The Beastie Boys: License to ill – [Record 21]
Licensed to Ill: is the debut album by the Beastie Boys. The album was released on November 15, 1986. It was the first rap LP to top the Billboard album chart. It was also one of Columbia Records’ fastest-selling debut records to date and eventually sold over 9 million copies in the United States.
1. Rhymin & Stealin.
2. The New Style.
3. She’s Crafty.
4. Posse in Effect.
5. Slow Ride.
7. (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!).
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.
Background: Kerry King of Slayer made an appearance on the album playing lead guitar on “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and appeared in the music video which is a parody of glam metal. The name of the song itself is a spoof on Motörhead’s No Sleep ’til Hammersmith album. King’s appearance on the track came about because Rick Rubin was producing both bands simultaneously (Slayer’s Reign in Blood was originally released on Def Jam).
The full album cover, front to back, features a Boeing 727 — with “Beastie Boys” emblazoned on the tail — crashing head-on into the side of a mountain, appearing as an extinguished joint. The tail of the plane has the Def Jam logo and the legend ‘3MTA3’ which spells ‘EATME’ when viewed in a mirror. The livery of the plane is based on that of American Airlines.
The group originally wanted to title the album Don’t Be a Faggot, but Columbia Records refused to release the album under this title – arguing that it was homophobic – and pressured Russell Simmons, the Beastie Boys’ manager and head of Def Jam Recordings at the time, into forcing them to choose another name. Adam Horovitz has since apologized for the album’s earlier title.
CBS/Fox Video released a video album of the five Licensed to Ill videos, plus “She’s on It” in 1987 to capitalize on the album’s success. A laserdisc version was also released in Japan. All versions of the CBS/Fox release are currently out of print because the rights to the album passed from Columbia and Sony Music to Universal Music Group, and also because of the acrimonious nature of the band’s departure from Def Jam Records. Until the 2005 release of the CD/DVD Solid Gold Hits, none of the Def Jam-era videos had been included on any subsequent Beastie Boys video compilations. The Solid Gold Hits DVD includes the videos for “Fight for Your Right” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, as well as a live version of “Brass Monkey” from a 2004 concert.
Reception: In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source’s 100 Best Rap Albums. It is the only album by a white hip-hop act to receive the coveted 5 mics from The Source. In 2003, the album was ranked number 217 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Vibe included it in Vibe’s 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century. Q gave the album four out of five stars, saying “Licensed to Ill remains the world’s only punk rock rap album, arguably superior to Never Mind the Bollocks…knowing that apathy and slovenliness were just around the corner.” Melody Maker gave the album a positive review, saying “There’s lots of self-reverential bragging, more tenuous rhymes than are usually permitted by law and, most importantly of all, an unshakably glorious celebration of being alive.… A surprisingly enduring classic.” In 2002, Pitchfork Media ranked the album at #41 in its list of the “Top 100 Albums of the 1980s”, despite their prior unflattering review of the album.
In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at number 16 in its list of “40 Best Albums of the ’80s”. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 12 on its list of “Best Albums of the 1980s” saying “Rife with layer upon layer of sampling, start-stop transitions, and aggressive beats, it helped transform the genre from a direct dialogue between MC and DJ into a piercing, multi-threaded narrative” and “helped set an exciting template for the future”. Eminem said the album was one of his favorites of all time and said it changed hip hop.
Commercial performance: The album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America on February 2, 1987 and eventually certified 9x multi-platinum on September 5, 2001. The single “Brass Monkey” was certified Gold for shipment of 500,000+ sales. In 2012, in the week following Adam Yauch’s death, which subsequently resulted in a surge in sales of Beastie Boys albums, Licensed to Ill reached number 1 on Billboard’s Catalog Albums chart. The album also re-entered the Billboard 200 chart at number 18.