Released : 1994
May, 1987. New York’s infamous rap trio the Beastie Boys are on a UK tour with label mates Run DMC, despite calls for them to be deported by MP’s and other establishment figures with impeccable moral standing. Their debut License To Ill has become the first hip-hop album to reach number one at home, but in Britain they’re more renowned for their tabloid-baitingly puerile and antagonistic behaviour.
As an example, a gig at Glasgow’s iconic Barrowland is punctuated by a two-way beer showering marathon and the caged female dancers are accompanied by a large inflatable penis. It ends, early Jesus And Mary Chain fashion, prematurely after only 20 minutes – and with similar results.
Bratty yes, but a novelty act they weren’t. The trio also known as Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA had signed to Def Jam six years before; barely a teenager, Mike had met Adam Yauch hanging out in Manhattan’s punk clubs and one of their earliest gigs was opening for Kurtis Blow to an all black audience in Queens. Not exactly an overnight success but a massive one all the same, after License To Ill escaping the negative event horizon of stolen Mercedes badges, gobbing at punters and Fight For Your Right looked like mission impossible.
And yet. Having jumped ship from Def Jam, Rick Rubin and all, 1989’s funk-sodden Paul’s Boutique was the sound of a cell door being opened and by 1994 the now LA-Based threesome had a fanzine, merch emporium and label of their own, Grand Royal. They also had Ill Communication, a record which nodded as much to their hardcore roots as turntablism. At the time in the orbit of Sonic Youth and Beck, the hefty guitar chops of lead track Sabotage proved to be ace rail-grinding material.
Released in it’s wake, Sure Shot was the anithesis of the blow up dick era, with a subtle jazzy flute loop taken from Jeremy Steig’s “Howlin’ For Judy” and a kick drum that sounded like the police were trying to get in. Having done adult things like getting married (as referenced in the lyrics), there was even also a mea culpa for their collective pasts with ‘The disrespect to women has got to be through/To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends/I want to offer my love and respect to the end.’ Once boys now men, redemption of nearly every stripe was contained inside.