Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Get Stone Bag Trippin' While You're Doin' the Bump

Sicka Sicka Shake Your Rump!

Yes, I know that the actual lyric is "Disco bag schlepping while you're doing the bump..." and so forth, but when I first heard this album in 1996 (yeah, I came to the party late, imagine that), that was how I understood it. Even after I read the lyrics to this album, I still said it that way. Not saying I think my version is better, but more than anything, The Beastie Boys' sophomore effort is about - maybe now more than ever - what the listener can take away from the experience. All of the lyrical references and samples don't need to be known for anyone to get maximum mileage out of this, possibly the most New York of New York albums, if that's even a category.

Can you believe it's been 20 years since this was released? I'm not sure what's scarier, the fact that 20 years have passed or that I'm still no where close to tired of listening to an album almost entirely stuck in another time. Funny as it is, if you examine those samples and lyrical references that I stated don't need to be known for full enjoyment, you'll find a hip-hop album that seems obstinately intent on dating itself. Robotron, the Quarter Deluxe, Green Eggs and Ham and Yosemite Sam are all name checked at some point along with countless others and a vast majority of the samples are firmly placed in either 70s funk or old school (as it was at the time) hip hop. This approach was so far out of left field in 1989 no one would've thought that, by 1998, it would be called one of the greatest albums in rock history by Vh1 or, in 2009, that Paul's Boutique would be able to look back and see the trail it blazed so prominently. Capitol Records clearly didn't know what they had in Mike D., Adrock and MCA because this album almost disappeared on arrival. Def Jam, the label that saw The Beastie Boys conquer the world with Licensed to Ill, looks even more clueless in retrospect, because all they wanted was more of the 'white Run-DMC' sound that brought the first album to the fore.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and go track by track into why this album's a masterpiece as plenty of folks have covered this - none better than Dan Le Roy though. What I can say now is that this album pointed a new direction in how music could be made. I'm not 100% positive that this is the first album where a collage of samples is the focal point, but in conjunction with The Dust Brothers (who produced this album), The Beasties forged a path for intelligent, artistic use of sampling that has oddly seemed to gain more traction in the rock arena than in hip hop from where I sit. Look at bands like Animal Collective or Dan Deacon whose music is almost 100% sampled from somewhere or even in Matthew Herbert's or Richie Hawtin's brand of dance music. There are many more artists today using the sampler than before. Thanks to The Beastie Boys, who are probably still getting sued for the samples within Paul's Boutique given their volume - there's an addage about omeletes and eggs that fits here.

I just wanted to take a quick few moments and give a 20th birthday shout out to one of the greatest (firmly in my top 5) albums ever made. And after 20 years - just like the man says towards the end of "B-Boy Bouillabaisse," "It's a trip, it's got a funky beat and I can bug out to it."