The Beastie Boys were around for as long as I can remember music. “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” came out when I was really young. Looking back, they already had three classic albums out by the time Ill Communication dropped. But this was the first Beastie Boys album to come out when I was really obsessed with music and specifically into “alternative” music culture. I was really into Check Your Head, but I just wasn’t surrounded by it as much because of my age. Ill Communication definitely hit hard with my friends and I at this time. It was one of those albums that I was extremely familiar with even though I didn’t actually have a copy. It was always in heavy rotation during my brief stint at skateboarding. I did hundreds of unsuccessful heelflips to this album.
If you were into “alternative” music in 1994, then that could really mean anything. Diversity and weirdness were usually seen as a positive thing. Ill Communication fit well into that musical environment even though it didn’t exactly sound like anything else. It had elements of other sounds, from Native Tongues style hip-hop to rock freak-outs, but the overall aesthetic was its own thing. The line-up for Lollapalooza that year had the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, George Clinton, the Boredoms and A Tribe Called Quest. So as a teenager listening to an album that jumped from rap to punk to Seventies-influenced instrumental jams, it just seemed to make sense in that context. I wanted to hear the wildest shit possible. I wanted my music to go everywhere.
The transition from “Sabotage” to “Get It Together” one of the best moments on this album. It’s unbelievably refreshing to hear Q-Tip on an instant-classic soul-jazz beat after the rock chaos that precedes it. There’s a bunch of those great song-to-song transitions throughout this album, and it really demonstrates how the Beastie Boys do disparate styles so well. I love “Sure Shot” going directly into “Tough Guy.” For an album that was stylistically all over the place, it was very cohesive. That’s been hugely influential for me.
I purchased the Root Down EP before I actually had a copy of Ill Communication. Back before you could instantly hear any song through the Internet, I really valued every CD I owned. So that song and the alternate versions on the EP really became my jams. With my Girl Talk albums, I always sample music that impacted me growing up. It felt appropriate to include elements of “Root Down” on All Day.
I’m guessing that I had to be introduced to Ill Communication through the “Sabotage” video. That is one of the greatest videos of all time. I watched MTV constantly during this era, and “Sabotage” just dominated. I can’t think of another song and video that are more connected in my mind; they’re inseparable. The actual song is pretty weird and abrasive to be a hit. I guess Ad-Rock is rapping, but I never think of it as a rap song. The chorus is one line, and the breakdowns are the signature parts. It’s a three-minute blast of energy, and it fucking rules. The Beavis and Butt-Head episode with “Sabotage” is a classic. It was always difficult to guess what videos they would be into. When they were in love with “Sabotage,” it felt like a unanimous decision of the Nineties that this video was amazing.
The intro with the dog saying “I love you” is probably the best first two seconds of any album from 1994.