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Published on September 13th, 2019 | by voxx

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Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Oft-overlooked EPs and remixes shine a light on the dawn of the hip-hop giants’ golden age…

To mark the release of Paul’s Boutique in July 1989, Capitol Records threw a big industry party and flew a special Beastie Boys Stars And Stripes over their LA HQ. A gesture the trio’s Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz thought entirely appropriate. “We were the multi-platinum fight-for-your-right-to-party guys,” he later said. “We truly believed we were shot callers.” Yet just two days later he strolled into Tower Records to check sales only to find the label had failed to restock the LP: “No back order, nothing. I mean, shit…”

It was an underwhelming start for what would become the group’s most celebrated record. Yet having initially failed to live up to the record-breaking impact of their 1986 debut Licensed To Ill, Paul’s Boutique rose phoenix-like to be hailed as a creative triumph, its freeform, sample-based production and dizzying linguistic flow proving a turning point, not just in the trio’s career but for popular music in the early-’90s.

It’s a story these anniversary releases come at obliquely. Released just days before Capitol’s launch event, the Love American Style EP was a snapshot of the trio’s new style, lining up raucous party-starters ‘Shake Your Rump’ and ‘Hey Ladies’ alongside dub versions that showcased the crate-digging virtuosity of newly drafted production duo the Dust Brothers, especially on the wildstyle ‘Dis Yourself In ’89 (Just Do It)’, which built a breakdance anthem from snatches of Kurtis Blow, Average White Band and Monty Python.

Playful in approach yet informed by a deep love of vintage funk, the Dust Brothers brought a fresh exuberance to the Beastie Boys after early mentor Rick Rubin’s spartan approach. Their transformation is most evident on An Exciting Evening At Home With Shadrach, Meshach And Abednego, a 25-minute EP comprised of outtakes and alternate versions that comes off like Paul’s Boutique in miniature: the louche funk of ‘Shadrach’, the reggae-tinged ‘Caught In The Middle Of A 3-Way Mix’ and self-parodic ‘Some Dumb Cop Gave Me 2 Tickets Already’, with its velour-smooth groove and tongue-in-cheek “tribute” to Barry White.

If An Exciting Evening… looks forward to the free-spirited Check Your Head, the remix packages also reissued this summer and originally recorded for 2000’s interactive Beastie Boys Video Anthology, remind how the Beasties were always connected to a wider hip-hop culture. DJ Moe Love of old-school legends Ultramagnetic MCs turns in a skewed, slow-mo rework of ‘Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun’; there’s a gritty, head-nodding take on ‘Hey Ladies’ from Indiana rap duo DJ Strictnine & Paranorm; while Stones Throw label founder Peanut Butter Wolf adds a subtle electro bounce to ‘Shadrach’.

Of course, all roads lead back to the sprawling, enthralling majesty of Paul’s Boutique itself, set for reissue on vinyl in October. For one thing, there’s a level of depth and detail no other rap album of the time could match, from the way ‘Johnny Ryall’ is an elaborate tribute to a homeless guy who lived outside Mike D’s apartment building to the B-movie narrative woven through the rolling funk groove of ‘High Plains Drifter’. Not to mention closing suite ‘B-Boy Bouillabaisse’, intended according to Mike D as a “psychedelic rap manifesto” and pinballing from beat-box workout ‘Get On The Mic’ to the block party finale of ‘A.W.O.L.’

A musical bazaar that rewards repeated exploration, Paul’s Boutique was also the pivot which saw the Beastie Boys transformed from bratty downtown punks into the multimedia-savvy stars of what would become “alternative” culture, from Spike Jonze’s iconic, fake-moustache ‘Sabotage’ video to Grand Royal magazine. Ad-Rock might have cursed Capitol and Tower Records back in the day, but Paul’s Boutique was already primed to tell its own story – of how the Beastie Boys’ future was only just beginning.

- By Jake White


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