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Beastie Boys 30 Year Tribute: The Sounds of Science Essays

Posted by February 19th, 2017 No Comments »

Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science
By Darren Selector, Grit Rock

I used to have a CD jukebox. It held my entire CD collection, so I could just put it on shuffle and bug out to whatever came on. It was the way I listened to music when I was at home.

A short while later I got my first CD burner, and everything changed: I started to compile my favorite music by the artists I loved. I mean, I love the Beastie Boys, but why fill the jukebox with ten of their discs when my favorite 50 songs fit onto two? I can always pull the group’s 1995 EP Aglio e Olio off the shelf when I’m in the mood for more of their punk songs.

Following the release of Ill Communication, there was a long, four year wait for the next Beastie Boys album, Hello Nasty. Considering the enormous success of both of those records, and the time that passed between them, it’s no surprise the band decided that their next follow up would be their first career-spanning “anthology.” (I use the word “anthology” since the band made it clear during the promotion of the Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science that it isn’t a greatest hits collection… it’s an anthology. I guess they figured we already had their hits… “You got the boogaloo flu and got everything the Beasties put out already? The Sounds of Science has outtakes you’ve never heard before, son!”)

I was still new to the wide wide world of webs when the Sounds of Science was released, so it seemed revolutionary that the group offered a custom made version through their website. They listed all of their album tracks and all of the b-sides from the Check Your Head era on, and they’d make you two CDs with up to 20 tracks or 80 minutes on each disc, whichever came first. I filled my discs with non-album cuts and rare remixes.

For some reason I was so nervous about making the purchase, that I waited to use my mom’s computer instead of mine. Maybe because I was scared of using my credit card online?  Looking back on it, I’m pretty sure the custom made online version of Sounds of Science was the first thing I bought via the Interwebs.

The Beastie Boys wanted to include their first Def Jam single, 1984’s “Rock Hard,” but AC/DC stood firm on their refusal to clear the sample for “Back in Black.” There was some sass mouth from the Beasties in the press about the exclusion. Similarly, because it samples liberally from the zero-licensing Beatles, I find it amusing that the song from which this collection gets its name, “The Sounds of Science,” isn’t in the set list. I went ahead and included it in my own Beastie Boys anthology collection anyway.

“Alive” by Nathan “Shaolin” Hodge

1999 in Hip-Hop will largely be remembered as the jump-off of the one of the most prolific and long running collaborations of all time between Dr. Dre and Eminem. ‘The Slim Shady LP’ came early in February and ‘The Chronic 2001’ capped off the year. Outside of that iconic pair, Jigga was just hitting his stride while No Limit and the Wu were approaching the end of their heyday. Nestled in alongside all of the high profile, spotlight reaping efforts of that year was The Sounds of Science, an anthology of the Beasties Boys’ most loved tracks up to that point. On that collection was “Alive”, a previously unreleased head knocker that became the single for the project.

“Alive” is a testament to just how well the trio can ride a rhythm, featuring the catchy chant type cadence the group had become known for on their biggest show stoppers. The beat featured a simple yet thumping bass line that was impossible for your neck to disregard. All the while listeners were getting their nod on, the Beasties were intertwining harmless boasts with calls for unity, peace, and love. It was pure, fun Hip-Hop that recalled the culture’s early years in a time when the toughest sounding artists were largely ruling the airwaves.

I remember the first time hearing “Alive” and how amped the song made me. Here were these long-in-the-tooth greybeards that were showing us young bucks they could still rock it. Hip-Hop hasn’t had a lot of those, even to this day. Frankly, there are few MC’s that maintain relevance and quality for more than a decade, much less the three that the group is approaching. And, while “Alive” called for harmony, it also served as a blackboard for the rappers of that day. The chalk read simply, “That Real New York Rap”, and that was lesson enough.

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Check Your Head essays

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