It’s a fact: Since the mid-’80s, Michael Diamond (Mike D), Adam Yauch (MCA), and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) — you know, the Beastie Boys — have played an integral-yet-intricate role in New York’s hip-hop scene. Originally a burgeoning act in underground punk circles, the loud-mouthed, Jewish-born rappers eventually became renowned for their expert use of sampling techniques (1989’s Paul’s Boutique), landmark party records (1986’s License to Ill, 1992’s Check Your Head), and unwavering hometown appreciation (2004’s To the 5 Boroughs). Over three decades later, the Beastie Boys remain ever vigilant.
Case in point, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Seven years in the making, the Beastie’s eighth studio effort finally starts the next chapter in the group’s story. Undeniable funk and Beastie roots dig deep, and if the old-school methodology here doesn’t scratch nostalgic, perhaps this might: A couple weeks back, the three streamed their new LP online…from a boombox placed in the center of New York’s Madison Square Garden. Statement or not, it certainly set forth the right vibes — and in light of Adam Yauch’s recent battle with cancer, those pleasantries couldn’t be more welcome.
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two does precisely what everyone hoped it would do –rekindle the spirit of early Beasties, a concept given vibrant, satirical new life by the recent star-studded comedic short film, Fight for Your Right Revisited. As a sonic vehicle, the latest effort combines techno fringes and microphone fuzz (“Say It”), cultural eclecticism courtesy of Santigold (“Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win”), the lyrical bombardment of Check Your Head (“Too Many Rappers [New Reactionaries Version]”), and a strange brew of punk rock and funk grooves that receive an appropriately retro ’80s glaze (“Lee Majors Come Again”, “Long Burn the Fire”, and “Make Some Noise”).
This may or may not fully explain the artwork, which seems to have an 8-bit Ninja Turtle Raphael lodged in its top-center. Atari rendering of the river separating NYC and Jersey City, perhaps? A Rorschach test scrambled by the legendary final level on Pac-Man? Oh, well.
Our previous decade comes harmoniously filtered through white noise on an old analog TV, then remixed via synthesizer for an express purpose of “takin’ it to the house” in slow motion (“Nonstop Disco Powerpack”, “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament”). Astoundingly, age has appeared to leave the Boys unscathed on record; they remain boastfully hostile and vocally on-point, wall of sound distortion and static be damned (“OK”, “Here’s a Little Somethin’ for Ya”). Admittedly, a few echoing effects could have been lobbed off in favor of actually being able to sing along, but when your primary demographic can be tempted to get off of its collective ass and dance…what’s to argue? It’s the Wii Fit of throwback hip-hop albums!
Every ounce of Hot Sauce spectacle comes from so many ridiculous angles, it’s a wonder that a single arbitrary reviewer could just throw words about it onto one page (and thanks to the Boys, you can still absorb the Sauce yourself in full, right here). There are funky beats for hip-hoppers above everything else, enough noise and wax playability for DJs and Garage Band enthusiasts, and in the midst of it all, fellow New Yorker Nas gets a guest spot on “Too Many Rappers” that makes impeccable sense.
There are minor flaws, such as superfluous intermissions “The Bill Harper Collection” and “The Larry Routine”, a cliche flourish titled “The Lisa Lisa/Full Force Routine”, and one-time contender for titular track, “Tadlock’s Glasses”. Thankfully, these take up so little space that a delightful 40-plus-minute running time of pure, unadulterated Beastie Boys excellence remains in the foreground. To elaborate on MCA’s lyrical awesomeness: “Party for your mother-fuckin’ right to fight! Make some noise if you’re with me!”
Dedicated to Adam Yauch, survivor — here’s your gratitude, direct from a fan.