Before you read another word about the Beastie Boys’ new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, we need to take a moment to truly recognize who we’re dealing with. Forget being one of the first white rap groups in hip-hop history, the Beastie’s were one of the first rap groups period. The Boys started making music when hip-hop was still considered a passing fad, before there was even a hip-hop industry (aka “the game”) – hell, they’re as responsible as anyone for turning Def Jam into a force. Every step along the way, from their …
DJBooth Album Review
There, now that we’re all on the same page we can proceed with Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. For the record, there is a Hot Sauce Committee Part One album, but even after years of work the album wasn’t quite sounding like they wanted, so they simply released Part Two first. Did that make any sense? Don’t worry, most of what the Beastie's do doesn’t make sense, the trick is to stop worrying and enjoy the ride. Coming almost seven years after their last full album (not counting the purely instrumental The Mix-Up) HSC2, as I’ll be calling it from now on, won’t go down as one of the Beastie’s best, but especially considering MCA’s battle with throat cancer, it’s a survivor album, an announcement that the group’s still alive and not ready to fade into hip-hop’s background anytime soon.
The Brooklyn trio has been moving into more experimental territory for years, increasingly straying from even the off-beat catchiness of Ill Communication, and HSC2 is even less concerned with pleasing the masses than anything they’ve released previously; and rightfully so. After this many years and this much success, if you’re not just making the music you want to, sales be damned, what are you doing? Just take Tadlock’s Glasses which, in addition to an enigmatic title, sounds like it was recorded, buried than unearthed by aliens 700 years from now, or the aptly named Crazy A** S**t, which in typical fashion finds the Boys dropping rhymes about smoked salmon and head cheese over a constantly shifting beat. Even single Don’t Play No Games That I Can’t Win, with its reggae foundation and catchy chorus from Santigold should be more easily accessible, pushes boundaries, pausing to explore jazz horn bridges and destroying the verse-hook-verse-bridge-hook formula. In an era where hip-hop has taken on the smoothness of pop, HSC2 remains defiantly distorted.
We may be a long way from Brass Monkey – actually, here we get the almost P Funk-esque Funky Donkey - but HSC2 isn’t entirely in orbit. Lead single Make Some Noise is something b-boys could rock over and lyrically its one of the album’s most telling cuts, with all three emcees acknowledging their mortality while still remaining as boastful as ever: “I burn the competition like a flamethrower / My rhymes age like wine as I get older.” On the same tip Long Burn the Fire is the project’s most head-noddable effort, riding on a pouncing beat and filled with lines that will reward true hip-hop scholars. (If you get “you’re stealing my books like I was Grandmaster Caz” than you’re as big of a rap nerd as I am. ) And Too Many Rappers somehow manages to bring on Nas and make him sound nice over a electronically schizophrenic beat. Nothing on HSC2 comes easy, but an album shouldn't give up all its secrets on the first listen.
As much as I respect the Beastie Boys for continuing to push the boundaries of their music as an 80s baby I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the good ol’ days when the Beastie Boys were wildly energetic and consciously hilarious, and by that measure HSC2 just won’t fully satisfy those of us who still rhyme along to every word of Paul Revere. But the Beastie Boys have always been about breaking the rules, and with that in mind HSC2 is a natural step in their trajectory. You may not love this album, and I’m not sure I do, but you do have to respect it.
Listen to More: Beastie Boys Written by Nathan S.
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