It’s 1993 and I’ve got my walkman loaded with The Beavis and Butthead Experience. I’m about 13, find the skits hysterical, and am already obsessed with music.
I’ve got the tape because every 90s kid of a certain age is endlessly imitating and quoting Beavis and Butthead. I’ve also got the tape because… would you look at this tracklist.
I already knew the Beastie Boys from the MTV songs. “Fight for Your Right to Party” and the rest of License to Ill made them well-known quantities. But, what was this Anthrax cover of a Beastie Boys song I had never heard before doing on this Beavis and Butthead tape?
A few years later in my local record store, I was going through Beastie Boys CDs and saw “Looking Down the Barrell of a Gun” on the tracklist to Paul’s Boutique. I picked the album up. I was a few years late to finding it, but it was about to start blowing my mind (and would continue to blow my mind for years to follow, every time I learned something new about music production, technology, or copyright law).
My first impression was probably just how much fun the album was without being mainstream. It was the Beasties, but it felt so punk and underground. There was a reason this one didn’t make it to MTV, you could tell right away. It was a sonic collage of every style of music I had grown up on to that point. On headphones or speakers, the layers just washed over you. It was mesmerizing.
In the years that followed, I got deeper and deeper into hip-hop and also recording, and kept coming back to this album. It’s one thing to think, “listen to those samples,” and another thing to start to understand, “how on god’s grey earth did they technically use ALL OF THESE SAMPLES, especially with the gear they had?!”
Paul’s Boutique might be one of the most complicatedly created yet effortless sounding pieces of recorded music I’ve ever heard. Listening to the 33 ⅓ Podcast’s breakdown of it has me revisiting it on repeat. Getting the story about how the Dust Brothers would take the tiniest sample, cut it to tape, and then sync and loop it for 5 full minutes to build tracks… my jaw is on the floor. If you know, you know (and you still don’t know!).