Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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One reason nobody knew what the Beastie Boys were going to do for an encore is that Licensed to Ill redefined rap as music. In a cutthroat world predicated on the insult, you don't do that twice. But 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--"Expanding the horizons and expanding the parameters/Expanding the rhymes of sucker m.c. amateurs"--the Beasties concentrate on tall tales rather than boasting or dissing. In their irresponsible, exemplary way they make fun of drug misuse, racism, assault, and other real vices fools might accuse them of. And because they're still bad boys, other bad boys might take them seriously.

Dayton's Royal Crescent Mob are bad boys on a middle American tip. The subgenre is white funk, but just like the Beasties the Mob obviously look to pop metal as well, especially those closet funksters Aerosmith. Spin the World (Sire) is one of the rare white funk albums that gets by on groove when the hooks go thataway. It's one of the rare garage-rock albums that generates the fun garage-rock is supposed to substitute for good playing and good tunes. And it's one of the rare stoopid albums that's as smart as it thinks it is.

Playboy, May 1989


Apr. 1989 June 1989