Album Review: Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two

by David Campbell

It's almost impossible to overstate the importance and the influence of The Beastie Boys in the world of hip hop and more importantly, in popular culture over the past quarter century. For many of us, they were the first real introduction to the form.

MTV delivered version 1.0 of The Beastie Boys into the hearts and homes of pretty much everyone in America as if "Fight For Your Right" was a hip hop infomercial and they had skin in the game. While this placed them in the company of hip hop originators in the minds of many, the truth is that they were first in line for hip hop's second wave, following the trail blazed by legends like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow and The Sugarhill Gang.

Although they cannot be counted among hip hop's creators, The Beastie Boys cannot be overlooked as innovators. And though their introduction to the world came courtesy of a record that was made for the masses (Rolling Stone said "Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece"), the band parlayed that success into a career of advocating for the redefinition of hip hop's somewhat limited stylistic boundaries, always challenging their fans to keep up. This resulted in a series of amazing albums, one of which was a bona fide masterpiece. More than that, The Beastie Boys have defined "cool" in so many different ways for the larger part of three decades. In their aesthetic and image, in their attitude and sense of humor, with regards to social awareness and political activism, and most importantly through sound, The Beastie Boys keep finding the new angles and bringing it to their fans.

Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is the 8th full-length album that the group has released. It was originally scheduled to come out back in September of 2009. Titled Hot Sauce Committee, Pt.1 at that point, the album's release had to be postponed when member MCA was diagnosed with cancer. Almost two years have passed since that album's first two singles — "Lee Majors Come Again" and "Too Many Rappers" — were released, the second of which was nominated for a Grammy. Now, allegedly with the same track list as Pt. 1, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two has finally arrived. Got it?

With MCA on the mend, the Beastie's latest finds the group exploring a hybrid of live instrumentation and sampled sounds that made records like Check Your Head and Ill Communication sound like nothing you'd ever heard before — in hip hop or anywhere else. The aforementioned semi-hardcore homage to The Six Million Dollar Man "Lee Majors Come Again" would be right at home on either of those albums. For the most part, that's where the obvious similarities to most of their previous albums end. Not to say that this album doesn't sound immediately like The Beastie Boys. It does. However, one of the group greatest skills is always showing up for the dance with a new amazing outfit; digs different from anything you've seen them in before, but something that subtly references all of their previous aesthetic endeavors. HSCPT is no exception. Heavily manipulated vocal tracks are the hallmark of the Hot Sauce Committee sound. Distorted vocals a la "So What'cha Want" on tracks like "Say It", "Tadlock's Glasses", and "Crazy Ass Sh*t" and a Lee Perry-esque dub finish with occasional digital and metallic feedback on just about everything else make deciphering the lyrics somewhat difficult. Thankfully, the liner notes include a color-coded lyric sheet so you don't miss any of the inside jokes, the pop culture references, and which might allow you and your two best friends to work on karaoke versions in the privacy of your own home. There's the odd vignette like "The Bill Harper Collection", "The Larry Routine" and, my personal favorite, "The Lisa Lisa / Full Force Routine" reminding you that the boys vocation will always be as much fun for them as it is for you. Bong rattling bass, big John Bonham beats, and laser-like keyboard hooks keep things fun from front to back.

The collaboration with Santigold, "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win" is as close to reggae as The Beastie Boys have ever come and is potentially the best track on the album. As is the other collaboration on Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, a slightly reworked "Too Many Rappers" which features Nas, though it tends to make the boys look a little sluggish lyrically.

All in all, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is a fine effort. More importantly it is a long awaited reintroduction to three guys now in their mid 40's who have been setting the pace for more than 25 years. Three guys who are still in love with sound.