Friday, November 2, 2012

156. Paul's Boutique

Album: Paul's Boutique
Artist: The Beastie Boys
Genre: Hip Hop
Year: 1989


  1. To All the Girls
  2. Shake Your Rump
  3. Johnny Ryall
  4. Egg Man
  5. High Plains Drifter
  6. The Sounds of Science
  7. 3-Minute Rule
  8. Hey Ladies
  9. 5-Piece Chicken Dinner
  10. Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun
  11. Car Thief
  12. What Comes Around
  13. Shadrach
  14. Ask for Janice
  15. B-Boy Bouillabaisse

Would the Beastie Boys have been as popular if they were black? I've always wondered if they were the Elvis Presley of their genre in the sense that they took a musical form that had been associated with black people and performed it successfully while being stubbornly Caucasian. White people in America and throughout the world who were intrigued by Hip Hop but alienated by its entrenchment in African American culture could enjoy rap without having to venture outside their comfort zone. Young white kids who looked down on black kids had someone they could admire without getting confused.

Which is not to take anything away from the Beastie Boys themselves. Afterall there were other white rappers trying the same thing at the time and they weren't as successful. The Beasties obviously had talent and Paul's Boutique was their second chance to prove it to the world.

What separates Paul's Boutique from a lot of other rap albums is just how much is actually on it. Apparently the backing tracks that the Boys rap over were originally prepared by The Dust Brothers as instrumentals to be played in clubs. They never intended for there to be any vocals layered over the top and offered to strip them down to just the beats when the Beasties came into the studio only to have them demand they leave them as is.

The end result is a backing track that sounds a lot fuller than other rap backing from the time. There is a hell of a lot going on. Every track is made up of a dozen or so samples lifted from everything from contemporary rap to sampling standards like James Brown and classic rock like Zeppelin and the Beatles. Not that you'd recognise them, for the most part the samples are tiny little weeny fragments which get smooshed together so that you could never identify their origins without some assistance.

It's albums like this that make you appreciate how much of an artform sampling is. It might seem more soul-less than actually playing an instrument but there's a real science and art involved in taking so many disparate pieces and combining them into a cohesive whole.

Listening to Paul's Boutique was a fascinating experience as I sat there listening to sounds I knew well being forced into forms I'd never experienced before. It's just a shame I had to listen to it with a bunch of white people shouting silly things over the top.

Highlight: Shake your Rump
Lowlight: Hey Ladies

Influenced by: Dance tracks
Influenced: White boy hip hop

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "The words are nonsense and if rap is going to mean anything there has to be a consistency of imagery."

-I've often thought consistency of imagery was the biggest problem with rap.

So would you benefit from a visit to Paul's boutique? Let me know below.


  1. A hip-hop album that I would recommend to you is Madvillainy by Madvillain, which is essentially a collaboration between the emcee MF DOOM and producer Madlib. Like Paul's boutique, Madvillainy is also sample-dense and experimental and extremely well-done. A very unique album musically, and its pretty underground. MF DOOM's lyrics are very complex and clever and are less obnoxious and white-boy gangsta than the Beastie Boys. Highly recommended to you.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll try and check it out.