, Rambo, Son of Sam and A Clockwork Orange a shout out to map a history of Hollywood violence that packs this deliriously conscious punch: "Get hip don't slip knuckle heads/Racism is schism on the serious tip".

And all the while producers The Dust Brothers spit 'n polish up rap, hardcore, lounge, deep funk, classic rock, soul, disco, country, Bernard "Hitchcock" Hermann movie scores, soul jazz grooves and...duelling banjos? Uh-huh. Basically when you stop dancing best you bow down and give thanks because for better or worse, if it weren't for these three beastly bastards and their spaceship full off alien abductors there would be no Eminem, no Beck, no Gnarls Barkley, no Max Normal, no Simpsons, no Tarantino, no Nando's ads and no molecular gastronomy.

Damn. No wonder Public Enemy's Chuck D was later quoted in a VIBE interview as saying that the "dirty secret" among the black hip-hop community at the time of release was that Paul's Boutique had the best beats.

P.S. Trainspotter's can decode the entire sample treasure trove here.
Some musical mysteries are best explained by alien conspiracy theories, like Michael Jackson's dysmorphia or Beyonce's breasts. Then there's the question of how the Three Stooges of rap, a crew of pale-faced, skinny Jewish goofballs with a penchant for parading an inflatable penis around and inspiring youths to dismantle VW Beetles made one of the most seminal albums of the last century.

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black moses 2009/08/25 1:11 PM
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Some crazy stuff. What were these wiggas smoking?
Best eva 2009/08/26 9:22 AM
im 34, this album , i had to import to my Traxx music store which was at the old absa bank in cape town city. Defined my whole outlook on life and made me realize just how totally fucked up one can be and a complete genius, Definately one of hip hops most under-rated album Ever, with more street knowledge than barney the dinosaur
Best eva 2009/08/26 9:28 AM
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im 34, this album , i had to import to my Traxx music store which was at the old absa bank in cape town city. Defined my whole outlook on life and made me realize just how totally fucked up one can be and a complete genius, Definately one of hip hops most under-rated album Ever, with more street knowledge than barney the dinosaur
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