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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2: A-

Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 is such a return to form for Beastie Boys that it almost works against them. After releasing the middling To the Five Boroughs and the questionable instrumental The Mix-Up, in addition to postponing Hot Sauce Committee for a year due to MCA’s diagnosis of throat cancer, it seemed like the pioneering rap trio was aging in the exact opposite way longtime fans were hoping. But Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 hits so hard with the traditional sounds that made Beastie Boys so unique that it often goes over the nostalgia deep end, making it open game for naysayers who believe the group has long lost its potency. Hot Sauce Committee has a muddy production that can often make the group’s rhymes difficult to hear and the Boys bask in numerous lyrical clichés. As evidenced by “Funky Donkey”, perhaps the most unsurprising Beastie Boys song name of all time, if you were planning on hating Hot Sauce Committee, you’re going to hate it. If you weren’t, then this shit’s gonna be tight.

Despite Hot Sauce Committee’s muddy production, the musical ideas apparent here are positively fantastic and, for me, more of a draw to the album than the lyrical presence of the Beastie Boys, themselves. The skuzzy keyboard riff of “Make Some Noise” is perfect for silly two-steppin’. “OK” combines riffage and wonky synths with ease, consolidating its melodic prowess with a robotic voice that goes “Yeah yeah right right.” “Long Burn the Fire” similarly slays with organ and wah-wah pedal and “Say It” gets its inventive hook from the harmonics of feedbacking guitars. The bass is uncompromising, filling up any available space even when the group opts for full-on punk rock in the “Sabotage”-like “Lee Majors Come Again”.

Admittedly, the Beasties aren’t as memorable lyrically on Hot Sauce Committee. The album has about a dozen total outstanding lines, and they’re more notable for their silliness than their specificity. The album is highly self-referential and revels in throwback hip-hop clichés, so if you’re looking for something to rag on, you won’t have to look very far. The group goes on and on ‘til break of dawn on two tracks and Ad-Rock comes off as a curmudgeon in “OK”’s second verse (“I don’t give a fuck who the Hell you are / Please stop shouting in your cellular/ I never asked to be part of your day / So please stop shouting in your phone, OK?”). The best lyrical work on Hot Sauce Committee doesn’t even come from any member of the group. Nas’s surprisingly skillful verse on “Too Many Rappers” slays from the moment he bursts onto the track with “I have carte blanche.” When he’s finished, you can’t help but wish Beastie Boys were more dynamic on Hot Sauce Committee than just the funny voices they don for “The Larry Routine”.

So, although Hot Sauce Committee is not technically up to par with Beastie Boys’ greatest achievements, it definitely feels like a Beastie Boys album, which is more than enough reason to give it an excellent rating. When the album ends by cutting off the group while they’re yelling over each other, it shows they still have the vigor to be fun and absurd well into their forties. Hot Sauce Committee may lean significantly on spirit, but, man, if you were going to go with one spirit to lean on, you’re not going to find many livelier than the Beasties. The album is an outlier in terms of production and style in the context of where both hip-hop and electronic music are currently going. While we do have a Santigold collaboration here and a Wolf Blitzer reference there, in a way, Hot Sauce Committee brings the old school underground, and I don’t think I’ve ever danced so idiotically to an album so defiant of the mainstream.


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