Over nearly three decades of innovation, rabble rousing and experimentation, the Beastie Boys have released only seven proper albums, excluding compilations of instrumentals, tossed-off punk numbers and other assorted bric-a-brac. Though the hip-hop trio has had their lengthy periods of inspiration and ubiquity, a prolific rate of output has never been a defining characteristic of the B-Boys. One can choose to view this through the lens of perfectionism — Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty have an average interval of three years apart, yet comprise an impressive quartet of albums not just for the Beastie Boys, but frankly any hip-hop group. Then again, it took a long six years for To the 5 Boroughs to arrive, and it lacked the creative spark or energy that its predecessors had in spades. Originally scheduled to be released in 2009 (or its predecessor… the details are a little cloudy), Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 hit a roadblock when Adam Yauch, aka MCA, was diagnosed with cancer. With Yauch’s health in jeopardy, the fate of the album and the Beastie Boys themselves was once again unknown.
After nearly two years of treatment, Yauch’s cancer is now in remission and the emcee is on his road to recovery. And after the longest wait in the trio’s history, Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 has finally arrived. It’s a Beastie Boys album in the classic sense, heavy on funk, lyrical pranksterism and the trio’s signature posse dynamic. Each member well into his 40s, the Beastie Boys may not be able to boast the fresh-faced youthfulness they emitted as the cocky brats who helmed Licensed to Ill, and more than ever they’re beginning to sound more husky and grizzled, MCA’s scratchy rasp in particular. But no matter how much the group ages, their energy level on Hot Sauce Committee has resumed prior highs, more than making up for their near-decade of quiet.
Where the Beasties of the ’90s would have jam packed their albums full of extras like Meters-style instrumentals, punk songs about jerks on the basketball court, and Biz Markie cameos, Hot Sauce Committee is a streamlined, straightforward and highly cohesive affair. Production-wise, the Beasties lean heavily on big, beefy sounds, from the laser beam synths on opener “Make Some Noise,” to the quasi-witch house ethereal throb of “Long Burn the Fire” and the disco funk of “Funky Donkey.” The sole track in which the boys incorporate shades of their old school punk rock past, “Lee Majors Come Again,” is by no means half-assed, mashing up hardcore with their trademark snotty lyricism. And while the Biz Mark may not be a guest of honor at this ceremony, the Beastie Boys’ guest list is nonetheless top notch, from the sweet coo of Santigold on dub-style groover “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win” and Nas’ lament regarding “too many rappers/not enough MC’s” on “Too Many Rappers.”
Likewise, the verses that the Beasties spit here contain more quotable one-liners than they’ve dropped since 1994’s Ill Communication, which, if you do the math, is a damn long time. MCA drops “rhymes about antihistamines and analgesics” on “Long Burn the Fire,” and in the very same track, Ad-Rock proclaims, “I’m running like wild rats in the Taco Bell.” MCA demands a “party for your right to motherfuckin’ fight” on leadoff track “Make Some Noise.” And “Nonstop Disco Powerpack” is a dynamite wordplay marathon, each emcee delivering solid gold zingers over four minutes of chill funk.
When Ad Rock boasts that he and his long-time musical partners come “together like peanut butter and sandwiches,” he’s not fooling around. The Beasties haven’t sounded this invigorated or inspired in ages. Hot Sauce Committee is a fun, funky summertime album, the kind of record bound to soundtrack endless drives to the beach or house parties, or even just a weekend afternoon. In short, it sounds exactly like what a Beastie Boys album should sound like in 2011, and that’s sweeter than a cherry pie with Reddi-Wip topping.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.