Pollywog Stew A collection of scrappy, and some might say sloppy punk songs written by the teenage version of the Beastie Boys (who weren't all actually boys). Years later—quite amazingly—some of these songs would be performed in sold out stadiums and arenas across the world.
Cooky Puss After hearing the three songs on this release, it might be difficult to believe that its title track—a prank phone call asking to speak with an ice cream cake—was a minor hit and its closing track was used in a British Airways commercial...without authorization from the band. The Beastie Boys sued, won, and used the money to rent a studio in NYC's Chinatown.
Licensed To Ill The B-Boys’ major label debut. If you were alive when this album was released, listening to it probably conjures up a whole bunch of good memories. Statistically, this is the first rap album to top the Billboard 200. On tour, the Beasties spark controversy; fight for their right to frolic; perform on stage with what looks like a giant, inflatable wiener; and curiously morph into the frat boys they meant to parody. Licensed to Ill also marks the last time the Beastie Boys work with Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons...and Slayer’s Kerry King.
Paul's Boutique After Rick and Russell hold out on royalties, the Beastie Boys leave Def Jam; head out west—much like The Beverly Hillbillies’ Jed Clampett—rent a house (dubbed the G-Spot) from some wealthy, eccentric old people; play ping-pong when they're supposed to be recording an album; and team up with a duo of college radio DJs best known for working with Tone Loc and Young MC. As any sane person could prognosticate, the Beastie’s sophomore album was a terrible failure, not only selling poorly, but getting panned by all of your grade school and high school buddies. Years later, it’s considered one of the greatest albums of all time. Go figure.
Check Your Head Just as perplexing as the events explained above, the Beastie Boys write rhymes in a log cabin; abandon the G-Spot to build their own studio called, G-Son; and wear sock caps in a climate that usually calls for G-strings. And, oh yeah, these multi-platinum hip-hop artists decide that they want to jam out on instruments, just like they did when they were teenagers. This time, instead of playing ping-pong, the Beasties decide it's a good idea to build a skateboarding half-pipe and a basketball court inside their studio...and to recruit their carpenter to play keyboard in the band. At the eleventh hour the Beastie Boys decide that they need to make one more song for their album to be complete and pen “So What’cha Want?.” How’s that for being clutch?
Some Old Bullshit A compilation of Pollywog Stew and Cooky Puss, with bonus snippets of NYC radio host, Tim Sommer, gushing about the Beastie Boys. His voice then appears on the band's next album, during the outro of "Heart Attack Man." MCA's golden retriever, Samson, graces the album cover. (Not to be outdone, Mike D's dog Rufus later appears in their music video "Sure Shot," while Adrock is scampering around with his canine pals, Laver and Julius, on "5 Piece Chicken Dinner" featured on the home video Sabotage.)
Ill Communication The lone time in Beastie history fans are given the luxury of only having to wait two years between studio albums. During the summer of 1994, the Beastie Boys drop jaws at Lollapalooza, while the Smashing Pumpkins begrudgingly close out each night as excited Beastie Boys fans sprint out of amphitheaters towards their car stereos to keep the party movin'. Though the Beastie Boys prove to be the best live act in the land, most people remember this period as the-time-the-Beastie-Boys-dressed-up-as-‘70s-cops-and-made-one-of-the-most-critically-acclaimed-music-videos-of-all-time. (No diss on “Sabotage,” but the dance moves in “Sure Shot” are better.)
Aglio E Olio Eight hardcore numbers clocking in at around 11 minutes. The album's artwork—the Beastie's fourth consecutive in a black-and-white motif—probably took even less time to create. Because the internet is still young, and because there isn't a lot of publicity behind the album (named after an Italian pasta recipe), this is probably the only Beastie Boys' album to make it to record stores before diehard fans, which is why it's one of the greatest Beastie treats of all-time. Oddly enough, the band Quasar—who bears a striking resemblance to the Beastie Boys—loves playing these songs live.
The In Sound From Way Out A collection of Beastie Boys' instrumental jam-outs that curiously keeps the lone, one-word lyric of "Pow" and the chanting Buddhist monks in "Shambala," while excluding the vocals of "Lighten Up" and the poetry in "Namaste." Regardless, it's great dinner music and a fun way to trick your guests into thinking that you like other bands besides the Beastie Boys.
Hello Nasty Apparently DJ Hurricane lost clout, because he is replaced on turntables by Mix Master Mike, who also has an entire song dedicated to him. The bitterness of old-school fans is washed away when they witness the nimble fingers of Michael Schwartz, adding another dimension to the Beastie Boys’ live show. And speaking of other dimensions, the biggest hit from this disc is a throw away track from Ill Communication. At the insistence of a friend, Adrock dusts off an old intergalactic hook—as well as an old Licensed To Ill hook (drrrrop!)—and borrows Mike D’s vocoder to piece together a song that would eventually win a Grammy. Ten years later the rest of the hip-hop community follows suit—creating every hook through a vocoder—proving once again that the Beastie Boys are always ahead of the learning curve.
The Sounds Of Science Not a greatest hits album by record label standards, but a greatest hits album by Beastie Boys standards: Two tracks from Country Mike; Biz Markie covering Elton John; a b-side about romancing an 80-year old woman; a song done in limerick; and a new single/music video where the Beastie Boys snuggle into fuzzy costumes inspired by Sesame Street's Elmo and Mike D slinks into a Shazam costume (where he comically hides a bagel on his person).
To The 5 Boroughs Even the Beastie Boys realize that six years between albums is a long time to make their fans wait. Not only does promotional material lovingly tease: The hiatus is back off, again, but the Beasties urge their fans to “stay patient” in one of the many rhymes featured on their all-hip-hop TT5B. The B-Boys even concoct a story—dramatized in their music video “Triple Trouble”—about being kidnapped and held captive by Sasquatch for the last half decade. Is it true? Hard to say, but the Beastie Boys' live show is as enjoyable as ever, and little did Mike D know that his index finger would steal the spotlight during performances of “Ch-Check It Out.”
Solid Gold Hits Unlike The Sounds of Science, this is a greatest hits by record label standards. Besides the tracks getting a mastering tweak, so the collection sounds consistent, Beastie Boys' fans don't get anything they don't already own. If you wanna get technical though, mix-tape masters of the past will tell you that "Intergalactic" is free of Biz Markie's song-ending freestyle heard on Hello Nasty; "Root Down" starts cleanly, with a clear separation from Ill Communication's "Bobo On The Corner;" and "Sure Shot" and "Ch-Check It Out" are featured without their sampled-intros. The limited edition package also gives fans the first chance to own three To The 5 Borough's music videos on DVD.
The Mix Up In 2007 there's this rumor on the internet saying that the Beastie Boys’ new studio album is going to be all instrumental. Turns out it's true. Keeping with the instrumental theme, on various tour stops the Beastie Boys play their instrumental tunes as well as their beloved hip-hop numbers on, well, instruments. If Kool Moe Dee were still doling out grades, he would surely give the Beastie Boys an “A” for sticking to themes.
Hot Sauce Committee, Part 1 Although it’s only been two years between studio albums, the wait feels longer just because it’s been five years since we’ve heard voices on a Beastie Boys' album (although if you listen closely enough to The Mix Up you can hear some loose Beastie chatter). Months leading up to the album, MCA is diagnosed with cancer, and the release is put on hold. No need for rhymes about “staying patient,” because album release dates don’t seem so important at the moment.
Hot Sauce Committee, Part 2 In a move that would have Sir Stewart Wallace call them "cheeky buggers," the Beastie Boys announce that they're going to release HSC, Pt. 2 prior to releasing HSC, Pt. 1. For all intents and purposes—besides the exclusion of three tracks (two of which appear on the deluxe version); new artwork; a production manicure from Frenchman, Philippe Zdar; and a shuffled track list—HSC, Pt.2 is HSC, Pt. 1: A collection of Beastie jam-outs—harkening back to the G-Son days—doused in signature Beastie rhymes that are as rough ("I've got shark's teeth so I can bite your head"); entrepreneurial ("Opened up a restaurant with Ted Danson); and hilarious/perplexing ("The proof is in the pudding and the pudding's in my pants") as ever.