Adam “MCA” Yauch’s death today leaves a Beastie-size hole in pop music. Though the trio were not the most prolific legends on the landscape (over the course of 25 years, they released only seven proper albums), their impact has been gigantic. Starting with 1986′s Licensed to Ill, the Beastie Boys rewrote the rules for commercial hip-hop, the mainstreaming of hardcore punk, the state of sampling, and the treatment of the old school.
Licensed to Ill, one of the early full-lengths released by influential hip-hop label Def Jam Records, is often referred to as the first rap album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart. That title is a little unfair, as those sales were powered by the wildfire success of “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” — a track that many at the time considered more rock than rap.
The remainder of Licensed to Ill is pure mid-’80s hip-hop: grimy, tricky, and funny. The rhyme trading on “Fight for Your Right” was child’s play compared to the exchanges on “Hold It, Now Hit It,” “She’s Crafty,” and “Paul Revere.” Though it is hard to believe now, the Beastie Boys’ race rarely came up — in part because hip-hop was a new genre, but also because they had the legitimate skills to counter criticism.
It helped that they kept pushing the form forward on subsequent releases. READ FULL STORY