Beastie Boys

Licensed to Ill
(Def Jam)

If you are young, foolish, and know nothing, perhaps you have been wondering about all this fuss over Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys, who died on Friday after a battle with cancer. I am here to tell you: I don't know jack about music, and even I know you should love the Beastie Boys. When I heard that Yauch had died, I sat down and wept at my desk. If you've never heard them, you live in remote Siberia, and you need to know this: People are gonna tell you that Paul's Boutique is their best album, but those people are just trying to be cool, and they're wrong. Nothing can top the nonstop party of their debut album, Licensed to Ill.

I only got a hold of Licensed to Ill because my little brother had it (as usual, I was so late to the party that my kid brother got there first). I don't know how old we were exactly, but we didn't want our mom to notice its lyrical age-inappropriateness, so we always sang the line from "Fight for Your Right" that goes "Man, living at home is such a drag/Now your mom threw away your best porno mag" as "Your mom threw away your best Ranger Rick." (I still almost sing it that way every time I hear it.) My CD copy is in my car at all times, it can demolish any bad mood, and it has been the foundation of some of my favorite memories. I recently bonded with a guy I'd just met over our instant and vehement disapproval of a drunken frat bro messing up "Paul Revere" at karaoke, when we proceeded to loudly rap the song into each other's faces. I also am pretty shy on the mic at karaoke, but I will fucking kill "Fight for Your Right" any time, any place.

Lots of people have (rightly) taken issue with the misogyny on the record, including the Beastie Boys themselves, but somehow I never could get that offended. Sure, I used to fast-forward past "Girls," but it always seemed like there was something so totally harmless in their bluster. Like, obviously you are really just sitting around eating Chef Boyardee and watching Mister Ed reruns, sleeping alone, and making up rhymes. Lines like "Something's going on/And I'll probably never get it" (from "She's Crafty") and "I asked her out, she said, 'No way!'" (from "Girls") are so self-deprecating and goofy, they make the machismo bullshit feel like it's coming from a place of impotence, stripping it of most of its power.

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The Beastie Boys' ability to flip your bad mood on its ass and put a smile on your face was witnessed by the hordes of people who tested it out this weekend in MCA's memory. As someone mentioned to me on Friday night, "I was really upset [to hear that Yauch died], so I put on some Beastie Boys, and it instantly cheered me up. It's just impossible to be sad when you're listening to the Beastie Boys."

I have to give this record a "FUCK CANCER" out of 10. recommended