My disappointment with the Beastie Boys
began in 1999, following the release of their two disc set, The Sounds of Science
. The Beasties' sole post-Hello Nasty
”, was released with this career spanning anthology and featured easily the most embarrassing rhyming I'd ever heard in a mainstream hip hop
song up until that point. The Beasties had never sounded so sounded sluggish, lazy, and old. Even more cringe inducing was the music video in which the Boys bounced on springs while dressed in full body jumpsuits. Surely, I thought, this had to be the lowest point in their career. Jump to early 2003. With war on the brain nation wide, a slew of anti-war
songs are recorded and released to the public. The Beastie Boys jump in and release “In a World Gone Mad
” and post it freely on their website. Now, I've only heard this track once, but I remember thinking that it made “Alive” sound like “Sabotage
”. Ever since then I've been hoping the band might do us all a favor and just break up so everyone could remember them in a good way. But that wasn't the case. In June, the Beastie Boys released their sixth proper full length entitled To the Five Boroughs
. With a few minor complaints aside, I can go ahead and say that my disappointment regarding the Beastie Boys has subsided. To the Five Boroughs
is a solid hip hop record that most fans of the band's previous work should enjoy.
With that out of the way, let me say why everyone won't enjoy this record. First off, this isn't Hello Nasty and it isn't Ill Communication. There are no guitars or instrumental tracks or singing. This is a straight up hip hop record and the only variance between tracks is whether the band opts for a raw old school sound or a more complex modern sound. Genre bending tracks such as “I Don't Know” from their previous release or rap/rock tracks such as “Sabotage” are absent, which may leave a subsection of fans disappointed. But if your favorite track off of their previous release was “Three MC's and One DJ”, then you will no doubt love this record. “Triple Trouble” is strikingly similar, once again putting the spotlight on Mix Master Mike with a live-from-your-garage sound. In truth, a lot of these songs sound like they could have been written during the Hello Nasty era, but what differentiates the two records is the absence of different musical styles and performers. On To the Five Boroughs, the spotlight is on beats and rhymes and nothing else. This, in itself, is fine because most hip hop records are created this way. The problem with the Beastie Boys doing a record this way is, let's face it, they can't rhyme as well as even the average MC. Listening to their first two records in the 80's and contrasting it to their newer stuff, it becomes obvious that while their styles have changed, their rhyming hasn't gotten any more or less complex. Sadly enough, in MCA's case, the rhyming has become far worse. Nobody wants to hear a lecture about the Kyoto treaty after you've just gotten into party mode. It seems that of the three, MCA has aged the quickest, both lyrically and physically, as his voice has been reduced to a low growl. Fortunately, complaints about rhyme delivery and lyrics are easy to dismiss. These problems have been around since day one and anyone who couldn't look past it would have written off the group years ago.
What attracts people to the Beastie Boys is everything else they bring to the table. The beats are still spectacular. This time they opted for a more electronic feel instead of the sampled beats they've used in previous efforts which shows they haven't stopped progressing. The production is squeaky-clean, which, for the first time, is accredited to the three MCs themselves. And of course their eccentricities and playfulness are still there. In the first track, “Ch-Check It Out”, when Mike D loses his first phrase in a fit of laugher, you know you've checked out of normal mainstream hip hop territory. The Beastie Boys have a style that few else, including artists in the underground realm, can deliver. Their attitude and charisma stand alone in a genre filled with raps about killing girlfriends and such. This is what attracts people to them now and it's what I feel attracted so many people to them in the first place.