Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Beastie Boys' "Paul's Boutique" is the Center of the Musical Universe

I have had this idea in my head for a long time. And just recently, our very own Pat O'D mentioned something similar on Facebook. Not only has the Beastie Boys' classic, Paul's Boutique been unfairly slept on when discussing the best rap albums of all time, but the Dust Brothers' production, particularly for something coming out in the late eighties is actually revelatory. The short, short history is that after the success of License To Ill, the Beastie Boys moved out to L.A. and hooked up with the Dust Brothers producing team, sort of went nuts, and the rest is, as they say, history. Here is the oft repeated point about the Dust Brother's production on Paul's Boutique too, due to the way copyright laws have changed since the eighties, there is no probably no way that the album would have been able to be made, or at least not made in the same way. nowadays. Which makes it sort of a time capsule. I am sure procuring the Beatles rights alone would be near impossible today. I can't say this for sure, but I would venture to bet that the Dust Brothers production on this album inspired everyone from DJ Shadow to Girl Talk.

And here's the thing about that production: the samples are so deep and so myriad, the Dust Brothers have never released an official list of the samples that were made. This has inspired so much interest in trying to figure out what each and every sample on there that there is a whole webpage devoted to sorting through the samples to each song. The production on here is so dense that you could make a good mixtape of the songs that are used in the making of just one song on the album. Sure, the Dust Brothers use as a base a lot of old school soul, funk, and disco, but a lot of what they use aren't the usual suspects, greats like James Browns, they dig a little deeper and go a little different. Now, in the title of this piece I said that Paul's Boutique is the center of the musical universe. I guess that's overstating it a bit, but in some ways its true, because not only do they incorporate old school (particularly from the seventies) soul, funk, and disco, but also, classic rock, old school hip hop (well, it wasn't old school then), punk rock, reggae, film scores, film clips, and I am sure a lot more that I am forgetting right now. My point is, if you decided to crate dig into these samples, make a mix tape of say one of the songs, any number of these samples could be a great introduction to that particular form of music, which is pretty amazing. (Also amazing, considering how many samples were used, and how deep it actually is, is to think of the fact that is was all done on tape, snippets of tape, not on a computer program like Girl Talk would use today)

Here are just some examples for you, crate digging, and sample finding can indeed be the ultimate gateway drug:

Here's one of my favorite songs off of Paul's Boutique, Egg Man:
First Live because it rules (thanks for indulging me):

Now, from the album:

Incidentally, apparently when they were in L.A. they used to drive around egging people. Real Life. (The 33 1/3 on Paul's Boutique is pretty amazing, and kind of a must-read. Both 33 1/3 books I have read-the other being the Neutral Milk Hotel one-have been amazing)
Anyway, Samples Used (and I forgot to mention-this includes their lyrical references too):
  • "Dance to the Music" by Sly and the Family Stone when MCA says "I'm on the roof"
  • "Now they got me in a cell" - "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy which also includes "Get Off your Ass and Jam" by Funkadelic
  • "You're gonna get yours" - song of same title by Public Enemy
  • Bass line from from "Superfly" - Curtis Mayfield
  • End of song includes sample of Bernard Herrmann's score from the movie Cape Fear.
  • scream after "Come Halloween" is either Drew Barrymore from E.T. or the character Newt from Aliens
  • The main beat throughout is from "Sport" by Lightning Rod from the album "Hustlers Convention". Back up provided by Kool & The Gang.
  • The movies "Jaws" and "Psycho", the last harmonica clip may come from the intro of the movie
  • Tower of Power's "Drop It In The Slot", from the album, "In The Slot"
Okay, so right there we have some famous and not so famous samples. From the famous, of course, Curtis MAyfield's Superfly to the Tower of Power sample. And the most mindblowing the sample within a sample there in the Public Enemy sample

Here's "Shake Your Rump" the first real song on the album (actually the second after "To All The Girls")


  • "Hoo-ha! Got them all in check." - "8th Wonder" by The Sugarhill Gang
  • "It's the Joint" - song of same title by Funky 4+1
  • "Shake Your Rump-ah" - from the Unity album by James Brown and Afrika Bambaataa
  • 'Scratch' heard under "the most packinest", "your belief, chief" and at the end - "Could you be Loved" by Bob Marley
  • Additional beats from "Super Mellow" by Paul Humphrey from the album "The Drum Suite"
  • Afrika Bambaataa's, "Jazzy Sensation"
  • After the chorus phrase "Shake Your Rump-a" there is a drum break with synth. The first two runthroughs, right before the rap starts again, the concluding drum fill is from "Good Time Bad Times" by Led Zepplin.
  • Beat is Harvey Scales's "Dancing Room Only" (from the lp hotfoot: a funque dizco opera, casablanca, 1977)
  • Bong hit
  • Mostly taken from the "Car Wash" soundtrack by Rose Royce
  • Ronnie Laws, "Tell Me Something Good"
  • the disco call is from Foxy's "Get Off"
  • The main drum roll is from "Funky Snakefoot" by Alphonze Mouzon from the album "Funky Snakefoot"
  • The sound similar to a straw being pulled through a soft drink lid is an African percussian instrument known as a "cuica" (kwee-kuh). The instrument was originally used in Africa for lion hunting because the sound produced is very similar to a female lion's roar, thus attracting the male. The cuica's sound is produced by pulling and pushing a wet cloth on the bamboo stick. (
My goodness, check out that last one. And I think it's funny that they decided to include "bong hit"

I would have included the trippy painting video version but its a live one so you can't hear the music as well:


  • "Being very proud to be an MC" - "It's the Joint" by Funky 4+1
  • "Never gonna let 'em say that I don't love you" - Ballin' Jack's "Never Let 'Em Say"
  • "Say What?" is sampled from Trouble Funk's "Good To Go"
  • "We love the hot butter on the popcorn" - Bar-Kays song, "King Tim III"
  • "We love the hot butter on what? The popcorn." is from King Tim III by The Fatback Band from the album 21 Karat Fatback.
  • Drums and bass from "Hot and Nasty" by Black Oak Arkansas
  • James Brown's, "The Funky Drummer" is the beat at the end
  • Rose Royce's "Do Your Dance" is the first you hear as the intro for the song, with the bass drum and clapping.
  • Sly & the Family Stone's "Loose Booty" comprises most of the song
  • Sugar Hill Gang's, "Sugarhill Groove"
The Sounds of Science:

(Included the live one because, well, it looks so great. Look at that crowd!)



  • "I do not sniff the coke, I only smoke the sensamilla" - Pato Banton's song "Don't Sniff Coke"
  • "Right up in your face and dis' you" - "My Philosophy" by BDP
  • James Brown's, "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved", when MCA says "that's right my name's Yauch"
  • Jet flying overhead from The Beatles "Back in the U.S.S.R." off the White Album
  • The Beatles, "The End" is scratched trhoughout the song
  • The crowd noise in the break is from the beginning of SPLHCB
  • The drum track underneath the guitar sample is a sample of the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" from SPLHCB
  • The guitar track at the end is a sample from the Beatles "The End" from Abbey Road.
  • The oboe track you hear at the beginning is a sample of the Beatles "When I'm 64" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • The occasional beeps and bass lines during the first half of the song is from Issac Hayes' "Walk from Regio's", on the "Shaft" soundtrack
  • The sounds at the beginning is from the small toy in a can that would make a "mmmoooooooooo" sound each time it was turned upside down.
  • The violin and other orchestral tuning you hear in the middle (I believe when AdRock says "Rope-a dope...") is a sample of the intro to the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" from SPLHCB
I included this for a couple of reasons, first off, because, as mix it is pretty amazing, I think its interesting to have KRS-One and the Beatles co-existing on one track. It's something that might seem more commonplace now, but put in the context of when this came out, it must have been on another level. Then I would like to ask Matt, our resident Beatles lover, if he took the Beatles songs sampled here, what that indeed be a pretty good mix and/ or introduction to the Beatles?

So, sure, saying Paul's Boutique is the center of the musical universe is a shorthand piece of hyperbole. Its probably close to one of those annoying sayings like "I like everything but country" when asked what kind of music you like. Really? Everything!? This is sort of the same, while close, obviously, it doesn't quite get there, there's no classical music, there's no say early blues, probably the closest to country might be the sample from the song "Oh Sharon" from singer-songwriter David Bromberg on "Johnny Ryall". So it isn't perfect in that sense. But the ability of the Dust Brothers to take so much from different parts of the musical spectrum and turn it into the perfect pastiche for the Beastie Boys' rhymes is still pretty amazing. It's really an amazing accomplishment. And it also is an example of another statement I made a few months ago, I was talking about DJ's, and basically about how the best DJ's know the most about music in general, and I think the Dust Brothers, particularly here with their magnum opus, prove this to be pretty close to the truth.

(Actually I take it back, because they sample people like Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash in the 12-minute B-Boy Bouillabaisse)


1 comment:

  1. Wow, man. That was great. I knew I liked that album, but never realized how much was actually sampled. I agree that the Dust Brothers must have some unbelievable musical knowledge to be able to draw from so many places and put them all together. And your point about them drawing from analogue tape vs. digital media is very crucial here to their brilliance. I wonder how much of it came naturally to them and how much they had to labor over.

    And to answer your question about the Beatles, well, there are four songs included in that mash-up (though I have to admit, I don't hear the oboe from "When I'm 64" but I'll concede it's there) and they're all great. They are some of their more rocking tunes so I don't know if they're necessarily the best introductions, but hell, I'm not sure if that really exists at all. All their songs are great, therefore, all of them are great introductions.