Thursday (July 25) marks the 30th anniversary of Beastie Boys’ 1989 sophomore masterpiece Paul’s Boutique, an event celebrated by surviving members Mike D and Ad-Rock through live appearances, the debut of two rare Paul’s-era EPs on Spotify and a fresh pair of official Adidas sneakers released in the Beasties’ name.
Once hailed by Miles Davis as an album he couldn’t stop listening to, Paul’s Boutique is denser than otter fur with a collage of uncleared samples surgically spliced together by producers John King and Mike Simpson, aka The Dust Brothers, whom the Beasties met through their friend, Delicious Vinyl’s Matt Dike. The Dust Brothers and Mario Caldato, Jr. (on his first job with the band) worked on piecing together Paul’s out of an estimated 150-odd samples.
Thirty years later, it’s still not out of the ordinary to discover something you never heard before across this 15-track odyssey into a thrift store rack full of weird vinyl — which is part of the reason the album is often compared to Sgt. Pepper, a dubious honor considering the Beatles tried suing the Beasties over the healthy bite of their catalog utilized for one of the most beloved cuts on the album, “The Sounds of Science.”
For many fans, Paul’s Boutique was more than a hip-hop classic — it is a rhyming music almanac, a sonic scavenger hunt that you could take years trying to solve. And while the Internet may have spoiled the thrill of the hunt with complete source lists available on Wikipedia and the otherwise indispensable WhoSampled.com, nothing beats closing the browser and letting your mind make the connections.
Here are 10 of the most super-secret special ingredients to the Dust Brothers’ one-of-a-kind layer cake that, after 30 years, still sounds as oven-fresh as the day it was baked.
1. Thin Lizzy – “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed” (Sampled on “Shake Your Rump”)
There’s a ton happening in the beat the Dust Brothers created for Paul’s Boutique’s first proper cut following “To All The Girls…,” a crazy mashup of Ronnie Laws, Rose Royce, a pair of Sugar Hill Records classics in Funky 4 + 1’s “That’s The Joint” and The Sugarhill Gang’s “8th Wonder” and the eternal James Brown/Afrika Bambaataa collabo “Unity” among other snippets. The biggest surprise, however, comes in when we hear Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey’s opening snare rhythm to the Irish band’s “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed,” which can be found right after the three MCs declare “You heard my style, I think you missed the point” somewhere around the 37-second mark.
2. “Momma Miss America” by Paul McCartney (Sampled on “Johnny Ryall”)
Macca was surely so spun over the incorporation of the Fabs’ music on “The Sounds of Science” at the time he must’ve missed the little snatch of his jagged guitar solo off this tune from the McCartney album that the Dust Brothers added into the chorus of this song about a homeless guy who used to hang out on the Beasties’ stoop.
3. The Eagles – “Those Shoes” (Sampled on “High Plains Drifter”)
The best part of this tune is that even-keeled, thumping beat custom-made for those old-timey kicker boxes dudes used to have in their car trunks back in the day. That’s Don Henley you’re listening to, locked in with the Eagles then-new bassist Timothy B. Schmit on this deep side B favorite off the Los Angeles hitmakers’ 1979 LP The Long Run to create the bones of Paul’s most jeep-ready cut.
4. Pato Banton – “Don’t Sniff Coke” (Sampled on “The Sounds of Science”)
Breaking out on The English Beat’s 1982 LP Special Beat Service, Birmingham toaster Pato Banton remains one of the most important voices on the British reggae scene to this day. But if you’re not a ska head, you’ve at least heard Pato’s voice declare “I do not sniff the coke, I only smoke the sensimellia” (the recurring slogan on the track “Don’t Sniff Coke” from Banton’s second LP, 1987’s Never Give In) within the driving rhythms of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” in the thick of “Sounds of Science.”
5. Hoyt Curtin – “Magilla Gorilla” (Sampled on “Hey Ladies”)
“A gorilla like your mother is mighty weak” isn’t just some random snap placed on Paul’s hottest single. Rather it was a calculated reference to the loveable Hanna-Barbera cartoon Magilla Gorilla, specifically its theme song created by renowned animation composer Hoyt Curtin, which declares “a gorilla like Magilla is mighty nice.”
6. Ocean – “Put Your Hand in the Hand” (Sampled on “Looking Down The Barrel of a Gun”)
Ocean was a Canadian gospel rock band who briefly scored a No. 2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971 with this Gene MacLellan-penned tune. Its opening drum break is a monster, which is exactly why the Dust Brothers mashed it up with The Incredible Bongo Band’s “Last Bongo in Belgium” and that mother riff off Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” to create a killer song to play at house parties.
7. Max Yasgur – Woodstock soundtrack speech (Sampled on “Car Thief”)
“I don’t buy cheeba, I grow it,” declares Adam Yauch in the middle of “Car Thief.” And if you listen very carefully, you can hear the voice of Max Yasgur declaring “I’m a farmer” during his modest address to the massive crowd on his land at the first Woodstock. It’s simply amazing to hear this subtle one-two combo 30 years later, now that the late MCA’s horticultural fever dream has become a legal reality in the Golden State.
8. Black Oak Arkansas – “Hot and Nasty” (Sampled on “Shadrach”)
Now we all know that the majority of what makes “Shadrach” the absolute best song on Paul’s Boutique is the sizeable chunk of Sly Stone’s 1974 Small Talk fave “Loose Booty” that comprises both its hook and its chorus. But once the opening breakbeat of this raunchy cut from the debut LP by Southern rock heavyweights Black Oak Arkansas comes in, it makes the perfect yang to Sly’s slinky yin. It’s arguably the Dust Brothers’ best beat ever.
9. Alice Cooper – “It’s Hot Tonight” (Sampled on “What Comes Around”)
You know the part of this song where Ad-Rock asks, “Yo, why’d you throw that chair at Geraldo Riviera, man?” That little guitar riff right after comes courtesy of Dick Wagner from the opening track to Alice Cooper’s 1977 LP Lace and Whiskey and appears intermittently throughout a beat largely buoyed by the 1971 Gene Harris composition “Put On Train.” Rick Rubin was pretty great at picking out licks from his favorite rock albums to use for beats, but across the entire span of Paul’s Boutique, the Dust Brothers seemed to out-game him at every turn.
10. Led Zeppelin – “When The Levee Breaks” (Sampled on “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”)
There are at least 25 samples that comprise Paul’s Boutique’s epic closing medley. The most interesting of which, however, is the beat to the track’s mini-song “A Year and A Day,” which finds MCA fast-rapping over Bonzo’s groove from Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” sped up to 45 RPM. Then, on “Hello Brooklyn,” they kick that drum beat back down to 33 1/3. One can take its inclusion as a low-key shout-out to their Def Jam era, albeit altered in a way that proves they are miles away from where they were on Licensed to Ill.