After a battle with cancer and two albums received with mixed reviews the Beastie Boys return with their highly anticipated eigth studio album ‘The Hot Sauce Committee Part 2‘. Should you believe the hype?
The short is answer is ‘Yes’. Yes, you should. The naughts haven’t been the most critically acclaimed years for Yauch, Mike D and Ad-Rock. 2004’s ‘To The Five Boroughs‘ had the full benefit of their signature back-and-forth rhyme routines and some laugh-out-loud funny lines and even though it was far from a bad album it seemed more like a throwback-rap album and slightly lacked the eclectic genre-bending and experimentation that had musically driven many of their albums. On 2008’s ‘The Mix-Up‘ however they fully embraced their musicianship and created an album full of funk instrumentals that weren’t bad either, but the effort as a whole was missing focus and most all, people were missing the spark of pure fun that accompanies their rhymes.
So now that we’ve left the first decade of the 21st century firmly behind us, their first album in this new age is released, sounding like they never missed a step. In stead of following a specific inclination they seem to cherry-pick the best parts from all of their previous albums to create a record that is another varied and exciting addition to their discography. The bass line for ‘Nonstop Disco Powerpack‘ would’ve fitted in nicely on ‘Ill Communication‘ for instance, while the Nas assisted ‘Too Many Rappers‘ wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Hello Nasty‘ with it’s hard hitting drums and synthesizer sounds handled by the crossfader. The distorted vocals and lo-fi sound of ‘Say It‘ could’ve come straight from ‘Check Your Head‘ and the guitar-driven ‘Lee Majors Come Again‘ is reminiscent of their early work from the ‘Licensed To Ill‘ era. Even the influence from the classic ‘Paul’s Boutique‘ can be felt in some of the short interludes between songs and the vocal effects of the Ohio Players-esque ‘Funky Donkey‘. Unlike some moments on ‘The Mix-Up‘, the instrumental ‘Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament‘ acts as a nice breather rather than outstaying it’s welcome.
That doesn’t mean this album is just a cocktail of sounds retreading their earlier paths. New roads are found in tracks like the deliciously dubby ‘Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win‘, on which the Beasties get on their Jamaican swag with Santigold, smartly steering clear of fake patois but diving with full abandon into the rich musical offerings of the island known as Jamrock. The splashes of synthesizer and electronics in many of the tracks add a sound to the album that enables it to stand on it’s own legs as well. Most importantly though, the guys sound like they’re having truckloads of fun with it, and the sheer joy seeps through in every track.
They’ve definitely reached middle age and have even battled cancer, a certain sign of the times if there is one, but the Beastie Boys, staying true to their name, just never seem to get old. Years from now they’ll probably become the Rolling Stones of rap, recording and touring until one of them simply drops of old age. Sure, some jokes will be made, snide remarks might be placed here and there but ultimately, we’ll all be shaking our heads saying “Damn, them Beasties still got it!”.