There was a time when rap was for black people only. Rappers like Vanilla Ice and Marky Mark were the jokes they deserved to be. But there was one group of white rappers NO ONE laughed at–the Beastie Boys. I thought for my first rap-based discography ranking, I’d look at the first rap group whose album I ever bought. (Note: I’m not counting The Mix-Up because it’s an instrumental album.
1) Licensed to Ill ***** (1986) This is so different from the rest of the Beastie Boys’s catalog, it’s crazy. It’s still excellent, but don’t expect a repeat on any other album. The album has a very punk rock feel to it, with samples of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The final song, “Time to Get Ill”, gives a sample of what will close the next album, but on a much grander scale. It’s a classic of the 80’s.
Best Tracks: “Rhyming and Stealing”, “Posse In Effect”, “Fight For Your Right To Party”, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” “Slow and Low”, “Time to Get Ill”
2) Paul’s Boutique *****(1989) A Facebook friend of mine said this album is what would happen if the Beatles’s second album was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, not Please Please Me. It’s a 180 that no one expected from the boys. Everyone thought they’d do another Licensed, but they came up with a masterpiece of experimentation that they would never be able to duplicate again.
Best tracks: “Shake Your Rump”, “High Plains Drifter”, “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun”, “Shadarack”, “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”
3) Check Your Head ***1/2(1992) The Beasties returned to playing instruments for this one, and it had very few samples. But even with that approach, which emulated the debut, it was still pretty innovative at the time.
Best Tracks: “Jimmy James”, “Pass the Mic”, “So Whatcha Want”, “Namaste”
4) Ill Communication *****(1994) Another album that’s light on the samples but heavy on the instrumentation. This is the second album that hit #1. The album has a much funkier, jazzier feel than the previous ones, and features much more experimentation than Check Your Head.
Best tracks: “Sure Shot”, “B-Boys Making with the Freak-Freak”, ‘Sabotage”, “Sabrosa”, “Do It”, “Bodhisattva Vow”
5) Hello Nasty ** 1/2 (1998) This album feels like they’re just coasting along at this point. It’s not bad, but I just don’t enjoy it as much. There’s too much filler.
Best Tracks: “Body Movin”, “Intergalactic”, “Three Mics and One DJ”, “Grasshopper Unit”, “Negotiation Limerick File”
To the Five Boroughs **(2004) This one has almost the same problems as Hello Nasty, with less hooks. I just can’t enjoy this one.
Best Tracks: “Right Right, Now Now”, “Triple Trouble”, “Open Letter to NYC”
Hot Sauce Committee Pt.2 ***(2011) This album almost didn’t get released. If you’re wondering why it’s called Part 2, that’s because there was going to be a part 1 that would be released after this one, but MCA died before that album could be recorded. So this is the finale instead. The album’s not a bad one to go out on, it’s just too sad this is the way it had to end.
Best Tracks: “Make Some Noise”, “Too Many Rappers”, “Long Burn the Fire”, “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament”, “Here’s a Little Something For You”
And here’s how I rank the albums from worst to best:
7) To the Five Boroughs
6) Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2
5) Hello Nasty
4) Check Your Head
3) Licensed To Ill
2) Ill Communication
1) Paul’s Boutique
Next time, I celebrate the 50th anniversary of the debut of Genesis by ranking their albums, including the ones they recorded without Peter Gabriel!