It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since the Beastie Boys’ Hello Nasty dropped. The single “Intergalactic” came, went, and that was that. Shortly afterwards, MCA became a peace-loving monk, and the band released their dual DVD Video Collection with all the curse words bleeped out of it. It appeared that the b-boys had gone and grown up on us.
Fortunately for fans such as myself, 2004’s To The 5 Burroughs finds the boys in top shape. Any rumors that the boys have grown soft over the years should be squelched by the amount of shit’s, goddamn’s and motherfucker’s that appear throughout the album (starting during the chorus of the album’s first single and opening track, “Ch-Check it out”).
Musically, TT5B is already one of my favorite Beastie Boys albums. The beats are simultaneously new and old. Unlike Paul’s Botique, the boys manage to tastefully mix beats, samples and hooks without delivering information overload. Gone are the live rocking performances of from the Ill Communication/Check Your Head era — TT5B’s sound is completely hip hop. The multiple samples that appear throughout the album will test even the most scholared rap fan’s trivia knowledge.
Lyrically, the Boys are still on top of their game as well. It will take fans several spins to unravel the tounge-twisters and multiple messages of the album. Balance is the key, and the Beastie Boys (along with acts like Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine) have mastered the art of delivering heavy messages in tasty packages — so much so that listeners may barely notice lines like “George Dubya’s got nothing on we/we got to take the power from he” nestled into “That’s It That’s All”.
The Beasties are most mature on “An Open Letter to NYC”, a song that addresses the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as well as the rebuilding and general pride of New Yorkers. Don’t don’t let that fool you; tracks like “The Brouhaha” and “Rhyme the Rhyme Well” are pure fun, while tracks like “3 the Hard Way” and “Hey Fuck You” give back a little of that New York attitude.
To The 5 Burroughs couldn’t be any more perfect. It’s this generations’ Licensed to Ill.