What the fuck is a “bouillabaisse,” anyway?
Though famed for their juvenilia, the Beastie’s seem to know a thing or two about the finer points of French cuisine. The bouillabaisse is a stew endemic to Marseille, a port town, containing the unsellable excess of the fisherman’s catches. It’s a fitting metaphor, as the nine-part suite plays as a series of unfinished ideas and fleeting vignettes. In one reading, the bouillabaisse is a glimpse into the Paul’s Boutique that might have been; a look at fragments that, in another world, might well have become the backbone of the project.
The titular “B-Boy” is itself a double entendre, shorthand for both Beastie Boys and break boy. Break boying, almost always shortened to b-boying, refers to the practice of street dancing to breakbeats. The ‘70s African-American artform, comprised mainly of toprock, downrock, power moves and freezes, is better known as breakdancing, though the original term is preferred by many old school practitioners. It’s a particularly fitting allusion, seeing as Paul’s Boutique is comprised almost entirely of samples, a large swathe of which are breakbeats.
There are nine instalments, none of which exceed three minutes in length. They’re not connected in any meaningful way, though the close of the track – and, consequently, the close of the album – mirrors “To All The Ladies,” the similarly brisk and skit-esque opening. So, without further ado, let’s conclude our three-part Beastie Boy Boutique Breakdown with a look at the rich and multifaceted “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”!
"59 Chrystie Street"
A particularly storied address in Beastie law, 59 Chrystie Street was the address of an apartment the group rented following a successful lawsuit against British Airways. Strange as it may seem, the international carrier used a section of “Beastie Revolution,” a track included on out-and-out punk effort Cooky Puss, in a 1983 television ad. According to Mike D, the $40,000 that the trio netted in resulting litigation allowed them to “move for independence. We got a floor in this Chinese Sweatshop building on Chrystie Street,” he told Spin Magazine in ‘98. It was during the years spent at Chrystie Street that the trio made the move from punk to hip-hop, setting them on the road that would lead them to Paul’s Boutique and – eventually – legendary acclaim.
The opening of “59 Chrystie Street” is one of the more psychedelic passages on Paul’s Boutique, owing to an otherworldly sample of Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” That track, included on the 1967 record of the same name, remains one of the guitarists most iconic.
The propulsive drumming that’s laid atop the spacey sound effects of Jimi Hendrix is courtesy of Burundi Steiphenson Black, a pseudonym of French composer Michel Bernholc. His only hit, 1971’s “Burundi Black” peaked at #31 on the UK Singles Chart.
Despite both its success and the drumming within, “Burundi Black” has been sampled just twice. Bernholc ultimately committed suicide in 2002.
Can you hear the word “fresh” appear at 0:03? If so, good ears: that’s Fab Five Freddy coming through with his vocoder vocals. Though a hip-hop legend in his own right, this might just be Freddy’s most enduring and recognisable role.
Though it’s a sly one, there’s a sample of Cerrone’s “Rocket in the Pocket” at 0:05. It’s specifically the syllable “rock—,” which is largely overpowered by a vocoder-esque sound effect.
It wouldn’t be all that surprising: the Beasties sampled the same track on both “Paul Revere” and “Time To Get Ill” from their debut LP, and later invoked it again on “Finger Lickin’ Good” and “Putting Shame In Your Game.”
The Beasties chase their first lyric – “there’s a girl over there” – with a sample of Run-DMC’s “Here We Go (Live At The Funhouse).” DMC’s “aww yeah,” which opens the track, has since become a famous flip, appearing on more than 700 seperate songs.
The Beasties, to their credit, also created one of the most widely sampled “yeahs” in hip-hop, which appears at the end of “Girls.”
The Beasties reach back into their Licensed To Ill-era vault and interpolate some lyrics from a long-unreleased cut. “Scenario,” produced by Rick Rubin and recorded in the mid-’80s, is a uniquely Beasties take on Ice-T’s “6 ‘N The Mornin’.”
The lyrics in question are simple and fleeting – “I took her to the place—” – yet undeniably lifted from the mythical cut. This marks the one and only time “Scenario” has been invoked by the band.
This sample is particularly odd, simply because it seems so cursory. Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Gals,” featuring The World Famous Supreme Team, was released through Charisma records in 1982 and has since become popular with producers.
You’d likely know it best as where Eminem got his “around the outside, ‘round the outside, ‘round the outside” refrain, though the Beasties flip a split-second of the breakbeat at 0:45.
“My Philosophy,” the opening track from Boogie Down Productions’ By All Means Necessary, was previously sampled on “The Sounds of Science.” Here, the trio put KRS-One to use declaring their adversaries as “wick wick wack!”
"Get on the Mic"
An out-and-out salute to Mike D’s prowess, “Get on the Mic” is loaded with the kind of obscure cultural allusions and hilarious names (Dick Butkus is a bit of both, really) we’ve come to expect from the eclectic act.
Interestingly, a few tellings of the Beastie story note that, whilst Mike is getting some shine here, he wasn’t always as loved by his contemporaries. In the same Spin Magazine piece, music video director Adam Durbin recalled that “[Adam and Adam] were having conversations about whether or not to kick Mike D out, whether he was cool enough to be in the band… It was only by a pretty slim margin that they kept him in.”
It’s only with a few seconds left that a sample enters “Get on the Mic,” the largely-acapella, minute-and-fifteen-seconds instalment of the Bouillabaisse. The drum machine break is sampled from the late legend Lovebug Starski’s “Starski, Live at the Disco Fever.”
The cut originated at Disco Fever, a South Bronx club at which Starski worked as a DJ in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. He died in 2018, aged just 57.
"Stop That Train"
An oft-nightmarish but honestly pretty reserved account of travelling on the subway, “Stop That Train” occupies the minds of the junkies, businessmen and the Beasties themselves, who “bust into the conductor's booth and busted out rhymes” about the harshness of this lifestyle. You know, like this very song, which addresses such hardships.
Southside Movement, though a seldom-discussed group, have been quietly making their mark on hip-hop with two tracks. Both “I’ve Been Watching You” and “Save The World” appeared in the Ultimate Breaks and Beats compilation series, and both have achieved moderate success.
The opening drum fill from “Save The World” kickstarts “Stop That Train,” with the subsequent instrumental loop sourced from 1:44.
The next sample appears 40 seconds into “Stop That Train,” which is roughly 2:50 into “B-Boy Bouillabaisse.” The clearly-reggae flip is lifted from Scotty’s “Draw Your Brakes,” in which the the singjay sings “stop that train, I wanna get on.”
“Draw Your Breaks” is itself a rendition of Keith and Tex’s “Stop That Train,” and was featured in the 1972 Jamaican crime film, The Harder They Come, which helped popularise reggae internationally.
"A Year and a Day"
A two-and-a-half minute instalment fuelled by two powerhouse samples, “A Year and a Day” likely reminds any new listener of a far more recent hit single. “That Lady, Pt. 1” is one of The Isley Brothers’ most enduring hits, though the track was broached to an entire new audience on Kendrick Lamar’s “i,” the pre-TPAB standalone single built from the tight guitar licks and fuzzy electric roar. That flip is urged on by John Bonham’s drumming from Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks,” an all-time awe-inspiring performance.
The fourth part of this great kaleidoscopic stew, “A Year and a Day” opens with some tight drumming from Tower of Power member David Garibaldi. You might remember “Drop It In The Slot,” included on the very same 1975 LP, appearing on “Egg Man.”
That roaring riff that underpins the track from 0:08 onwards is lifted from The Isley Brothers’ “That Lady, Pt. 1.” Originally included on 1973’s 3 + 3, the song – and the riff sampled herein – are most famous for their role on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly single, “i.”
“That Lady, Pt. 1” was a hit in its own right, peaking at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October ‘73. It’s just the third most sampled track from the album!
The Beasties previously lent on John Bonham’s powerful drumming on “What Comes Around,” but this time, they go straight for one of his most iconic performances. “When The Levee Breaks” closes out their iconic, untitled fourth LP.
The drums were recorded in the lobby area of Headley Grange, a famed English studio retreat, using the cavernous surrounds to achieve the wide, awe-inspiring sound.
The next sample, a vocal line placed atop the powerful Led Zeppelin/Isley Brothers combination, is courtesy of Crash Crew. Their first single, “High Power Rap,” was released on Mike & Dave Records just prior to their signing with Sugar Hill.
The sampled line is “I go by the name of Disco Dave,” rapped by – you guessed it – Disco Dave himself. The same song was sampled on “Hey Ladies,” and inspired Jay’s “Girls, Girls, Girls.”
The most recognisable facet of this track isn’t a sample at all, a notable change of pace from the intricately-arranged plunderphonics throughout. The heaving bass that underwrites the heavy track is sourced from Ad-Rock’s 808, which he recalled buying in an interview with Propellerhead:
“I got some money in high school – I got 250 dollars – and I went to Rouge Music on 30th Street. I wanted to go and buy a black-and-white Rickenbacker like Paul Weller in The Jam, and I was looking at that Rickenbacker, it’s like ‘fuck, I got 250 bucks, I’m ready to go,’ and then I saw an 808. The Roland TR-808. I was like ‘Dick’ – Dick is the guy who owns the place – ‘Dick, how much is that?’ He goes, ‘250 bucks.’ So I was like, ‘do I buy the Rickenbacker, I already have a guitar, but it’s not the cool Paul Weller guitar, or do I get the drum machine? I kinda want a drum machine, I’ve never had one and everybody’s talking about drum machines so I should get this one.’ So I got it.”
“New York, New York, a hell of a town, the Bronx is up but The Battery’s down,” at least if Betty Comden and Adolph Green are to be believed. They wrote On The Town, a musical featuring music from famed composer Leonard Bernstein. This interpolation appears just 12 seconds in.
Why’d the trio shoot a man in Brooklyn? The same reason Johnny Cash gunned down the fella in Reno – “just to watch him die.” This direct sample is lifted from Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” one of his most iconic and successful 1950s blues tracks.
Though Cash regaled audiences with tales of his own depraved criminality, he never quite caught on with the hip-hop scene. Though sampled just once, Pete Rock did remix this track in 2008. It’s… weird.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that the Beasties have been “dropping names” for more than a minute. The trio relish in invoking film titles, referencing performances and alluding to pop culture as a whole, their lyrics almost as referential and kaleidoscopic as the beats over which they spit. There’s not much in the way of actual names dropped throughout this one, though the song does start with a tongue twister sourced from a 1942 sci-fi novel.
The bass that bridges the fade out of the first break and the fade in of the second is courtesy of The Crusaders, a jazz fusion act founded as ‘Jazz Crusaders’ in 1960. “The Well’s Gone Dry” was included on 1973’s Southern Comfort, a record which immediately preceded their defining mid-’70s period.
This one’s infrequently sampled, though the band have more than made their mark in hip-hop.
The second breakbeat in “Dropping Names” enters at 0:35, lifted from Sweet’s “Into The Night.” You might remember Sweet from their oldies hit “The Ballroom Blitz,” or maybe even from its earlier sample on “Hey Ladies.”
Included on their sophomore album, Fanny Adams, “Into The Night” is typical of the group’s hardening sound and increasing rock-oriented feel, a departure from the pop of their debut.
In a 1979 interview in New Zealand, reggae legend Bob Marley discussed the possibility of other musicians tapping into the booming movement: “Ya, explain to a musician… them knew it, but them can't do it.” There’s more to reggae than just the knowledge of form – it’s a whole new ballgame.
The second-briefest instalment of “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” opens with a slowed sample of Kool & The Gang’s “Let The Music Take Your Mind.” That track was included on a 1969 "7 single, just the second released by the prolific and influential act. It showcases their funk-heavy, pre-disco direction.
Though the group are frequently sampled, this track remains an early obscurity, though it was subsequently flipped by both Ice Cube and Ice-T.
"Mike on the Mic"
There are no identified samples on “Mike on the Mic,” a 48-second vignette that’s the shortest of the Bouillabaisse.
There is, however, some great trivia to be gleamed: the voice at the close (“It's a trip, it's got a funky beat, and I can bug out to it!”) belongs to famed Californian weatherman Lloyd Lindsay Young. Young gained a reputation for his outlandish style of presenting and was invited by the Beasties to record the phrase in question. A fragment of the quote – “—bug out to it!” – was later sampled on the Beasties own “Three MC’s and One DJ,” included on 1998’s Hello Nasty.
An extended shoutout track paying tribute to those who helped them along the way, “AWOL” spotlights the work of friends, collaborators and influences such as Cey Adams, Home-One, Sean ‘The Captain’ Carasov, The Dust Brothers, Jungle Brothers member Mike C, Beasties bodyguard Mookie, Run-DMC, dancehall artist Cutty Ranks, producer Jazzy Jay, legendary punk act Bad Brains, and little-known NYC outfit Original Concept.
Though laden with muffled applause and crowd atmospherics, there’s no mistaking the titular phrase from Chic’s “Good Times.” One of the most defining songs of the disco era, the Bernard Edwards & Nile Rodgers composition is a hip-hop classic.
The famous bassline was interpolated – that is, manually replayed – by either Positive Force’s Bernard Roland, or then-17-year-old Chip Shearin.
There’s a number of inspired samples, but this one might take the cake: a fleeting flip of Trouble Funk’s 1986 cut. “Good To Go.” It’s just two seconds in length, and falls directly before the distinct epilogue, suggesting the continuation of the ruckus elsewhere.
Trouble Funk, you might remember, have appeared twice so far: “Drop the Bomb” on “Car Thief,” and “Say What?” on “Shadrach.”
In a reprise of album opener “To All The Girls,” the trio send love atop a particularly sultry instrumental, courtesy of revered jazz drummer Idris Muhammad. So prolific and oft-invoked is Muhammad that you might even recognise the iconic album art to the left.
“Loran’s Dance” opens and closes Paul’s Boutique, bookending a record quite literally defined by repurposed riffs, breaks, vocals and instrumentals.