The stakes were high for the Beastie Boys on their second album, “Paul’s Boutique.” The trio’s first set, 1986’s “Licensed To Ill,” had catapulted Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, Adam “MCA” Yauch, and Michael “Mike D” Diamond into rap’s forefront with tunes like the bratty anthem, “Fight For Your Right (To Party)”showed three white New Yorkers could steal the rap spotlight.
But the bigger question was if they were making novelty music for frat parties or were here to stay. “Paul’s Boutique” authoritatively proved it was the latter.
When it came time for “Boutique,” which came out 25 years ago today, on July 25, 1989, the Beasties had split with producer Rick Rubin and turned to the Dust Brothers. The album came with a more serious, dedicated attitude and a quarter century after its release, it is considered the Beastie Boys’ masterpiece.
So how was it received when it first came out? Here’s a look at some of the initial reviews in 1989 for “Paul’s Boutique.”
Rolling Stone gave it four our of five stars with David Handelman declaring, Yet with the dense, crafty Paul's Boutique (produced by the Dust Brothers, including Tone-Loc helmsman Matt Dike), the Beasties reinvent the turntable and prove they're here to stay. Gone is Rubin's wailing guitar (and with it, probably, the chance of a crossover hit single), but in its place is a nearly seamless set of provocative samples and rhymes — a rap opera, if you will, complete with an Abbey Road-like multisnippet medley called "B-boy Bouillabaisse." If the misogyny, hedonism and violence of the first album bothered you, the sequel shows little remorse — merely replacing beer with cheeba — but it's a much more intricate, less bludgeoning effort.”
Robert Christgau, reviewing for Playboy, noticed the sea change: “If Paul's Boutique (Capitol) doesn't jump you the way great rap usually does, it also announces that these guys aren't about to burn out on their vaunted vices--not cheeba, not pussy, certainly not fame. With Rick Rubin producing hard rock full-time, Paul's Boutique doesn't pick up on the expansive pop-metal hooks that made them rich and famous. It's not as thick and threatening as Public Enemy or as waggish as De La Soul. But the Beasties and Tone-Loc's Dust Brothers have worked out a sound that sneaks up on you with its stark beats and literal-minded samples, sometimes in a disturbing way, and while I don't hear a "Fight for Your Right," I also wasn't smart enough to handicap "Wild Thing" as the biggest rap single in history. Bearing down on the cleverest rhymes in the biz…the Beasties concentrate on tall tales rather than boasting or dissing.”
“Paul’s Boutique” peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard 200, but time has given the album a certain revered, elder statesman status among rap titles. Spin ranked it No. 12 among its 100 Greatest Albums released between 1985 and 2005; Pitchfork listed it at No. 3 on the Top 100 Albums of the 1980s, and Time Magazine named it among its “100 Greatest Albums of All TIME.”
“Hey Ladies” was the only hit from “Paul’s Boutique,” reaching No. 36, but the entire album’s influence only continues to grow.
What’s your favorite track from “Paul’s Boutique?”