In 1989 when Paul's Boutique first came out, critics and listeners were quick to dismiss the record as a disaster. They all thought, "What the hell is this ***?", "This isn't Licensed to Ill!", and a bunch of "Just as expected". People falsely anticipated a weak follow-up to the punk rock rap classic, Licensed to Ill. It's hard to believe that three so-called MCs can ever make a great follow-up given the fact that they sound like pranksters and they're upper class whites. Plus, the umpteen number of samples all were produced in a dense sound that didn't fall in favor with those rap fans expecting something loud from their speakers.
20 years later, Paul's Boutique is one of the greatest rap albums ever made. Scratch that. One of the greatest albums ever made regardless of genre.
Paul's Boutique is truly one of the most unique experiences of hip hop ever. It uses sampling, one of the cornerstones of hip hop (even if it is fading today). Yet it does it in a completely original style. Compare the album to It Takes A Nation of Millions by Public Enemy. Both albums had a unique sound based on sampling and both are considered among the greatest albums ever made. Aside from the super-obvious differences (It Takes A Nation was more political and commercially successful while PB was more braggadocio and less commercially successful at the time of its release), the sound and the feel of both albums are entirely different (obviously... LOL). It Takes A Nation was loud and abrasive with its "cut-and-paste chaos" use of sampling that made it bizarre yet incredibly fun. PB, on the other hand, combines its samples in a way that creates a whole new beat and feel. The dense layering creates an entirely new experience and a more complete sound. And the samples are more synchronized making the samples seem more subtle at times rather than the "in-yo-face" type of Public Enemy's records.
The producers of PB, the Dust Brothers, take great advantage of outside sources as the album samples almost everyone from Sly & the Family Stone to Johnny Cash to Led Zeppelin to the Beatles. Yet, like I said, they are sampled in the most inconspicuous ways. It takes a few more listens and more thinking to realize which artists and which songs were sampled. It makes the appeal more lasting and the feel more fun. The innovation of the album's sonics is pure genius.
But it isn't just the sound. Beastie Boys drop so many pop culture references and celebrities, it's easy to lose interest. Yet the Beastie Boys do it with uncompromising flair. They sound less like pranksters than like three MCs having a good time. From lines like "MC to a degree that you can't get in college" to "I got more hits than Sadaharu Oh", the Beastie Boys are more charged and skillful in their lyricism while still retaining the idiot humor and glee that made License to Ill so accessible.
But screw License to Ill. That album now looks like fast food compared to the sonically refined and more worldly cuisine of Beastie Boys' later works. So, Paul's Boutique was all that Beastie Boys haters wanted and anticipated in 1989. Of course, it would take sometime before they realized it was truly far beyond what they expected of a Beastie Boys record.
Sound: 10.0/10 Flawless production with such unique, dense, and wholesome use of sampling
Rhymes: 10.0/10 Best of the Beasties