Review Summary: A mind-bending, genre-defying classic deserving of all the praise it receives… and then some
The year of 1989 was the height of the sampling era in hip-hop and it produced three great albums: De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising,
Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
and the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique.
Public Enemy’s album has been considered by many as the best hip-hop album ever made but Paul’s Boutique
reaches further than hip-hop and is simply one of the best albums ever, regardless of genre.
After the incredible success of their debut Licensed to Ill
the Beastie Boys parted ways with their label Def Jam and moved from New York to Los Angeles. There they discovered the dense mash-ups of the Dust Brothers, a group of DJ’s whose claim to fame at that point was Tone Loc’s ‘Wild Thing’. The Dust Brothers were working on an instrumental album and the Beastie Boys thought that it would be the perfect backdrop for their sophomore album. As busy-sounding as these mash-ups were, the Beastie Boys and the Dust Brothers managed to create an incredible kaleidoscope of sound where several seemingly random sounds are pieced together perfectly to create an amazing album. When looked at the pieces separately there is no way that it should work but somehow all the intricate layers are put in the right place to create something that wouldn’t be matched until DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing,
seven years later.
The production doesn’t just serve as a canvas for the Beasties to rhyme over, it is woven into the actual rhymes themselves. On ‘Eggman’ for example they take a clip from a “Cheech and Chong” movie to complete a line: “Drive by eggings plaguing L.A. [Yo, they just caught my little cousin, ese]”
and on ‘The Sounds of Science’ they use a line from a reggae song to complete a rhyme: “Rock my Adidas, never rock Filas [I don’t sniff the coke, I only smoke the sensimilla.]”
The Beastie Boys’ rhyming style was a notch above Run DMC’s call and response on Licensed to Ill
but they step it up even further for Paul’s Boutique,
the interaction between MCA, Mike D and Ad Rock is amazing with every member coming in at precisely the right time, the actual lyrics might still be about nonsense but as goes the old adage “It’s not WHAT you say but HOW you say it.”
The final track ‘B-Boy Bouillabaisse’ is actually nine songs combined into one 12 minute epic that is a microcosm of the album: beats switching, all three MC’s taking turns on the mic and all of flowing in such a natural way. What’s astounding about the production (besides that fact that over 100 songs were sampled) is the way one sample blends seamlessly into the next, artist like Curtis Mayfield, The Ramones, The Beatles, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many others seem to coexist together no matter how different their musical styles might be, in addition to that, the Beastie Boys dig deep into their pop-culture rolodex and reference Fred Flinstone Jacoby & Meyers, Sadaharu Oh and Galileo! Both the lyrics and the beats are an assortment of ingredients thrown into the blender and resulting in perfection.
It’s cliché to say “There will never be another (insert name of classic album)” but that truly is the case for Paul’s Boutique,
there can never be another album like this, why? Because of copyright laws, the cost of clearing all the samples used on this album would simply be too high and it would be impossible to release another album like this.
is a densely structured masterpiece that reveals more and more layers upon repeated listens both sonically and lyrically. Panned by critics upon its release and considered a colossal flop commercially,(it eventually went double platinum, still seven million copies short of its predecessor) it has withstood the test of time and twenty years later, it stands alongside some of the best albums ever made, in any genre.
‘Sounds of Science’
‘Shake Your Rump’