Beastie Boys' 'Paul's Boutique' Turns 25: Here's What Critics Said About the Classic Back Then
Between the Beastie Boys' boundless wordplay, the Dust Brothers' genre-melding production and more samples than anyone could afford to put on an album in 2014, Paul's Boutique is now considered an inarguable classic. It's not just the Beastie's magnum opus -- it's one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever made.
But when Paul's Boutique hit the streets on July 25, 1989 -- 25 years ago today! -- most critics just didn't get it.
Biased by the Beastie's goofy, borderline frat-y debut, music writers dismissed their second offering, either hating it or damning it as a fun-but-lightweight effort. One critic even complained they lacked the "cool" delivery of two-hit wonder Tone-Loc.
While aspiring MCs and producers understood its importance, for the most part, Paul's Boutique faced skeptical critics and an indifferent public -- their first album topped the Billboard 200, but Paul's stalled at No. 14.
So on the classic's 25th birthday, we're looking back on what everyone from The New York Times to Chicago Tribune to Newsday had to say about the Beastie Boys' masterwork.
The Independent, Andy Gill, Aug. 4, 1989
"Fifteen minutes lasts a long, long time these days, judging by the Beastie Boys' career.... The problem with having such good taste in one's choice of samples is that the whole can never possibly equal the sum of its parts. Besides which, plastering the Beasties' rant and whine over everything is an unkind way to treat such morsels, quite a different matter from Tone-Loc's lazy, dirty cool."
St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 11, 1989 [Author not listen in Nexis.com]
"Less appealing and more appalling than ever, the Beastie Boys strut and stumble through their second album, Paul's Boutique, like three pit bulls in a china shop. Three years after elevating rap music to new heights in sales and new lows in taste with the multiplatinum Licensed to Ill, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz, Adam "MCA" Yauch and Michael "Mike D" Diamond return with a rapid-fire, profanity-laden barrage of screaming, scratching and sampling that rarely rises above a chaotic din."
The New York Times, Jon Pareles, July 23, 1989
"Unlike Licensed to Ill, the songs on Paul's Boutique usually lack the saving grace of self-mockery; slinging raw eggs at people or bragging about ''girlies,'' the Beastie Boys sound smug and obnoxious. They were more appealing as goofballs."
Los Angeles Times, J.D. Considine, Aug. 11, 1989
"These three bad boys revel in relating their scams and shenanigans, but somehow, what the Beasties have done seems to matter less than how they talk about it. Although the raps unabashedly boast of sexual conquest -- in "Hey Ladies," the trio actually appears to be under the impression that bragging will ultimately bring them more eager young recruits -- their sexual adventurism is just another thread in the fabric of the album's picaresque narrative."
Toronto Star, Craig MacInnis, Aug. 11, 1989
"What a pleasure… to get reacquainted with the Beasties, who have never let important issues get in the way of their roiling libidos or their well developed sense of fun. Advance hype has suggested this is the Sgt. Pepper's of rap, and you can forget it."
Newsday, Wayne Robbins, Aug. 20, 1989
"The idea of a mature Beastie Boys album would seem to be an oxymoron. And the notion of listening to a rap record for its music ought to be a contradiction. But Paul's Boutique, the Beastie Boys' second album, is strangely, unexpectedly, a grown-up audio delight."
Chicago Tribune, Steve Appleford, Aug. 27, 1989
"[The Dust Brothers] mix bits and shards from the Beatles, James Brown, the Sweet, movie soundtracks and other lost and obscure tracks from 99-cent used records with the rappers' often-improvised words of raw comedy, streetwise delinquency and hip-hop bravado. In all, a more complex work than the Rick Rubin-produced Licensed to Ill."