Sunday, October 2, 2011

Beastie Boys - Shadrach

In the aftermath of License to Ill, many fans and critics thought that the Beastie Boys would turn out to be a one album wonder.  After all, the rock/rap album was the first hip hop LP to hit #1 on the Billboard charts, and it went on to sell 9 million units.  Furthermore, the band had a contentious falling out with Def Jam Records and Rick Rubin, their co-songwriter/producer.

After relocating to California, the Beasties decided to work with the Dust Brothers production team, and released Paul's Boutique in 1989.  Although critically acclaimed, the album landed with a decided thud.  Hip hop fans had never heard anything like it and had no idea what to make of it.  Sales were disappointing, the label stopped promoting it and MTV did not aggressively show the videos.

But gradually, fans saw the genius in the record.  Rarely is a record way ahead of its time, but Paul's Boutique could easily be considered such an album.  It is now widely viewed as one of the greatest hip hop albums ever and one of the strongest albums (of any genre) of the 1980's.

The album is so textured and varied that no one song can really do it justice, but "Shadrach" comes close -- partly because the video seems to capture the vibe of the album.  (Several critics have observed that Paul's Boutique sounds almost painted with samples.)  The song's title comes from a story in the Book of Daniel, but is also used in an old Sly Stone song, "Loose Booty," which is sampled (along with 8 other old funk and rock songs, most of them sampled so cleverly that they are hard to pick up at first.)

"Riddle me this, my brother, can you handle it?"

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