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Album Review: Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee, Part 2

Originally slated for release in September 2009, the Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee, Part 2 finally arrives tomorrow. After their 2004 tribute to New York, To the 5 Boroughs, and 2007’s instrumental The Mix-Up, fans and critics alike have eagerly awaited a return to form. The group’s strongest record since 1998’s Hello Nasty, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 is well worth the wait.

Sonically, Hot Sauce Committee* harks back to the group’s post-Paul’s Boutique period, when the boys picked up their instruments – a decision that was equal parts creative and necessary (sampling your own instrumental diversions is much easier than clearing a hundred-odd samples). Sinister riffs on “Say It” and “Long Burn the Fire” are reminiscent of “Sabotage,” in style if not substance. Funky basslines range from the subtle and upright (“Nonstop Disco Powerpack”) to the metallic and slinky (“Funky Donkey”). Drum lines are straightforward and old school, a reassuring constant on a musically varied record.

As for guest spots, the album bats .500. “Too Many Rappers” features Nas, but the two-year gap between its original release and this one doesn’t do the boastful space jam any favors. However, Santigold (who appears poised for a big return after her 2008 dominance and subsequent hiatus) is a perfect fit on the dubbed-out “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win.”

Comprising most of the soundtrack for Fight For Your Right (Revisited), “Make Some Noise” opens the record on a triumphant, nostalgic note. Wah wah guitar, pass-the-mic battle rapping, and blasts of synthesized noises provide a deep well for the Beasties throughout the entire album; they’re in their comfort zone. A welcome break from this formula is “Lee Majors Come Again,” a nod to their hardcore roots and late 70s coming of age.

Hip hop relevance is hard enough for artists half their age, but the Beastie Boys seem to manage it with ease. They have such a trademarked style, both lyrically and musically, that Hot Sauce Committee is immediately familiar but never boring.

*Dropping the “Part 2” for convenience. This release is comprised of the songs that were supposed to be Part 1, which is now in musical limbo.

Revisiting "Fight for Your Right"

The Beastie Boys are masters of reinvention. They started as a NYC hardcore band in 1979 (!) before breaking through as party-starting rap rockers in the mid 80s. Since then, they’ve matured musically, and more significantly, personally. There isn’t a bigger 180 than trying to name your album Don’t Be a Faggot and then spearheading the free Tibet movement. Accordingly, the Beastie Boys have done everything they can (including publicly apologizing) to move beyond their early years.

Until now.

Finally embracing their “Hooligans of Hip Hop” stage, the Beastie Boys have struck comedic gold with the surreal short-film Fight for Your Right Revisted. Written and directed by Adam Yauch (the thankfully cancer-free MCA), the film picks up where 1986’s “Fight for Your Right” video left off. For reference, the original clip is required viewing. The MTV Era classic was loaded with cameos (Tabitha Soren, Rick Rubin, LL Cool J) and references (George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead).

Crawling out of that debauchery are the Beastie Boys, played by Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, and Elijah Wood. The lithe Wood is the only passable imitator, but that’s hardly the point. This cast was assembled for maximum hilarity; the dialogue has an ad-libbed feel, which isn’t tough to imagine, considering the comedic talents that took part. It’s a Who’s Who of blink-and-miss-it cameos, everyone film pros like Susan Sarandon to hipster favorites like Jason Schwartzman. It feels like a friends and family production that must have been a blast to produce.

The video is set to music from their eagerly awaited album Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2. “Make Some Noise” and “Say It” are spun, rewound, sped up, slowed down to match the video’s increasingly twisted antics. After doing whip-its and acid with switchblade-wielding metal chicks (played by Chloe Sevigny, Kirsten Dunst, and Maya Rudolph), the Beasties are met by a DeLorean from – where else? – the future.

Cue big reveal: the Future Beastie Boys, played by Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Jack Black. To settle this time traveling identity crisis, a b-boy competition (conflict resolution, 1986 style) is proposed. The climactic battle turns into a pissing contest – literally. The Beastie Boys’ opinions on this era of their history are less than subtle. After a bit of slow motion water sports, the cops (played by the real-life Beasties) shut it all down.

The self-referential, meta fest goes far beyond the Beastie Boys vs. Beastie Boys set-up. Will Ferrell, before showing up as a future Beastie, references his most famous SNL skit, cowbell in hand. David Cross appears as Nathanial Hörnblowér, Yauch’s lederhosened alter ego, and Will Arnett delivers a GOB-like “come on!” (while wearing what’s possibly a $5,000 suit). Like Arrested Development, the film rewards repeat viewings.

Fight for Your Right Revisited is fan service at its finest, answering the eternal question: who are the real Beastie Boys?