Monday, August 1, 2011

Beastie Boys -- "Hey Ladies" (1989)

Words are flowing out 
Just like the Grand Canyon
And I'm always out looking 
For a female companion

Those lines could apply to any number of rap artists, who are rarely at a loss for words and who are usually in pursuit of the fairer sex.  But there's no one they describe better than the rappers who wrote them -- the Beastie Boys.

You "Hip Hop 101" students are fortunate indeed today.  I must admit that I am largely unacquainted with Paul's Boutique, the Beastie Boys album that "Hey Ladies" appears on.  But today's guest lecturer (we'll call her Professor "Linda," because that is her name) did her thesis on this seminal rap classic.

"Paul's Boutique" cover
A Beastie Boys song may seem like an odd choice for a middle-aged woman from middle America to write about, but "they" say women are always attracted to men with a sense of humor.  This band of merry pranksters from Brooklyn certainly has that going for them.

[Editor's note:  I feel bad to be interrupting Professor Linda after just one paragraph, but I just had to comment on that "middle-aged woman" comment.  I can't tell you how relieved I was to learn that Professor Linda was middle-aged.  I'm only about 6 months older than she is, so I must be middle-aged, too.  What a relief!  That might not sound like a big deal to some of you, but it's much better than the alternative.]  

You were introduced to the Beastie Boys a few months ago, when your regular "Hip Hop 101" professor lectured on "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party), so I will skip the usual biographical details."  I will simply note that the three Beasties -- Michael Diamond ("Mike D"), Adam Yauch ("MCA"), and Adam Horowitz ("Ad-Rock") -- have been together since 1982, making them probably the longest-lived hip-hop act in the world.

Paul's Boutique, their second album, was released in 1989, three years after their hugely successful Licensed To Ill.  Brimming over with samples, Paul's Boutique is now considered to be one of their best and most innovative albums. 

"Hey Ladies," the most successful single from the album, has the distinction of being the first single in history to chart in the Top 20 of both the Billboard "Hot Rap Singles" and "Modern Rock Tracks" charts.

Paul's Boutique wasn't nearly as popular with album-buying masses as the first Beastie Boys album.  Some thought it was too sophisticated compared to the raucous Licensed To Ill

Too sophisticated?  Had those people ever listened to it?!  The rhymes are unquestionably clever, but there's some pretty sophomoric stuff in here:

I met a little cutie
And she was all hopped up on zootie 
I liked the little cutie
But I kicked her in the bootie.

(By the way, a "zootie" is a joint laced with crack.)

There are numerous references to people and characters from the 1970 -- Sadaharu Oh (who hit 868 home runs while playing professional baseball in  Japan), game show host Chuck Woolery, and Chachi from "Happy Days."

I've got to give credit where credit is due.  There are a lot of words in this song with no repetition of verses and it took a great deal of thought and effort to string together that many words and come up with a reasonably cohesive and coherent lyric.

I'm not sure I ever heard the song on the radio, but the first time I saw the video, I was hooked.  It's a series of vignettes with mainly 70's themes.  Mike D acts out his version of Saturday Night Fever. There's also a nod to "blaxploitation" films of that era (like Shaft and Super Fly).  

The disco theme is carried out through the entire video, with a mariachi band thrown in for added visual interest.  For me, one of the best parts of the video is the brilliant use of cowbell by various characters.

There are at least 16 samples used in the song.  Some you'll quickly recognize, while others are more obscure.  The main musical sample is from "Machine Gun" by the Commodores.  James Brown is sampled at least twice.  At around 3:28 in the video, you'll hear "uh, good God" from Edwin Starr's "War."  And if you were paying attention during a previous "Hip Hop 101" class, you'll remember and recognize our old friend, Afrika Bambaata.  (You weren't expecting a pop quiz, were you?)

One sample in particular is worthy of special mention -- the "She thinks she's the passionate one" line from "Ballroom Blitz" (at about 0:46 in the Sweet video below, and at 3:11 of the Beastie Boys video that comes a little later).  That song was released in 1973 by the English glam rock band Sweet.  It's been covered by at least 30 other artists and was used in Wayne's World as well as the video games Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

"Ballroom Blitz" seems to me to be sort of a hybrid; it goes along at the manic pace of of a punk song, but singer Brian Connolly's increasingly empassioned screeching in the choruses borders on bad English cabaret music.  Considering that glam rock was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek genre anyway -- sorry to burst the bubble of any of you who take Queen seriously -- maybe that was the intent.  In any case, it's a great song and the sample from it was perfect for "Hey Ladies."

If you're looking for depth of feeling or philosophical introspection, early Beastie Boys is not going to be your source.  This was way before Adam Yauch discovered the Dalai Lama and Buddhist enlightenment.  But if you're in the mood for a hilarious goof on the 70's disco era and some pretty darn good beats and rhymes, click "play" and enjoy.

2 or 3 lines is grateful to Professor Linda for teaching today's class.  As you might have guessed, Professor Linda is the same person as Linda, the Chief Executive Senior Contributing Editor, or "C.E.S.C.E."  But because I am always forgetting that acronym, I have decided to call Linda our "A.B.C.X.Y.Z." -- not because it stands for anything, but because I know I will be able to remember it.

One final note:  2 or 3 lines set a new high in visits and page views last month largely because I added a rather random shot of ex-model Paulina Porzikova-Ocasek to my post on the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold."

That explains why this photo of Kim Kardashian appears here:

Kim Kardashian
Hey, it's your own fault.  If you people clicked on my ads and ordered from Amazon through the search box that appears on the right-hand side of every 2 or 3 lines post, I wouldn't have to stoop to cheap tricks like this to get my click numbers up.

Here's "Hey Ladies":

Here's a link you can use to buy "Hey Ladies" from Amazon.  (Remember -- order stuff through 2 or 3 lines or you'll be seeing more of Kim Kardashian's backside!)

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