How ironic is it that these smart-ass punks are still around, 25 years since their first appearance? The Beastie Boys have always been a conceptual band, beginning with the great 12-inch single, “Cookie Puss,” from 1984. The genius of the group has always been their ability to combine so many disparate elements into the whole.
Licensed To Ill featured their patented snot-nosed, white-boy attitude coupled with killer hip-hop beats, while adding the classic album rock of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC into the mix. The follow-up, Paul’s Boutique went even further. By putting their psychedelic vision of side two of Abbey Road in place of Rick Rubin’s classic rock samples, they came up with their acknowledged masterpiece.
The Beasties then went back to their punk rock roots with the well-received Ill Communication and Check Your Head. Fine records to be sure. For me though, 1998’s Hello Nasty is the one.
Like the earlier Paul’s Boutique, Hello Nasty is ambitious. There are tributes to the golden age of Tommy Boy Records, Grandmaster Flash, De La Soul, and Martin Denny, just to name a few.
The early-Eighties “electro-funk” sound of Africa Bambaata and The Jonzun Crew was the sound of hip hop when the Beasties started out. “Intergalactic” pays specific tribute to this era, and is fantastic.
The scratching styles of DJs such as Grandmaster Flash, and Whiz Kid have always been a part of Mixmaster D’s sound. This is made explicit with “Three MCs And One DJ.” His abilities are pretty impressive throughout the record, particularly on the opening “Super Disco Breakin,” and hit single “Body Movin.”
While “Picture This” may sound like a nod to the then emerging lounge trend, there is a history. Beginning with elements of Paul’s Boutique way back in 1989, the Beasties have been using this type of music to various effect.
The recent release of Hello Nasty Remastered gives it the deluxe treatment. The set features 43 remastered songs on two discs. The five-panel foldout package it comes in is pretty nice too. The original album comprises disc one, while disc two features 21 tracks of outtakes, remixes, odd vocal snippets, and general weirdness. It is for the completist to be sure, but for the most part, the extras are worth hearing.
The remixed versions of the original Hello Nasty tracks are probably the most significant aspects. Fatboy Slim’s remix of “Body Movin” is vintage 1998, while Kut Master Kurt’s version punches up the drums in no uncertain terms.
“Intergalactic” is such a great song it would be nearly impossible to mess up. The Colleone & Webb remix is pretty standard, bringing up the drums and vocals primarily.
The “dub” version of “Dr. Lee, PHD” is pretty funny. How do you dub-out the most dubbed-out cat ever, Lee “Scratch” Perry? With a lot of ganja apparently, because the second disc’s dub version does manage to do it. This one will appeal to fans of The Clash’s Black Market Clash, like myself.
Of the rest, there are more remixes, basic instrumental tracks, and studio banter to choose from. One of the joys of going “deluxe” is seeing if this type of ephemera really makes it for you.
In the pre-Millennial world of 1998, Hello Nasty spoke to the optimism many felt about what the new century would bring:
“Getting’ on down to the year 2000, a slight distraction can get you paid…”
Besides being a great Beastie Boys record, Hello Nasty now exists as a reminder of what many of us felt was possible back then. Some may be feeling that way again. Who knows, the Beasties could have been further ahead of their time than we thought.
What makes Hello Nasty so special for me is the way they were able to look back with respect, while looking forward to the future. It is a trait that should never go out of style.