Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill

“I think Licensed To Ill still sounds brilliant. Which is weird because it shouldn’t do. It should sound like some sort of terrible 1980s anachronism. Although hip-hop became much more outrageous over the years and there were things that were much more offensive than that, I’m not sure that it ever really sounded as exciting again. That’s partly because the Beastie Boys were new and they were the first band to play Hip Hop to most people in the UK. But that’s also partly because it was the first time a lot of people in the UK had heard that music and partly because of all the stuff that was around the record – the outrage and the fact that it felt like a big cultural moment. But the record remains potent because it’s also incredibly well put together. It has an energy and enthusiasm that has never aged.”
Mark Sutherland, Journalist and Author

Licenced to Ill was the first rap album to reach number one on the billboard charts and the best selling rap album of the 1980s. The debut release from Mike D, MCA and Adrock, aka the Beastie Boys, and its subsequent tour, provoked media outrage and tabloid headlines around the world – fueled by the band’s controversial behavior. That, however, tells only half the story.

With their debut release Mike D, Ad-Rock and the late MCA pulled off one of the greatest post-modern Rock’n’Roll Swindles of all time. Licensed To Ill was actually one big fat joke. When the Beasties rapped about drinking, robbing, rhyming and pillaging, they didn’t actually mean it. The Beasties’ debut album was a cartoon controversy; a deeply intelligent, remarkably ironic marriage of heavy metal guitar and edgy rap. Created under the tutelage of Def Jam founder Rick Rubin, Licensed to Ill was a substantial piece of work. The Beasties’ humorous rapping caricatures and sampled snatches of Led Zeppelin, James Brown and Mr Ed made Licensed to Ill a groundbreaking metal-beat-box fusion.


Kerry King, Slayer / Frank Turner, musician / Mary Anne Hobbs, BBC presenter / S-Endz, Swami / Chosan, rapper / Dr Oliver Carter, Birmingham School of Media / Ben Herson, founder of hip hop label Nomadic Wax / Mark Sutherland, music journalist / Angus Batey, Beastie Boys author / Dr Paul Long, Birmingham City University / Zane Lowe, BBC Radio 1 presenter / David Cordoba, fan / Assist. Producer; Oliver Carter / Exec. Producers; Andy Ashton, Mike Walsh


I put together this audio-slideshow immediately after hearing the news of Adam Yauch. It features a few short sections of the original doc along with fan tributes and the breaking world news of ‘MCA’s’ sad passing.

As a tribute to Beasties founder Adam Yauch, aka MCA, following his death on May 4 2012, Xfm replayed an expanded version of my “Licensed to Ill” Doc (below). It featured additional info re. his illness and subsequent death – and ends with Coldplay’s (mildly controversial) tribute version of “Fight For Your Right to Party”.

Here is former Xfm’s Mary Anne Hobbs intro script to the documentary;

“It’s a great tragedy to loose a man like Adam Yauch at the tender age of 47. He founded the Beastie Boys, originally a harcore punk band, to play at his 17th birthday party. The Beasties went on to burn down every barrier… and I think one of their most significant achievements was to open up a gateway to hip-hop culture for a whole new generation. 
I had the great pleasure of having them Mix on one of my radio shows years ago. It was so funny.. they came bounding into the studios like wild little puppies.. They merrily announced that they’d never done a mix before in their lives.. but they just hurled themselves at it… jamming with the faders and crashing though the whole thing like Maniacs. It was totally brilliant… 
In later years Adam was a man not afraid to say sorry for the way in which he felt some of the band’s early work and attitudes to women had been misunderstood.. I have so much respect for a man who can say sorry… He had a great passion film and directed many of Beasties celluloid masterpieces.. videos and films. And in the later part of his life, he and the band devoted so much of their time and resources to raising awareness about the plight of Tibet.  Adam was a hero. A true hero.
He will be remembered for his great grace and humanity just as much as his musical genius…  Tonight on Xfm we salute Adam… Later this evening John Kennedy will delve more deeply into his incredible cachet of work.  And we begin by playing out the amazing documentary that Xfm made about the Beastie Boys seminal debut album ‘Licenced To Ill’. RIP Adam Yauch…”