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Rock Hall Anniversary: Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique

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As the 1980s was reaching its end, the Beastie Boys had became estranged from original producer Rick Rubin, and their music were labeled as “frat hip hop”, and most critics had already written them off as “one-hit wonders”. But in July 1989, they would come out with an album that upon release would be a misunderstood masterpiece, but in time would be considered the group’s landmark.

The album was Paul’s Boutique, and unlike their 1986 debut album Licensed to Ill which was co-produced by Rubin, the Beastie Boys would be at the helm of the production with the Dust Brothers, who would encourage the group to experiment with multi-layered sampling, thus creating an album that would be more experimental and definitely different from their debut, as well as cross musical genres in one track.

Examples of Paul’s Boutique’s multi-layered sampling include tracks “Shake Your Rump (which sampled everything from Led Zeppelin to golden age hip-hop), “Hey Ladies” (which sampled 1970s and 1980s funk), and the 12-plus closer “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”, which had a total of twenty-four samples ranging from Run-DMC to Johnny Cash. In all, and estimated 105 samples were used on the album.

Upon released, Paul’s Boutique was considered a commercial disappointment, compared to the chart-topping and multi-platinum success of Licensed to Ill. The album peaked at number fourteen on the Billboard 200, and twenty-four on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, and initially just going gold. The album’s lone charting single “Hey Ladies” peaked at number 36 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

While Paul’s Boutique never reached the popularity of Licensed to Ill, it did out-shined the album’s critical stance. The album ranked in several “best albums” lists including those from Spin, Rolling Stone and Blender Magazines. It has been considered a critical breakthrough for both hip-hop and rock, and by the end of the 20th century, it would also be a multi-platinum album, with two million copies sold.

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