32. Ill Communication, Beastie Boys
Mike D, MCA and Adrock were the definition of live, but it’s impressive they lasted as long as they did, especially after their dicey departure from Def Jam. Eight years after they got into the game, Ill Communication was their second triple-platinum album and their second No. 1 album on the Billboard charts. It didn’t have the cultural impact of Licensed To Ill or Paul’s Boutique, but it did cement their legacy beyond those first two records. Plus it surprised the hell out of Capitol—according to Mario Caldato Jr. (their engineer) they had never even set a deadline for the album to be handed in. Everyone seemed to have forgotten about the Beastie Boys.
The eccentricity that’s been on display since their second single was magnified on their third and fourth albums with selections of instrumentals that didn’t have any rapping on them at all, like “Sabrosa,” “Shambala” and “Transitions,” all of which sounded heavily jazz-influenced. Free of the direction that Rick Rubin and the Dust Brothers often imposed upon them, the Boys spent three years in the studio prior to Check Your Head “screwing around and playing instruments,” according to MCA. The many flavors of Ill Communication, be it rock, rap, scratch, or jazz, were born out of that creative freedom. And to think—if Russell Simmons hadn’t stole their cash, we might have never gotten such a fantastic record.