It says a lot about the lasting appeal of Beastie Boys that their latest release, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, is the New York trio’s eighth studio album from a career that began officially as far back as 1979. Considering that hip-hop has always been something of a niche genre in the UK, it’s a testimony to the quality of the Beastie Boys output that they continue to be such a success on these shores, never mind worldwide. Is the latest album a worthy entry into the Beastie Boys discography?
The album kicks off with ‘Make Some Noise’ which hits you instantly with some old school beats and samples. As with a lot of Beastie Boys lyrics, they’re never entirely serious and in the main playful and this is no exception. The name dropping prevalent in a lot of hip-hop is of the amusing variety here as well – Ted Danson making it into the opening track. It doesn’t come much more retro than that. It’s a good solid start to the album and fans will be resting a little easier when it closes. ‘Nonstop Disco Powerpack’ promises much from it’s title, but it’s a more subdued affair than might be expected when you read the tracklist. Again, the lyrics are never that serious – how can they be when Ad-Rock is talking about “murderlising” people? It’s classic Beastie Boys and the track skips along with a sparse drum marking time while loops and samples float around in the background. Things are taken up a few notches on ‘OK’. A bass pounds it’s way through this song as the lyrics move along at pace. Again the track is punctuated by old school loops and effects while the vocals are a little grimier and on choruses, robotic sounding, evoking the Ill Communication era.
‘Too Many Rappers’ sees Nas joining the trio on what is the heaviest sounding cut on the album. The mood feels nastier and the music is bass heavy and dirtier sounding. It’s definitely an edgier feel here to this track which was originally released as a single back in 2009 and is one of the standout tracks on first listen. The song closes to a voice saying “That was dope” and there’s no arguing with that assessment. ‘Say It’ keeps the dirty, edgy feel and features a rock soundtrack to accompany the vocals. Some of the samples here are reminiscent of early DefJam, bringing to mind Public Enemy, LL Cool J and the Beasties themselves. The combination of the rocking music and the trio’s rapping works very well. There’s another guest appearance on ‘Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win’ with Santigold joining in the fun. This has a far funkier feel to it. This is more reggae than rap in places, but if anyone can pull it off it’s these guys.
‘Long Burn the Fire’ is another heavier sounding track, with the guitars and drums lending a hand, while the old school scratches, beeps and loops pop in from time to time. No prizes for guessing how ‘Funky Donkey’ may sound. It’s as it says – funky. This is a playful song in which they trio have some fun. ‘Tadlock’s Glasses’, a track that may have been the album’s name at one point, slows the pace down. There are more loops and effects in here that elsewhere and the track feels a little grimier overall. The vocal seems to echo at times and you almost get the feeling this was recorded on a submarine. The album highlight though, is ‘Lee Majors Come Again’. This is in your face madness from the outset and it’s brilliant for it. The guitars and drums fly along, while Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA keep pace effortlessly. They make it sound easy, but after almost 30 years of this, it probably is for them. There are effects and samples in here that belong on The Six Million Dollar Man, which is appropriate given the subject. “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament’ is a beautifully paced instrumental that will please many a DJ the world over. It evokes old school hip-hop whilst sounding fresh and modern.
The album ends with a rather disparate trio of songs. ‘Here’s a Little Something For Ya’ is a pretty standard sounding track. The rock band are back accompanying, while the samples and effects punctuate the track, with some of them playful sounding. ‘Crazy Ass Shit’ starts with a kid rapping “On and on until the break of dawn” before the adults pick it up. It’s a good mid tempo track that once again captures the sound of their early career and with the kids rapping over the chorus it even wins on the cute stakes. The final track of the album is a little bit of a disappointment though – a disappointment in that it’s only 47 seconds long. I’d hoped for something a bit longer to close out the album but that’s possibly just selfishness.
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is a good album. Fans of the Beastie Boys will find a lot in here that reminds them of why they first listened to the band. They capture a lot of the feeling from the early part of their career and at times they seem to let the rhymes flow without even trying. Musically there’s a lot of ‘live’ music here with guitars and drums lending a hand on a few tracks. There are the unusual pop culture references and name dropping that seems staple on a hip-hop album but what makes this and any Beastie Boys record stand out (except perhaps the post 9/11 To The 5 Boroughs) is that it’s just dumb fun. They never truly take themselves seriously and set out to have fun and make great music and while not hitting the highs of earlier albums, this is a worthy addition to their catalogue which fans will enjoy thoroughly. It’s also nice to see MCA back after his recent battle with cancer.