What’s left to say about The Beastie Boys? The three Brooklynites were pioneers of Hip-Hop, dropping their genre-shaking Licensed to Ill the same year Larry Bird’s Celtics won their second NBA title. They then managed to stay incredibly popular for another three decades after, solidifying themselves as Hip-Hop Hall of Famers.
But for those just starting on The Beasties’ catalog, here are 11 Beastie tracks that demand attention first and foremost. Although, any Beasties head will maintain that picking 11 is a herculean task, and that’s true: when celebrating three of the best to ever do it, you can’t pinpoint just 11. However, it’s a start.
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1. “Sure Shot”
When the Boys dropped Ill Communication, there were at a unique point in their career. They had already made it to the mountaintop and could now expand their sound at their own leisure, which they did in droves on the album with their own live instrumentation. But, what makes “Sure Shot” so good is that the track is straight up Hip-Hop and not experimental at all. Rocking over obscure flute samples and dropping vague punchlines, this is the Beasties at their best.
2. “(You’ve Got To) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”
For the Beasties, partying isn’t simply an extracurricular activity–it’s an inalienable right. Almost 20 years later, “Fight For Your Right” remains one of The Beastie Boys’ most successful singles for its impact on both early Hip-Hop and rock ‘n’ roll music. Three dudes just wanted to f*cking party, but they ended up shaping two disparate music genres in the process.
3. “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
Almost 20 years before it became cool to celebrate BKNY, three Jewish kids decided to take it upon themselves to salute the New York City borough. This is vintage Beasties: fat drums, malicious guitar riffs and neck-breaking rhymes. “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” has become such an anthemic call to arms for Brooklyn that its prodigal son, Jay-Z, has used it frequently to open his shows. Also, Slayer cameo!
4. “Brass Monkey”
Quite simply the greatest two and a half minutes ever dedicated to a 40 ounce malt liquor beverage, “Brass Monkey” is the funky anthem that’ll play at some point on any given night at every bar around the country. It’s necessary to know even if listeners are Beastie Boys virgins. Everyone needs to know the words for that time when the bar DJ decides to throw the entire establishment into crazed, alcohol-induced scrum for more booze.
5. “Paul Revere”
The Beasties catalog isn’t just built purely on brags. True, over-the-top hubris is the trio’s schtick, but the gonzo narrative in “Paul Revere” proves MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D. could also tell an engrossing tale as well. Just don’t expect a history lesson here. We’re assuming Paul Revere didn’t hit the bar with a shotgun to his temple when he rode around Massachusetts on his 18th-century trek.
6. “Shake Your Rump”
Back in August, right before the third season of “Workaholics” premiered, Complex caught up with Adam Devine, Anders Holm and Blake Anderson to talk about their favorite albums of all time. Not surprisingly they listed The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique at number one on their list. It’s not hard to see why. The similarities between the Comedy Central and Brooklyn trios are uncanny in the “Shake Your Rump” video–not to mention Devine is a legitimate Ad-Rock doppelganger. And the raw, shit-talking bravado of “Shake Your Rump”–complete with hilarious non-sequitors and sublime rapper-to-rapper transitions–set the stage for smart-ass white kids for decades to come.
7. “Hey Ladies”
The boys’ most notable song towards the opposite sex, “Hey Ladies” masterfully interlopes 15–15!–samples to create one of the catchiest tracks off an album rife with them. It also allows listeners to grok that MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D. don’t mind whether your girl’s a “one-ton hoe” or has a gold tooth. They’re coming for her. Lock your doors.
“Shadrach” is the tour-de-force three-way lyrical gangbang that summed up the Brooklynites’ sophomore magnum opus, Paul’s Boutique: a panorama view of shit-talking at the dawn of the digital age with enough pop culture references to fill an entire section of the A.V. Club.
“Sabotage” is iconic on two fronts: its Spike Jonze-directed music video is widely considered to be one of the greatest music videos of all time and the song it portrays is equally salient. Ripcord guitars buoy a flurry of Beastie screams and bars, as the song explodes and crashes into various sonic peaks and valleys. But really, though: MCA’s faux-sideburns and mustache deserve an unimpeachable spot in the facial hair hall of fame.
Weirder is the better for The Beastie Boys. This oddball Hello Nasty single, dropped almost 12 years after their debut, sees the trio distance themselves as far from their rough-and-tumble Licensed To Ill aesthetic as possible and boasts classic non-sequitors like, “I like my sugar with coffee and cream.” Although, it never looked better on the boys. “Intergalactic”’s eccentricity and goofiness remain enduring to this day.
11. “Make Some Noise”
One of the last of the Beastie Boys’ huge singles before MCA passed away, “Make Some Noise” positioned the trio–who were all near 50 at this point–as rappers still at the top of their game. Their bravado’s still on display in this first single off 2011’s Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2, and it became recognizable enough for celebrities as diverse as Susan Sarandon and Seth Rogan to craft a 29 minute-long music video for the cut that honored the Hip-Hop elder statesmen.