Cancer be damned, the Beastie Boys are going to continue making music. When Beastie Adam Yauch indicated in 2009 that he did, indeed, have the disease, all hopes for their album’s 2009 release — which would become 2011’s Hot Sauce Committee Part II — were instantaneously abandoned. So, too, were hopes for another record chalk full of spit-in-your-face braggadocio, bong rip samples and their all-encompassing boom-bap funk. However, this past spring fully bloomed with the news that the three Brooklynites would be releasing the aforementioned project. Although the whimsicality of Hot Sauce’s release snuck up unexpectedly for most, generations of fans can finally proclaim, “La heim!” The merry pranksters are finally igniting verbose firecrackers over wax again.
As is the Beasties’ specialty, the energetic opening track, “Make Some Noise,” ushers in their characteristic bombastic sonic aesthetic. The whirring mechanical nature of the beat accentuates the guys’ fluidly alternating bars. Lines such as, “I burn the competition like a flamethrower/my rhymes age like wine as I get older,” show that the Beasties haven’t lost that narcissistic edge even as they enter their fourth decade as a group. The sparse sampling of “Nonstop Disco Powerpack” sounds like it could be a lost b-side to Paul’s Boutique, while the fervent punk-rock energy of “Lee Majors Comes Again” pummels and marauds like fellow rock-inspired Beasties classic “Sabotage.”
However, it’s tracks such as “Say It” and the Santigold-featuring “Don’t Play No Game I Can’t Win” that really define Hot Sauce. Unlike the group’s earlier records, the trio’s wordplay plays an almost secondary role to the sumptuous textures of the beats. Not that there is anything wrong with this adherence. “Say It” plays like a dying Decepticon, full of chaotic drums and effects, while “Don’t Play No Game I Can’t Win” has a worldly splash of horns and dub-infused warp. As evidenced in both tracks, vocoders muffle the better part of each MC’s verse, letting the production take charge.
Although Hot Sauce’s instrumental-heavy track listing is its blessing and its curse. Fans looking for the traditionally loquacious trio will leave the album slightly disappointed, as its 16 songs reminds listeners of the three’s — for lack of a better term — “interesting” 2007 instrumental LP, The Mix-Up. “Long Burn the Fire,” “Funky Donkey” and “Tadlock’s Glasses” all meld together in a sort of rumbling, industrial mirth, only to be broken by the aforementioned “Lee Majors Comes Again.” Not that the group’s faux-punk anthem completely keeps it from experimental jam-rap territory. “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament” goes sans-vocals and is cool filler material; however, it begs the questions: without smoking apparatus in hand, is it interesting enough to beg for repeated listens? And is the album too eclectic for its own good?
It’s hard to say. Fans who are looking for the second coming of Licensed to Ill might find themselves scratching their heads at Hot Sauce Committee Part II. However, Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D know damn well that this album is not for those 1980s nostalgia junkies. This album stands as a testament to the originators of experimental, almost avant-garde Hip-Hop. They might be going on the half-century mark, but this is an album befit for the varied generations of music aficionados they consider fans. With an open mind, it’s an agile, fluid assembly of modernized scratches and sounds, with the necessary verbal intercourse padding its tonal grandiosity. It’s this malleability that has made the Beasties a force to be reckoned with over the years and gives weight to Yauch’s line, “Yo, I been in the game since before you was born/I might still be emceein’ even after you’re gone.” The strangest part is, he may very well be right.