Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two

Let's start with superfluities: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is the Beastie Boys' most top to bottom consistent album since Check Your Head (1992). It is also their best since 1998's Hello Nasty. True, they've only released one proper hip-hop album since then - 2004's To The Five Boroughs - but it's still been about 13 years since they dropped a certified Beasties classic. We're treated to hilarious group banter, "together now" rhymes at the end of phrases, two Bob Dylan quotations, bumping keyboards, and fuzzed out mics. If this album isn't getting enough respect it's because it's too classic. The beats and music sound like they could have been made any time after 1994. And that's a good thing.

The vast majority of the tunes are produced by the Beastie Boys. The main element they thread across most tracks are how keyboards are simultaneously used as rhythmic and lead elements. "Make Some Noise," track one and the first single off the album [see video above], is a great example of this. The clavinet is tweaked and sent off galloping. When the drums kick in, they take a secondary role to the keys, and the expected musical layering in hip-hop becomes inverted. The chorus also sends an direct shout-out to Public Enemy. (The last track off their 1988 masterpiece It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back is called "Party For Your Right To Fight" and samples the Beastie Boys' own "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)". Put that together with the video send-up of their first hit, and you've got yourself an awesome post-modern mess.) Also note that this song, and throughout the album, live drums, bass, and guitar are intertwined with electronic elements.

"Nonstop Disco Powerpack" drops the keys and conjures a groove in the style as their laid-back funk from 2007's instrumental The Mix-Up. (There is a very clear reference to the beat from Spoonie Gee's 1979 single "Spoonin' Rap." The point is driven home when MCA quotes the song in his verse.) The song is an old school boast track, passing the mic from member to member while rapping about how awesome they are. MCA goes way back quoting Spoonie Gee and sending a shout-out to Afrika Bambaataa.

The Beasties take hip-hop to the future just as easily as they go old school. "Tadlock's Glasses" even sounds like post-rap. The distorted voice in the chorus and the pipe-clanging, underground sound of the keys and guitar give the tune a grungy sound. "Long Burn The Fire" is cut from the same cloth. (The reference to the song and second album by obscure Detroit rock band Black Merda [pronounced "murder"] is quintessential Beasties.) More old school references from MCA, rapping, "You're stealing my book/Like I was Grandmaster Caz." That's what Big Bank Hank from the Sugarhill Gang did in "Rapper's Delight." He wasn't smart enough to change some lyrics though, since Casanova Fly was Caz's nickname. Not surprisingly, Caz isn't listed as a co-writer and get $0 for his work in the first hip-hop smash hit. History lesson ends here.

The sweet reggae-kised jam "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win" with Santigold and "Funky Donkey" include quotations of Bob Dylan's proto-hip-hop "Subterranean Homesick Blues." They serve as great non-sequitors, yes, but they're also perfect nuggets as to what the Beasties are all about: disparate elements from across the pop culture spectrum brought together to create art. Sometimes the Beastie Boys don't succeed in that endeavor, but on Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, they knock it out of the park.

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