What with all of this “Fight For Your Right Revisited” hoo-ha, it appears as if the Beastie Boys are coming to terms with the full arc of their career. For the Beasties, their first mega-smash hit used to occupy the same cultural dead zone as the Star Wars Christmas Special: Yes, of course it existed, but you weren’t going to get them to admit it.
But now, with an increasingly long lag time between albums and Adam “MCA” Yauch’s health issues throwing the group’s future into doubt, maybe it’s time to settle old scores.
So, in honor of both the Boys hitting the quarter-century mark and this week’s release of Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2, Paste presents our 20 favorite Beastie Boys tunes of all time. Plus: 5 instrumentals!
With a catalogue so deep, exclusions abound. Flame wars may commence in the comments section!
20. “An Open Letter to NYC”
The limp To The 5 Boroughs was a big letdown when it came out. Well, except to Rolling Stone’s editors, who apparently appreciated all of the jabs at good ol’ Dubya. But “An Open Letter” works as a passionate aural collage and tribute to the Beasties’ hometown. Ostensibly, the song is a post-9/11 pep talk. But it’s more a portrait of the Big Apple as three men once knew it, and the ideals that the city still represents.
Quotable: “Dear New York, / I know a lot has changed / Two Towers down / But you’re still in the game.”
19. “Skills To Pay The Bills”
Okay, enough serious crap. Here’s the Beasties doing that three-headed braggadocio thing we all love so much on this non-album track.
Quotable: “I’m selling sex rhymes by the pound.”
18. “The New Style”
Maybe it’s because MTV played them to death, but I have little love for the big singles on Licensed To Ill. It’s like listening to three junior high school boys grunt over bad hair metal. Give me this instead, any day: a hard, skeletal beat, with each Beastie jockeying to out-schlock the others.
Quotable: “I’ve got money and juice, twin sisters in my bed / Their father had envy so I shot him in the head.”
17. “Professor Booty”
Because they have such beautiful chemistry collectively—and such interchangeable flows individually — there aren’t a lot of Beastie Boys songs like this one: each guy gets a verse all to himself. Adrock riles up the crowd, Mike D plays the easygoing philosopher, and MCA absolutely grinds rival MC Serch down to the cuticles.
Quotable: “Professor… what’s another word for pirate treasure?”
16. “The Move”
A live favorite. That harpsichord interlude is such a double-take moment for first-time listeners.
Quotable: “I don’t mean to brag / I don’t mean to boast / But I’m intercontinental when I eat French toast.”