The 20 Best Beastie Boys Songs

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10. “Pass The Mic”
The exotic flute and MCA verse that open this track signal a new direction for the trio: a bit more introspection, but still plenty of bump to the beats.

Quotable: “Everybody rapping like it’s a commercial / Acting like life is a big commercial.”

9. “Sure Shot”
An inescapable banger in ’94. The sound of summer. Driving. With all the windows down. Who cared if the guys had gray hairs at this point?

Quotable: “I wanna say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women has got to be through.”

8. “Shadrach”
For all the inspired beat tapestries they sewed together on Paul’s Boutique, the Dust Brothers’ greatest decision might have been handing the reins to Sly & The Family Stone on this cut. And lyrically, this was like a quantum leap for the three Beasties. Biblical allusions, tight tag-team wordplay, and “equinox symmetry.”

Quotable: “If I had a penny for my thoughts I’d be a millionaire.”

7. “So What’cha Want”
The Beasties at their most nasal, which is saying something. (The vowel sounds in the song title don’t help). But one can see why this jam took off in ’92, amidst the grunge explosion. It’s distorted, spiky, and perfect for young moshers. And dig that organ.

Quotable: “I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.”

6. “Hey Ladies”
Yeah, no wonder Paul’s Boutique tanked commercially. This single, both sonically and in its accompanying video, recast America’s favorite frat boy lunkheads as a bunch of psychedelic space pimps with a disco fetish. But damned if it isn’t a masterpiece. The Beasties aren’t exactly saying anything here that they weren’t on Licensed to Ill—they still want your daughter in the backseat. But it’s how they’re saying it, with dense pop-culture asides and atop a luscious Dust Brothers beat, that makes all the difference.

Quotable: “Vincent Van Gogh go and mail that ear!”

5. “Paul Revere”
Every rap group needs an origin story, and this one is a barnburner. With perhaps a minor embellishment or two, the Beasties recall that magical day when they first met—a day of gunplay, robbery and plenty of booze, of course.

Quotable: “I did it like this / I did it like that / I did it with a Wiffle ball bat.”

4. “Intergalactic”
Just a seismic comeback single. On an album (Hello Nasty) bursting with weird tangents and bugged-out beats, this miniature space odyssey might have been one of the weirdest things on there. But it kicks like a Klingon—especially at Bar Mitzvah parties.

Quotable: “When it comes to beats, I’m a fiend / I like my sugar with coffee and cream.”

3. “Root Down”
Bass for your face. The greatest groove in the Beastie Boys’ library.

Quotable: “The original nasal kid is doing damage!”

2. “Shake Your Rump”
Bam! Right out of the gate, the first proper track on Paul’s Boutique is firing on all cylinders with a huge drum fill. It only gets juicier from there. Which part do you rock hardest to? The funky scratch guitar? The gooey synth bass? The bong hit in the middle? How about all of the above?

Quotable: “Running from the law, the press and the parents / Is your name Michael Diamond? / Naw, mine’s Clarence.”

1. “Sabotage”
Even after they became all “mature” or whatever, the Beastie Boys have always been about getting the crowd amped. And nothing in their repertoire gets fist pumping and heads banging like this raw, fuzzed-out slab of aggro-funk. A song so hard, it apparently will inspire no less a badass than James Tiberius Kirk in a few centuries.


BONUS: The Five Greatest Beastie Boys Instrumentals:

5. “Sneakin’ Out the Hospital”
4. “Sabrosa”
3. “Groove Holmes”
2. “In 3’s”
1. “Ricky’s Theme”

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