Again, I have uber cool, music writing friends. Here’s Walter’s latest on the Beastie Boys. It’s about music, race, and how three white Jewish boys made one of the best rap albums of the 1990s. One of my favorite parts:
On this record, the Beasties align themselves with lots of things, much of which hadn’t been consciously blended before. It all sounds and feels authentically theirs, rather than like the blackface costuming of Vanilla Ice. Ill Communication enters debates about authenticity, about “keeping it real,” head-on, from a variety of modes, genres, and directions. It became hugely popular, triple platinum, in part because it did so, because it thrilled multiple constituencies, because it engaged listeners that the media didn’t necessarily think belonged together.
It’s in the decade of Ill Communication — and in some ways because of Ill Communication — that hip-hop achieved cultural dominance in America, to the extent that a sizable chunk of American pop is now either hip-hop or a conscious response to (and sometimes against) hip-hop. You can see this in Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez’s collaborations with rappers; with the plethora of 1990s bands fusing rock with rap (terrible stuff like Limp Bizkit and Korn, sure, but there’s also Soul Coughing, Luscious Jackson, Rage Against the Machine, and Cake); and with the emergence of the hip-hop-inflected albums made by the ex-Mouseketeers (Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera) who would dominate American popular music for the next two decades.
The album brings together all of the seemingly disparate cultural elements that MCA, King Ad-Rock, and Mike D loved into a conglomeration that truly is something new, and something that furthered pop and made it more adult.
Go read it now.