Thursday, June 30, 2016

When Music Mattered - Paul's Boutique (1989)

If you have never listened to Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys, then go listen to it on YouTube right now. I'll wait.
Pretty awesome, right? But what is it about this record that makes it a classic? I mean, this is just one of the many 80s and 90s rap albums that established what rap could be before it went to a harder edge. Rap used to be fun, and it used to be innovative. The Beastie Boys were one of the most innovative groups to ever work in the rap genre, and Paul's Boutique is their masterpiece.

One of the reasons Paul's Boutique is a classic is because it is a full album and not just a collection of rap singles. Listening to Paul's Boutique is an experience, and not just a hunt for those one or two great songs you want to listen to. The way the three voices of the Beastie Boys switch on and off and weave a story together is infectious. The fact that all three of their voices are distinctive only helps to make this record that much more effective.

The thing I love about this record is that I could listen to just the music all day long. While the Beastie Boys were never known as virtuoso players, they could write some awesome beats. The interplay of the real drums with the drum machine throughout the record is not only refreshing to hear, but it is a helluva lot of fun too. The album starts and then goes until it is done. There is no time to reflect on what you just heard, which is what makes it so wonderful.

I would be negligent in my review if I did not give props to the long list of musicians the Beastie Boys sampled to make this record. While the Beasties could play, they were also experts at weaving together samples to create something new. I have never been, and will never be, a fan of sampling. But the way the Beasties do it on Paul's Boutique makes all of it sound like new music. These are not direct rip-offs like we see so often in older rap. These are snippets expertly put together to create a really awesome album.

I have to admit that when it comes to old school rap, I am more of a Public Enemy guy. To me, there has never been and never will be a rapper better than Chuck D. But the fluid rap the Beastie Boys put out on every song is so hard to ignore. After a while, the voices become instruments and that adds yet another layer to this very complex collection of sounds.

Seriously, you need to listen to Paul's Boutique at least once. It does not matter whether or not you like rap. All that matters is that you like music. I can almost guarantee that if you like any kind of music with a beat to it, then you will enjoy listening to Paul's Boutique.

George N Root III is a music fan who loves listening to the Beastie Boys. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him an email at