May 5, 2012

Beastie Boys - Brass Monkey

Here’s a thing I’ve been thinking about recently, with respect to the Beastie Boys—and it’s funny, in a sad sort of way, because I was thinking about it over the past couple weeks, well before MCA died, but I probably wouldn’t have made a post about it if that hadn’t happened. Anyway, I feel like a lot of people, at least by the early 90s, were talking about the Beastie Boys as if they weren’t very technically skilled rappers—just dudes with charisma who were in the right place at the right time with the right producer, or whatever. But when I listen back to songs like this one, I hear the Beastie Boys using skills that don’t really correspond with modern rapping, but seem just as complex in their own way.

There are a bunch of points within this song where two or even all three of them are spitting out different parts of each line, so that, while all of their parts add up to a smoothly delivered line, each individual part is complex and disjointed. Listen at 1:47 in this video. The line is “Monkey and parties and reelin and rockin. Def def, girls girls, all y’all jockin.” But no one member says the entirety of that phrase. Ad Rock says, “Monkey… parties… reelin… rockin… girls girls… jockin.” MCA says, “…and…and…and… def def …jockin.” Mike D says, “and… and… and… all y’all jockin.” All of them have to coordinate perfectly in order to keep that part of the song from sounding like crap. And on License To Ill, they do that on almost every verse on the entire album. Sure, “Paul Revere” and “Posse In Effect” are mostly absent of that technique, but it dominates the vast majority of the LP.

I remember Run and DMC used to do the same thing on Run-DMC tracks from the 80s as well, but can you think of anybody who does it now? It seems like kind of a lost art. I feel like a lot of rappers who are praised for their technical skill, to a level far beyond what anyone would ever credit the Beastie Boys with, would have no idea how to handle the call-and-response group rapping technique the Beasties used as a matter of course. Makes me think maybe those guys weren’t such mediocre rappers after all.

  1. millioninprizes reblogged this from ctwashere and added:
    Interesting analysis of “Brass Monkey” by The Beastie Boys. I admit, I’ve heard this song before but I never noticed was...
  2. misslmc reblogged this from ctwashere
  3. ctwashere reblogged this from andrewtsks and added:
    This reminds me of a piece on Passion of the Weiss, called "The Benefits of Being a Black Hippy.” It’s about the Black...
  4. andyhutchins said: I suspect these are all recorded on the same track rather than as separate tracks layered over each other, but there’s plenty of multi-track recording today … that serves mostly to get ad-libs on tracks.
  5. andrewtsks posted this