Read- Def Jams from 1986. ‘Licensed to Ill’ by the Beastie Boys (30th Anniversary).





Landing like a loose lunar explosion, MTV was the only channel to view in the eighties, if you wanted to see the latest visual promotional clips on your television screen. This corporate driven commercial music channel served up a high sugar diet of colourful creativity, high rotation hedonism for high school jocks and cutesy cheerleaders. Think Rick Dees top 40 with high impact effects and you got the radio with pictures. With a predominantly white content mantra, MTV steered clear of rap music, offering the raw-edged ‘Yo! MTV Raps’, to any block jams that promised major record label returns. 

These segregated sounds were about to receive an almighty brat-attack from a trio of backward cap wearing homeboys from around the way. Discovered by the bearded rock producing guru Rick Rubin and Russel Simmons (Run DMC and LL Cool J), the Beastie Boys eagerly grabbed the microphone after banging heads in the grungy garages of NYC, making punk-rock beer noise.

Rubin brought an edgy guitar riff landscape to the bragging beats and off stage antics of these 3 MCs from the 5 boroughs.  Ad-rock, MCA and Mike D bounced rhymes off each other with an ease and brashness that had not been witnessed before, nerdy and naughty with a troublesome attitude.

‘Licensed to Ill’ was their first flight into unknown territory and crashed into the living rooms of America and the world with a long playing disregard to all that had come before. Stealing licks from Led Zepplin, riffs from Creedence Clearwater Revival and vocal samples from Mr Ed, Licensed to Ill was weirdly wonderful. Boasting beer spraying anthems, ‘She’s Crafty’ and ‘New Style’, side one went where nobody had dared to go before. It was time to get ill, with ‘Brass Monkey’ and ‘Girls’ chugging kegs of refreshing raucousness. Rewinding tales of scratching in the saddle, ‘Paul Revere’ took a backwards playing platter on a wild gallop, whilst the eternal party anthem ‘Fight for your Right to Party’ made every listener late for school the next day.

Whether it was the fold out plane crashing album cover, the treacherous turntable trickery of DJ Hurricane or the funky flow of these 3 microphone masters, the Beastie Boys shook up the traditionally super serious hip hop scene with a fresh and filthy version of rhymes from their streets and alleyways of Brooklyn.

‘License to Ill’ was my first ever CD, bought after owning and destroying at least 2 copies of the vinyl version of the album. With downloads and streams of free music flowing out of all devices, my needle never travels too far from the goofy grooves of this raw, rowdy and still really good first album from three decades ago.

Check out the original classic License to Ill ,or get a crash course in the boys' extensive catalogue with Solid Gold Hits

Dave Tucker                                   

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