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Volume 69, Issue 154, Thursday, July 15, 2004

Arts & Entertainment

Beasties are burning out

By Zach Lee
The Daily Cougar

The Beastie Boys are an enigma. In 1986, with their debut album, Licensed to Ill, the boys were both unexpectedly popular and accused of various things because of the color of their collective skins. Regardless of their lack of melanin, however, the Beastie Boys helped hip-hop explode into the public consciousness with sophomoric lyrics and predictable rhyme schemes. Eighteen years later, the Beastie Boys have come to mean little to most hip-hop heads -- a fact demonstrated by the radio stations that have picked up the Boys' first single from To The 5 Boroughs, "Ch-Check it Out." Fans who want to hear the song better keep the dial away from urban stations and turn over to those with a "modern rock" format.

One of the group's most incredible skills is the ability to resist change. While almost all of today's hip-hop artists pride themselves on smooth flows and rhyme schemes that are liable to change easily into something completely different, the Beastie Boys are proud to leave the corners sharp on their rusty rhymes, and every song is a peek into the early childhood of a style that has since matured.

For some reason, "Ch-Check it Out" evokes the undeniable urge to shout out "Go ninja. Go ninja. Go," every time it breaks into the chorus. The song is a nice throwback to parties that took place before most college students were in middle school.

While the rhymes are still simple, some of the beats are interesting and almost strong enough to support modern artists. The ironically titled "Rhyme the Rhyme Well" lays its foundation on a nice, dark beat with hints of the Halloween theme coming through. "Oh Word!" has a couple nice touches of electronica, and in a different world could be a Neptunes production. The guitar in the background of "An Open Letter to NYC" adds a nice splash of rock to the mix, but the Beastie Boys turn it into an annoying song.

Age has something to do with it, but the overriding factor involved in making To the 5 Boroughs a complete waste of money is that Licensed to Ill was much better. So was Ill Communication. Aside from worse music, the only difference between this release and their earlier efforts is a couple passing references to the Taliban and 9/11. 

There are few reasons to download the single, and there are fewer reasons to buy the CD. If the Beastie Boys some happy memories, people might have an excuse to buy this CD. After all, there's nothing like looking at a picture of a dead horse to remember it used to be fun when it was alive.

Beastie Boys

To the 5 Boroughs

Capitol Records

The verdict: Vanilla Ice melted. Why aren't the Beastie Boys gone yet?

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