It’s hard to believe that the Beastie Boys‘ debut album, Licensed to Ill, is celebrating its 35th anniversary today. On this day back in 1986, three Jewish white boys from Manhattan Island and its surrounding boroughs would turn the hip-hop world—and the entire music industry, for that matter—right on their respective heads.
With the origination of hip-hop less than a decade earlier in the boogie-down Bronx via legends like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa, the “Golden Age” of the genre came around the mid-80’s with acts such as EPMD, Erik B. & Rakim, Run D.M.C., Boogie Down Productions (which featured KRS-One), A Tribe Called Quest, and the likes. Hip-hop was, for all intents and purposes, strictly African-American up to this point; it was basically unheard of for any white rappers to step up to the mic, rock it, and gain the much sought after street cred.
MCA, Mike D., and Ad-Rock—collectively known as the Beastie Boys—dropped a bomb on the music industry with Licensed to Ill on November 15th, 1986. Produced by Rick Rubin, with Russell Simmons and Def Jam Recording behind them, the Beastie Boys brought hip-hop to the forefront, with an album that took Billboard‘s Number One spot from….take a wild guess….Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet (yup). It wasn’t just about “Livin’ On A Prayer” anymore; now, it was a bit more about “Rhymin’ & Stealin'”.
Tracks like “No Sleep ’til Brooklyn”, “Paul Revere”, “Girls”, “Brass Monkey”, and “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” became anthems that broke down a lot of racial barriers in the music industry and around the nation, in general, on a mass level. Not only were the cats in the hood getting down to what the B-Boys were serving up, but your average white suburbanite teen was, all of a sudden, spitting rhymes like they were the 4th Beastie Boy.
However you want to look at it, Licensed to Ill was, and still is, a monumental album in hip-hop history. The Beastie Boys went on to become one of the most celebrated groups in the genre, all while maintaining their own artistic integrity and evolving as both musicians and human beings throughout their career.
Today, we celebrate the album that flipped the script. Listen to the full album and watch some of the music videos from the LP below:
Beastie Boys – Licensed To Ill – Full Album
Beastie Boys – “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” [Music Video]
Beastie Boys – (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!) [Music Video]
Beastie Boys – “Paul Revere” [Music Video]
[Originally published 11/15/16]