The sonic leap between License to Ill and Paul’s Boutique is – quite frankly – insane. Freed from the shackles of Def Jam, Rick Rubin, and expectations of the fun but juvenile hip-hop of their debut, Mike D., Ad Rock and MCA, aka the Beastie Boys were able to dive deep into their influences and craft one of the best albums of all time, regardless of genre. We can certainly argue this, but you’d be wrong.
Working with the Dust Brothers, who had already created a number of dense, slippery tracks Paul’s Boutique has a quick swagger and confidence that License to Ill could never hope to achieve. Some of this is just due to how much smoother and clever the cadences are of the raps. Swapping lines fast and coming together even faster, all three are completely on point, eager to show how they could flow over much more complex beats and samples. SO MANY SAMPLES. Paul’s Boutique is a master class in how to integrate seemingly disparate samples together to weave something new. In the modern world where a song is based off of one beat and one – maybe two – similar samples, here’s something like “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” with no fewer than 24 samples.
Even better (and shorter, for that matter) is the bump-n-pump of tracks like “Hey Ladies” and maybe my personal favorite, “Shadrach.” And everywhere on every track is the reminder that MCA was the heart and soul of the group. I don’t think any one of them are replaceable, but there was just something about Adam Yauch that was untouchable. After reading the Beastie Boys Book it became even more apparent.
Anyway…Paul’s Boutique. Unbelievable.