Picture this: it’s 1987. The Beastie Boys, three of hip hop’s most prominent advocates, are coming up on a year since the release of their massive Def Jam debut, Licensed To Ill. The irreverent rap-rock LP gave popular culture unforgettable refrains with singles “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!),” all whilst proving that three unlikely punk-rock emcees could hold their own on the mic. That was a year ago: now, in the infancy of rap’s golden age, the three Beastie Boys were stone cold broke, and the group was on the verge of breaking up.
The trio were scattered in the wind: Michael “Mike D” Diamond started another group, as did Adam “MCA” Yaunch, whilst Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz headed to LA to appear in Hugh Hudson’s Lost Angels. Though Licensed To Ill brought them no small amount of critical and commercial success, it also threatened to eclipse any subsequent work, with the ‘frat-rap’ affiliation more a burden to bear than a badge of honour.
Making matters worse was their tortured relationship with Def Jam Records, namely producer Rick Rubin and manager Russell Simmons. Though those two industry players had been integral in getting the trio some of their biggest breaks – a supporting slot alongside Madonna, as well as their entire first LP – the relationship soured, at least partially due to the pressures exerted by Simmons. It was only once the far-flung trio had reunited, this time in Los Angeles, that the group left Def Jam, inking a new deal with Capitol Records.
“They had heard about our studio, so they came by and stuck their heads in,” recalled Mike Simpson of production duo The Dust Brothers. It was here that the two sampler-savvy innovators were piecing together what’s come to be known as plunderphonics or sampledelia: rich sonic collages assembled from prerecorded sounds, incorporating cultural history into new-yet-familiar instrumental jams. Perhaps “sampledelia” is the most suitable term – after all, as photographer Ricky Powell once said, “Paul’s Boutique was definitely Mother Nature’s candy-influenced, if you know what I mean.”
The Beasties, enamoured by this dense sound, asked after the beats, and what was once a project of its own became the basis for a new record. MCA recalled the first tape they heard, which included the instrumentals that would eventually underpin “Shake Your Rump” and “Car Thief.” “Actually, that’s too much music, but we could strip it down to beats,” offered the Brothers. The Beasties refused. The recording sessions happened at Matt Dike’s apartment – Dike was a co-founder of Delicious Vinyl – and at the famed Record Plant, LA.
The result has been called many things: “a poetic tornado of imagery” and “clever and hilarious bullshit,” an “electrifying blast of cool,” “a celebration of American junk culture” and, perhaps most endearingly, “the Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop.” In his AllMusic review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine argued that Paul’s Boutique “stands alone as a record of stunning vision, maturity, and accomplishment.” There’s naturally something to be said for the mainstream acceptance of a hip-hop record in the late ‘80s, and some thought to be given to the racial elements that might be at play, but Paul’s Boutique is technically beyond reproach. It helped redefine the possibilities of sampling culture whilst reaffirming the talent of the three unlikely emcees, and now, thirty years on, there’s no doubt that making an album as sonically ambitious as Paul’s Boutique would be all but impossible.
Praise notwithstanding, Paul’s Boutique wasn’t a runaway success: it burned slow, overcoming disheartening numbers and label abandonment to eventually be regarded as the apex of legally-unbridled sampling. On the eve of the record’s thirtieth anniversary, we’re breaking down all the samples on that LP, one which was almost entirely comprised of prerecorded sounds.
"To All the Girls"
The girl-centric opening track is more a vignette than a fully-formed song. The spoken word ode bookends the ambitious LP, closing out the nine-part “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” suite that makes up the record’s last twelve-and-a-half minutes.
Paul’s Boutique opens with a single-sample track, a slow introduction to a legendarily chaotic sample-rich soundscape. The ambling instrumental underpinning the humorous opening is courtesy of New Orleans jazz drummer Idris Muhammad.
The sampled elements are lifted from the start of “Loran’s Dance,” the ten-and-a-half minute cut that closed out Muhammad’s third LP, 1974’s Power Of Soul.
"Shake Your Rump"
Featuring a bevy of samples from artists such as Ronnie Laws, Thin Lizzy, Funky 4+1 and Rose Royce, “Shake Your Rump” is one of the most kinetic, dance-ready tracks on the album. There’s also a soundbite of a bong being hit in here, which speaks more to the Beastie’s irreverent sensibilities than any of the other fourteen flips on the cut.
The tight fill that kicks off “Shake Your Rump” was originally the tight fill that kicked off jazz drummer Alphonse Mouzon’s “Funky Snakefoot.” The cut was included on his 1974 album of the same name, the second of his four Blue Note releases.
Three seconds in, we hit out second break, lifted from Harvey Scales’ “Dancing Room Only.” The track opens the b-side to Scales’ 1979 sophomore album, the ambitiously-titled Hot Foot (A Funque Dizco Opera).
On the whole, Scales has been a seldom sampled act, and the Wisconsin-based muso, considered “Milwaukee’s Godfather of Soul,” passed away in February.
Next up is another inclusion from the legendary Blue Notes roster, this time in the form of a lick that appears at 0:12. It’s the work of Ronnie Laws, a versatile jazz saxophonist from the esteemed Laws family.
A Latin dance group based out of Miami, Foxy had their greatest success with Get Off, a 1978 record buoyed by the hit single of the same name. The Beasties interpolate it at 0:21, their high-pitched “whoop whoops” emulating the opening refrain.
The fifth sample turns out to be the third break, entering at 0:25 with its unmistakably crisp cymbals.
These sounds are lifted from “Super Mellow,” a track included on 1975’s The Drum Session, a percussion-centric LP starring Paul Humphrey, Shelly Manne, Willie Bobo and Louis Bellson. Despite the promise of this idea, the record has brought forth just a few big flips.
Of all the groups that have a newfound place in hip-hop history via sampling, Thin Lizzy is surely one of the most surprising. A noted hard rock band remembered for a handful of hits, Thin Lizzy helped redefine Irish society with their black lead singer, the late Phil Lynott. He died aged 36.
The sudden transition at 0:38 brings on a brief fill and an enthusiastic exclamation: “it’s the joint!” That’s courtesy of old school hip-hop quintet Funky 4 + 1, known for both their association with Sugar Hill and their then-radical inclusion of a female emcee, MC Sha-Rock.
The fuzzy bass that ensues is taken from all the way back in 1975, which feels surprising. It’s lifted from the opening to Rose Royce’s “6 O’Clock DJ (Let’s Rock),” a minute-long jam from their 1976 Car Wash OST. That record brought them their biggest hit, disco classic “Car Wash,” as well as a host of minor chart sensations.
This is the first of three Car Wash samples on this very song, which speaks to the ambition here.
The bass lick that brings Mike D “back from the dead,” as he puts it, is sourced from yet another Rose Royce Car Wash inclusion. “Yo Yo,” like “6 O’Clock DJ” before it, wasn’t a charting single, but makes for a particularly malleable sample.
Impressively, The Beasties manage to find a clip of one of hip-hop’s most invaluable innovators saying “shake your rump.” Even more impressively, it’s taken from a collaboration with James Brown.
Afrika Bambaataa, founder of the Universal Zulu Nation and progenitor of the electro-infused hip-hop that would dominate the mid-’80s, says the titular phrase on “Unity (Pt. 2: Because It's Coming),” from his 1984 six-part collab LP.
The phrase that punctuates the end of the instrumental passage at 2:11 – “just like this” – is courtesy of The B-Boys, an early-’80s outfit chiefly remembered for the subsequent successes of Zulu Nation member and future Ice-T associate Donald D.
The third and final appearance of the Car Wash OST on “Shake Your Rump” comes in the form of a subdued bass lick at 2:26. It’s taken from the opening to “Born To Love You,” one of just three tracks on the album with writing credited to Rose Royce instead of producer Norman Whitfield.
Though many of the tracks from that album have gained a following amongst savvy producers, “Born To Love You” has been sampled just once.
Perhaps the most legendary hip-hop sample on this stacked cut, 2:43 brings forth an unmistakable flip of The Sugarhill Gang’s “8th Wonder.” One of their biggest hits alongside “Apache” and “Rapper’s Delight,” “8th Wonder” is built atop a sample of funk octet 7th Wonder.
The final identified sample on “Shake Your Rump” revisits the work of pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, lifting a passage from the opening to his 1981 Tommy Boy single, “Jazzy Sensation.”
The song never charted in the States, Bambaataa’s collaboration with the Jazzy Five was indeed a sensation, and elements of it have since appeared on cuts from the Beasties, Prince Paul, Common, Paris and Schoolly D.
“Johnny Ryall is the bum on my stoop,” opens the eponymous track. This portrait of a vagrant who “drinks where he lies” is based on a real homeless man who used to live outside Mike D’s NYC apartment immediately following the Licensed To Ill tour.
Dan LeRoy’s 33 1/3 book on Paul’s Boutique mentions the origins of track itself, noting that it was “Diamond's roommate… Sean Casarov” who invented the bulk of the backstory. "I had this brain fart that he used to be a rockabilly star,” recalled Casarov. “He had that look… he kinda looked like the fifty-miles-of-bad-road version of Chet Baker." Johnny Ryall was also symbolic of the trio’s fight with Def Jam, who’d stiffed them more than a couple of times. "He definitely has a lot of stories about not getting paid," Mike D told Request. "So Johnny has become our main adviser."
A selection of brief interviews from the Beasties themselves were included on the 20th anniversary reissue of Paul’s Boutique, including a few thoughts on the titular character. “He was a bum on my stoop; Russell Simmons got on me for letting him wear one of our Def Jam satin tour jackets because it was so cold out!”
More avant-garde than their enduring mid-’70s work, Meddle has hardly been sampled in the nigh fifty years since its release. “One Of These Days,” however, does interpolate passages from Delia Derbyshire’s 1963 “Doctor Who Theme.”
Next to enter are the drums, played by Stax session musician and onetime Booker T. & The MG’s member Al Jackson Jr.. They’re taken from his performance on Donny Hathaway’s “Magnificent Sanctuary Band,” included on his 1971 self-titled sophomore album.
Jackson Jr.’s tenure at Stax made him one of the most influential drummers of all time, though he was killed aged 39 in a home invasion.
The twangy electric guitar that reappears throughout “Johnny Ryall” is the work of Pennsylvania bluegrass legend, David Bromberg. “Sharon,” also written by Bromberg, featured performances from five members of The Grateful Dead, including Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann.
“Sharon” is infrequently sampled, but so is Bromberg, having been flipped just four times.
Paul McCartney: a musician so ubiquitous that 2019 has brought forth a film about a world in which he’s not. “Momma Miss America,” from which the Beasties sample the drums that enter at 0:30, was included on 1970s McCartney, released a month before Let It Be despite protests from his fellow Beatles.
The tinkering of bells that underwrites the chaotic chorus is taken from a slice of hip-hop history. DJ Grand Wizzard Theodore’s “Military Cut” was the opening track to the Wild Style OST, released alongside the groundbreaking 1983 film starring Fab Five Freddy, Lee Quiñones, Grandmaster Flash and Debbie Harry.
Who does Johnny Ryall think he is? The Beasties pull a famous lyric from Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” to ask him exactly that – you can hear the flip at 1:48.
Knight’s Stax-released single has remained her biggest and most enduring hit, also proving popular in hip-hop, where it’s been invoked by Eazy-E, Dre, Heavy D, Schoolly D, TLC, Grandmaster Flash and Del.
Another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sample on this crowded cut, Funk Inc.’s “Kool Is Back” contributes the three-second breakbeat that plays from 2:34 to 2:37.
Whilst this flip doesn’t draw much attention to itself, “Kool Is Back” has functioned as the primary break for hundreds of tracks, including Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.” and Jeru the Damaja’s “Come Clean.” The Beastie’s also used brief flip on “The New Style.”
Kurtis Blow is a storied figure in hip-hop, being both the first hip-hop artist to be certified Gold by the RIAA and the first to sign a record deal with a major label. “AJ Scratch,” the frequently-sampled 1984 cut that appears at 2:37 – “that’s right dog, his name is—” – appeared on his fourth wholly-original LP, Ego Trip.
“AJ Scratch” has been sampled more than 330 times, making it a genuine tentpole of hip-hop.
Never ones to shy away from self-mythologizing samples, the Beasties lift an element from their own 1986 hit “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!).” The unmistakable “kick it!” that follows the “AJ Scratch” sample was originally used to kickstart the Licensed To Ill single.
“Check the cool wax,” the phrase that closes “Johnny Ryall,” is comprised entirely of juxtaposed words from the Beastie’s own “The New Style.” The second single from their debut, the Rick Rubin-produced track itself contains five samples.
One of the funniest tracks on a consistently funny record, “Egg Man” is particularly hilarious because it’s more literal than you might think. The first Beastie Boys egging-related track was 1982’s “Egg Raid on Mojo,” a punk-rock track included on their pre-hip-hop Polly Wog Stew EP. Onetime CBGB muso, label head and record store owner Binky Philips recalled the young trio frequenting his East Village store in the early ‘80s:
“Egg Raid On Mojo” was about one of our other regular customers. Mojo, was a large, gregarious, very handsome, very dark-skinned, Ska-styled doorman at more than one hip boite [sic] downtown. He was a genuinely okay guy, but, his gig led him to being a bit “I’m hot and know it”, one lame vibe, indeed. The Beasties would have none of it.
Mike Simpson of The Dust Brothers, who produced Paul’s Boutique, had similar experiences with the Beasties during the making of the album:
“Before they rented a house in LA, they had all been staying at the Mondrian hotel while we were recording. And the Comedy Store was right across the street from that hotel. One afternoon, there was a line of tourists standing outside the Comedy Store, so the guys decided to get several dozen eggs and start pelting from the eight-story hotel. One family pulled up in front of the Comedy Store, and the dad got out to open the door for his kids when Yauch just threw an egg and hit the guy right in the head. The egg exploded all over him and his kids, so they just got back in the car and drove away.”
Neither fame nor age kept the Beasties from their love of egging. “Yauch took it so far as to hire toy designers from Mattel to come up with prototypes for the Beastie Boys Egg Gun,” added Simpson. “Somewhere in the world, there are these amazing renderings of these potential egg guns with the Beastie Boys brand on it. which is hilarious.”
Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly is a beacon of early-’70s conscious soul. Espousing values that ran counter to the blaxploitation flick it scored, the record outgrossed the film, becoming both the definitive blaxploitation OST and one of Mayfield’s most essential LPs.
Title track “Superfly,” sampled here for the bass in the intro, sits alongside “Pusherman” as the most flipped tracks from the watershed record.
The drums that break the 17 seconds of bass from Mayfield's bassist and music director Joseph "Lucky" Scott are courtesy of Kool & The Gang, who served as the backing band for Lightnin’ Rod’s Hustlers Convention.
Tower of Power, an Oakland-based band and horn section, have been recording albums since 1970. “Drop It In The Slot” was included on ‘75’s In The Slot, a record that introduced new vocalist Hubert Tubbs and marked the beginning of their commercial decline.
Tower of Power have been oft-sampled, both in their band work and as contributors to studio sessions from other acts.
If you listen carefully – and I mean carefully – you’ll be able to hear a tense note in the moments before the Psycho flip enters at 0:48. That’s a sample of the 1975 Jaws theme, an iconic cut that strikes terror into the hearts of beachgoers.
Bernard Herrmann’s “The Murder” is so synonymous with one of film’s most indelible murder scenes that the staccato strike of violins is all but shorthand for death. The song underpinned the pivotal shower scene from Hitchcock’s Psycho, making it a much emulated and parodied staple.
The fleeting drum fill that pulls us from Psycho and back to our regularly scheduled irreverence is the work of longtime Commodores drummer, Walter Orange. Orange took over the role from James Ingram, ultimately going on to play on every Commodores LP.
“I’m Ready,” included on their 1975 sophomore album, Caught In The Act, was funkier than their later work. It’s been sampled just this once.
“You’re Gonna Get Yours” was released as the second single from Public Enemy’s 1987 debut, Yo! Bum Rush The Show. Produced by The Bomb Squad, the album opener ushered audiences into what would soon become one of hip-hop’s greatest catalogues. Peep the flip at 1:22.
It only makes sense to chase Public Enemy with… more Public Enemy! The sample of “Bring The Noise,” which flips an iconic Chuck D bar, comes just 13 seconds after their last invocation.
Unsurprisingly, “Bring The Noise” is a hip-hop favourite. It’s been sampled an insane 800+ times, a tally which almost definitely makes it one of the most often invoked hip-hop tracks of all time. Even Anthrax hopped on the remix!
Those crisp drums that enter abruptly at 1:39 are taken from 1968 soul hit, “Dance To The Music.” The title track and album opener from Sly & The Family Stone’s sophomore LP, the track helped popularise their innovative ‘psychedelic soul.’ The drumming was handled by Greg Errico.
Self-sampling is fairly common, but this Beastie Boys flip is particularly noteworthy. The passage from 1:55 on samples their 1982 song “Egg Raid on Mojo,” taking a slice of their hardcore punk days and inserting it into their far more successful hip-hop career.
An interpolation by virtue of an adaptation, “Sam I am” is a line irrevocably tied to the work of Dr. Seuss. The revered children’s author (and WWII propagandist) won hearts with his irreverent rhymes and charming syntax.
"High Plains Drifter"
A reference-laden tale of freewheeling criminality, “High Plains Drifter” is a modern desperado tale told in a uniquely Beastie way. The dedicated Beastie Boy fanbase – one of the most committed and fervent of their time – have recorded just thirty-three concert performances of the song, which was last played at a 2009 Washington D.C. date.
It’s certainly not the first place you’d think to get a powerful bassline, but the Beasties kick off “High Plains Drifter” with a little help from the Eagles. Featuring Timothy B. Schmit on bass, “Those Shoes” was included on 1979’s The Long Run, the disappointing follow-up to Hotel California.
It was the last record the band recorded before breaking up, promising to reunite when Hell Freezes Over.
In hip-hop discussions, the Fatback Band are often mentioned in relation to “King Tim III (Personality Jock),” sometimes regarded as the first true hip-hop single. It’s often credited to “Rapper’s Delight” because “King Tim III” was originally included on a b-side and, when it was finally given its own release, it only charted modestly.
“Put Your Love (In My Tender Care)” is sampled for the female moans that enter at 0:35.
“Out of the car, long hair!” is undoubtedly a phrase used more than a few times during the ‘60s counterculture, but the instance the appears at 2:38 is specifically lifted from Loggins & Messina’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”
Though it seems like a fairly innocuous phrase, the “why are you here?” at 3:07 is a sly interpolation taken from a classic film. The clue is in the delivery – isolated and hammy – that channels the words of Master Yoda in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back.
In the space of just four tracks, the Beasties have already pulled out some interesting samples, and this interpolation of The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek” ranks amongst the most inspired.
The interpolated lyrics are “she bet on one horse to win / And I bet on another to show,” which is slightly altered to “I bet on one horse to win and another to show.” The 1969 rock track has also been flipped by Gang Starr and Shing02.
The tale of the High Plains Drifter comes to a close with a sample of punk rock originators The Ramones. “Suzy Is A Headbanger,” the titular refrain from which appears at 3:45 on the Beastie’s track, appeared on the quartet’s 1978 sophomore album, Leave Home.
Though the Ramones are now recognised as influential icons, such reverence was belated, and all four of the original members have since died.
"The Sounds of Science"
If the Beastie Boys are to be trusted, Science sounds a lot like the work of Lennon-McCartney: “The Sounds of Science” samples five late-term Beatles tracks, lifting predominantly from Sgt. Peppers, as well as Abbey Road and The Beatles. Samples of the Fab Four are rare, largely owing to the threat of lawsuit that looms over any artist who dares.
Most of the samples on Paul’s Boutique were cleared, a task far simpler before Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc., in which Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Biz Markie. The Beatles, however, did take exception to these appearances, and filed preliminary legal papers. In Alan Light’s The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys, he quotes Mike D as saying “what's cooler than getting sued by the Beatles?”
The ambience that opens “The Sounds of Science” would be all-but indistinguishable were it not for the inclusion of a single guitar note. That single tone unmistakably identifies the sample as coming from the opening of “Back In The U.S.S.R.”
The Beasties themselves enter alongside the plodding, whimsical bassline from the McCartney-penned “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Written when McCartney was just 16, it’s thought his father’s 64th birthday in 1966 that spurred him to record it for Sgt. Peppers.
Infrequently sampled, likely due to clearance costs and the sheer ubiquity of the original, “When I’m Sixty-Four” has proven a popular song to cover.
The short, sharp notes that punctuate the track from 0:31 onward are pitch-shifted samples of buttery soul veteran Isaac Hayes. “Walk From Regio’s” was included on his 1971 Shaft OST, the soundtrack to one of the era’s most essential blaxploitation films.
Few groups would go to the trouble of sampling the Beatles for little more than ambience, but the Beasties take a sample from another non-musical intro. This time, it’s the general hubbub of the crowd from “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The voice that bursts through at 1:26 should be intimately familiar to any golden age hip-hop junkie: it’s the Teacher himself, KRS-One. The sample – “right up to your face and diss you!” – is lifted from 1988’s “My Philosophy.”
Ringo Starr is back in the building at 1:47, when the kinetic drums from “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” enter the mix. As an aside, every time I hear these drums, my mind immediately goes to ELO’s “Don’t Let Me Down.”
That riff at 2:00? You guessed it. It’s from “The End,” included on 1969’s Abbey Road, The Beatles’ final record and the last released during their era. Let It Be was released in 1970, one month after they publicly split, but that album was recorded prior to the crosswalk-laden classic.
Finally, a sample that – at least for my generation – is more recognisable as a malleable fragment than a fully-formed, original track. “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” is one of James Brown’s most iconic tracks, and that’s no mean feat. It’s subsequently become one of his most recognisable samples.
The final sample on “The Sounds of Science” comes as a vocal grab of Birmingham-born reggae artist Pato Banton. On his 1987 cut “Don’t Sniff Coke,” Banton talks about his drug preferences: “I do not sniff the coke, I only smoke the sensimilla!”
Sensimilla refers to a potent strain of pot, and there’s no doubt that the Beasties themselves were avid fans of pot. Did they abstain from coke? Nowadays, sure, but not back in the day…
A three-verse cut starring Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock (in that order), “3-Minute Rule” sticks to the rule of three with the underlying samples. It’s not a sample of prerecorded audio, but the song does feature an in-studio recording of a ping pong match between MCA and Mike Simpson. “There actually was a ping-pong table in the recording studio… we were trying to keep it to the beat, but I don’t think we did stay on the beat very well.”
The drum-and-horn lick that enters at 0:07 sets the stage for the entire track. It’s a sample of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Brave and Strong,” originally included on their landmark 1971 LP, There’s A Riot Goin’ On. That record came just three years (and three records) after Dance To The Music, a sample from which appeared on “Egg Man.”
Though it features a prominent break, “Brave & Strong” has been sampled just a handful of times.
The secondary breakbeat on “3-Minute Rule” is courtesy of session musicians-turned-band Fancy. “Feel Good” was the final track on their 1971 debut, Wild Thing, named for their hit cover of Chip Taylor’s “Wild Thing,” popularised by The Troggs.
Why are all nursery rhyme videos on YouTube so terrifying? A mystery to which we may never know the answer, much like the question of the rhyme’s authorship. Check the (nursery) rhyme at 1:14.
Many folk songs and nursery rhymes are steeped in an oral tradition that leaves little in the way of credit: the first variant has been traced to 1590, though a version more closely resembling the modern rhyme surfaced in a 1784 collection.