Better Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique vs. Licensed To Ill

On today's Criss Cross Counter Punch, Mamatulip and Chag debate which was the better Beastie Boys album: Paul's Boutique or Licensed To Ill.

Mamatulip: Whenever I hear the Beastie Boys' "Shake Your Rump," I think of my Mom and the time she came in to my room while I was blasting that song, put her hands on her hips and said, "What on EARTH are you listening to?" To which I replied, "Aw, Mom, you're just jealous! It's the Beas-tie Boys!" and collapsed into a fit of laughter on my bed.

I hear "Shake Your Rump" a lot. Paul's Boutique is one of my Top Ten Favorite Albums of All Time, and it's hands-down my favorite Beasties album ever. Paul's Boutique, for me, is one of those 'soundtrack to your life' albums; it has seen me through some of the best and worst times in my life. Yet it's not just sentimental attachment that has me digging it so much, it's the fact that it is one of the best and most important albums of the '80s, not to mention the Beasties' best album to date.

Chag: Paul's Boutique was a soundtrack to your life, eh? You'll have to tell me about your Egg Man phase some other time.

I get it. Critics have hammered Paul's Boutique into your head and everyone else's, poisoning your minds and making you think it's the best Beastie Boys album. But that honor belongs to Licensed To Ill. It's catchier, rocks harder, and is just more fun. Tell me you didn't spend a drunken high school night (or 200) with your friends sometime in the '80s, belting out "Brass Monkey" or their teenage anthem, "Fight For Your Right?" Licensed To Ill was filled with songs like these, songs that rocked, songs that celebrated youth.

Mamatulip: Oh, I spent many a drunken high school night with my friends belting out tracks from Licensed To Ill. And I totally agree with you – it's catchy, it rocks and it is, without question, a very fun album. But its status as the Beasties' smash debut meant that their next effort had to be twice as good. It had to be proof that they weren't just one-hit wonders, that they were an outfit with substance, and Paul's Boutique was. It's a stronger, more creatively in-depth album than its predecessor, rife with fresh samples, more complex lyrics and a totally unique sound. It's a great follow-up to an amazing debut album; it left no doubt that these three kids from Brooklyn were going to be huge.

Chag: It's a well-known fact that no band releases a second album that's better than their first. That's why they call it the sophomore slump. While Paul's Boutique is a great album and definitely no slump in comparison to other bands' second efforts, it's nowhere near as good as Licensed To Ill. The rock 'n roll, rough-around-the-edges production of Rick Rubin was traded in for the slick Dust Brothers.

Plain and simple, Licensed To Ill rocks harder. The album kicks off with the opening drums from Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks" in "Rhymin' & Stealin'" and concludes with Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Down By The Corner" on "Time To Get Ill." Paul's Boutique, on the other hand, starts with the very slow build of "To All The Girls" and ends with the twelve-and-a-half minute, wannabe-Abbey-Road-but-not-even-close "B-Boy Bouillabaisse."

Mamatulip: One of the (many) things that makes Paul's Boutique such a brilliant recording is the copious amount of samples laced throughout. Yes, Licensed To Ill has a lot of great riffs, but Paul's Boutique makes up for that in samples. The list is so long I couldn't possibly begin to name them all, but just off the top of my head, there's a bit Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up," the theme from Jaws, Pink Floyd's "One of These Days," The Eagles' "Those Shoes," and a host of rocking Zeppelin and Beatles tracks.

It's not just the samples that are hot on Paul's Boutique - the lyrics, as I mentioned before, are dope. Catchy. Fly. Killer. Call them whatever you want, but the lyrics in these songs, and the way they're delivered, are some of the best the Boys have to offer (and they make great Facebook statuses, if you're the kind of person who likes to post lyrics as statuses like, "Mamatulip's got the girlies in the Coupe like the Colonel's got the chickens.")

Their lyrics also make great answering machine greetings, too - Lloyd Lindsay Young's "It's a trip, it's got a funky beat, and I can BUG OUT to it" on "Mike on the Mic" was my greeting for years and it was all sorts of awesome, especially when my grandmother called.

Chag: You want to know some other kick ass samples featured on Paul's Boutique? Licensed To Ill's "Fight For Your Right" and "The New Style!"

But not only was Licensed To Ill the greatest album the Beasties ever released, it was also one of the most important rap albums ever released. Along with RUN-D.M.C.'s Raising Hell, Licensed To Ill helped introduce rap music to white Middle America, which opened the door for later acts like Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, N.W.A., and De La Soul. Who knows where rap would be today if not for the rap/rock hybrid found on Raising Hell and Licensed To Ill.

But if you want rhymes, put this one in your boombox:

"It's never old school, all brand new
So everybody catch the bugaloo flu
Not like a fever, not like a cold
The beats are clear - the rhymes are bold."

I think these lyrics from "Slow And Low" sum up Licensed To Ill rather nicely.

Mamatulip: "Riddle me this brother can you handle it
Your style to my style you can't hold a candle to it
Equinox symmetry and the balance is right
Smokin' and drinkin' on a Tuesday night"

Chag: "I'm a gangster, I'm a prankster, I'm the king of the Ave.
I'm hated, confrontated for the juice that I have."

Mamatulip: "Now rock shocking the mic as many times times the times tables
Rock well to tell dispel all of the old fables
'Cause I've been dropping the new science and kicking the new knowledge
An M.C. to a degree that you can't get in college."

Chag: "Down with Ad-Rock and Mike D. and you ain't
And I got more juice than Picasso got paint
Got rhymes that are rough and rhymes that are slick
I'm not surprised you're on my dick."

Word. So which do you prefer: Paul's Boutique or Licensed To Ill? Have your say in the comments!

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