Despite monster sales of the group’s 1986 debut, License to Ill—the first hip-hop album to top the Billboard 200—many critics dismissed punks-turned-rhymers Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA as loutish frat-boys fixated on sex and booze. A segment of their fan base loved them for those very reasons, and while the Beasties were, on some level, playing characters, it was a blurry line between what was irony and what was genuine youthful idiocy.
With Paul’s Boutique—released 25 years ago today, on July 25, 1989—the Beasties set out to clarify things. The album arrived at a pivotal time for the trio. They’d parted ways with their label, Def Jam, and landed in Los Angeles, light years away from their beloved NYC home. Instead of giving the world another “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” or “Brass Monkey,” they hit the studio with the Dust Brothers, a little-known production duo with a mix-and-match, Franken-funky approach to sampling. This partnership wasn’t going to yield any major hits, and that was precisely the point, but it did sell tons of concert tickets.
Their production team provided some of the best samples ever on wax – from the Ramones to the Funky 4+1. The title is a goof on Abbey Road, which was Paul McCartney‘s boutique; like that LP, it stitches together song fragments in a way rarely seen before or since. Revisit the timeless album below.