Great Rock/Metal Albums of 1987: Beastie Boys- Licensed to Ill

Aerosmith’s collaboration with rap group Run DMC on “Walk This Way” not only helped to rejuvenate Aerosmith’s career but it opened a path for rap music to be accepted by white American listeners. Before this, rap had a bad rap in middle class white suburbia on two counts. First, the religious groups cited the highly sexualized lyrics in some rap song but on top of that, many racists pushed the myth that rap music was all about encouraging black people to rise up and murder all white people. If the “Walk This Way” collaboration didn’t dispel this myth, then the debut album, “Licensed to Ill,” from the Beastie Boys definitely did.

Even before the album came out, I remember seeing a brief interview with the Beasties Boys who made the claim that they were the ‘white boys of rap.’ At the time, I found that statement amusing. However, it was when they played the first big hit, “Fight For Your Right” at the local Friday night metal spot, where I discovered them in true form. That song was groundbreaking in a lot of ways, especially remembering how metalheads all got into the song. It was the same with the second single, “No Sleep till Brooklyn,” which the band claim is a parody of Motorhead’s “No Sleep to Hammersmith.” Both of the songs put the genre we now call ‘rap metal’ on the heavy metal map. The fact that Kerry King of Slayer played guitar on both tracks might have had something to do with it as well.

“Licensed to Ill” is nothing short of one big rap metal party. The Beastie Boys have a unique rap style which sets them apart, even after all these years. The lyrics in the songs don’t take themselves seriously. One track, which I wasn’t sure of at first, “Slow Ride,” is a classic example. Lyrics seem to be about about forgetting the hassles of school and work and just getting down and partying. I like how they throw in lyrics from other famous tunes in. On this particular track, they swipe a line from Steve Miller Band’s hit, “Take the Money and Run,” where they “get high and watch the tube.” Furthermore, on the track, “Posse in Effect,” they sing they’re smoking in the boys room. Gee, I wonder where they got that from.

As always the case with me, I have discovered hidden gems. The two which really stick out are “She’s Crafty” and “Girls.” I can’t explain why but I really like them. Maybe with “She’s Crafty,” it’s about being with a woman who’s manipulative but you don’t want to end the relationship with her. I was with someone like that many many years ago. Another song, which was released as a single, is “Paul Revere.” Warning, this is not a historical tribute to the man who rode through Massachusetts in 1775 shouting, “The British are coming!” It’s about a guy travelling around looking for a place to drink beer. That and the other tracks are simply the sense of humour that is the Beastie Boys.

Track Listing:

  1. Rhymin’ and Stealin’
  2. The New Style
  3. She’s Crafty
  4. Posse in Effect
  5. Slow Ride
  6. Girls
  7. Fight For Your Right
  8. No Sleep till Brooklyn
  9. Paul Revere
  10. Hold It Now, Hit It
  11. Brass Monkey
  12. Slow and Low
  13. Time to Get Ill
Beastie Boys

Mike D- vocals, drums

MCA- vocals, bass

Ad-Rock- vocals, guitar

Additional Musicians

Kerry King- guitar on tracks 7 and 8

Nelson Kreene Carse- trombone

Danny Lipman- trumpet

Tony Orbach- tenor saxophone

“License to Kill” had a huge impact on the metal world. For one, it meant that even rednecks could listen to rap music and enjoy it. As for the rest of the world, metal or not, it was just a fantastic album all could get into.

Next post: The Cult- Electric

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18 Responses to “Great Rock/Metal Albums of 1987: Beastie Boys- Licensed to Ill”

  1. Oh man. This was like an atom bomb on our school playground

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is the only Beastie album I have. Great one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yup, now we’re talkin’!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sadly I only have Ill Communication. Need this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved this LP so much – first place I heard all those Zep steals.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Man! This was just the ultimate thing when it arrived, raw, rocking and rapping, along with the UK media falling over themselves in outrage at the Beastie’s antics. Still have my vinyl copy plus No Sleep on 12″. And of course they went on to become one of the best bands in the world. Such a regret I never saw them live.

    Liked by 1 person

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