Contact Us

20 Of The Best Lines From The Beastie Boys’ ‘Ill Communication’

  • beastie boys ill communication
    Today, May 23, marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the Beastie Boys' Ill Communication, the group's fourth album and second No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Over 20 tracks, the trio of Mike D, King Ad-Rock and MCA ran the gamut of musical styles and lyrical expression; eight songs are instrumentals and range from dirty, in-your-face funk to groovy, laid-back jazz, and this is the same album that brought the savage heaviness of "Sabotage" to the masses. It's fleshed out lyrically with the classic boasts and frat-boy party rhymes that they spit without thinking, but there's a depth to this one—particularly on the MCA solo tracks "The Update" and "Boddhisattva Vow"—that represented the deeper well of substance that the Beasties were drawing from, and helped cement their legacy as one of the greatest and most influential groups hip-hop has ever seen.

    In honor of the album's anniversary, XXL combed through the album and pulled out 20 of the best lines spit by the Boys. Hear this. —Dan Rys
    beastie boys ill communication lyric list
  • Beastie Boys

    “Sure Shot”

    Lyric: “Timing like a clock when I rock the hip-hop/Top notch is my stock on the soapbox/I've got more rhymes than I've got grey hairs/And that's a lot because I've got my share”
    Why It’s Dope: MCA was on top of his game throughout this entire album, but his reference to his own grey hairs is one that was both hilarious and reflected a passing concern at his own advancing age. We'll chalk it up as more clever than morbid, though.

    Beastie Boys old school
  • Beastie Boys

    “Sure Shot”

    Lyric: “I want to say a little something that's long overdue/The disrespect to women has got to be through/To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends/I want to offer my love and respect to the end”
    Why It’s Dope: One of MCA's most quoted lines, and one that hip-hop would do well to pay more attention to. The Beasties were progressive in many ways, but their attitudes toward women was something so far ahead that the majority of hip-hop still, unfortuntately, hasn't gotten there.

    Beastie Boys chung king
  • Beastie Boys

    “Sure Shot”

    Lyric: “Strictly handheld is the style I go/Never rock the mic with the pantyhose/I strap on my ear goggles and I'm ready to go/‘Cause at the boards is the man, they call the Mario”
    Why It’s Dope: Mariooo! Referring to headphones as ear goggles is a brilliant visual; "Never rock the mic with the pantyhose" is an equally vivid one, though a little bit stranger.

    Beastie Boys headphones
  • Beastie Boys

    “Tough Guy”

    Lyric: “Box me out with your fat ass/Throw me around like a bounce pass/You've got a tombstone hanging over your dick/Cause a minor earthquake when you throw a moving pick”
    Why It’s Dope: The fact that this song—clocking in at under a minute and packing enough energy for an album's worth of punk songs—even exists on this album is a ballsy move, especially for the LP's second track. The fact that it doubles as an extended basketball metaphor is just awesome.

    Beastie Boys clapping
  • beastie-boys-6

    “B-Boys Makin' With The Freak Freak”

    Lyric: “Well, I'm brewing up rhymes like I was using a still/Kickin' it old school flow like Mike McGill/'Cause Yauch's on the upright, the shit just ain't funny/Got fat bass lines like Russell Simmons steals money”
    Why It’s Dope: Gut check! Russell Simmons and The Beastie Boys had a long, well-documented feud stemming from unpaid royalties off the band's first album, Licensed To Ill, which led Simmons to sue them for breach of contract after they announced they were leaving Simmons' Def Jam label. The band dipped from Def Jam and signed with Capitol, but didn't forget Simmons' handiwork.

    Beastie Boys boombox
  • Beastie Boys

    “B-Boys Makin' With The Freak Freak”

    Lyric: “Well, I'm not known for my speed raps/So grab the microphone and cut out the claps/Ah, yeah, I like that, shit is kind of rough/I'll grab the microphone and fuck it up”
    Why It’s Dope: MCA's thesis in a way—he's not the fastest rapper, but he'll still destroy other rappers, either with lyrics, individuality, or sheer force of will.

    Beastie Boys laughing
  • Beastie Boys

    “Root Down”

    Lyric: “There goes the guy with the funky sound/The Beastie Boys, you know we come to get down/Because I've got the flow where I grab my dick/And say 'Oh my god, that's the funky shit!'”
    Why It’s Dope: One great thing about the Beastie Boys was that, no matter how far they swerved musically, they always stuck to their funky roots, introducing that flavor into a whole bevy of different styles in the future.

    Beastie Boys close up
  • Beastie Boys

    “Root Down”

    Lyric: “I’m like 'Sweetie Pie' by The Stone Alliance/Everybody know I'm known for dropping science/‘Cause I'm electric like Dick Hyman/I guess you'd expect to catch the crew rhymin'!”
    Why It’s Dope: The last lyric on this line, where the beat drops and everyone says, "I guess you'd expect to catch the crew rhymin'!" is probably the best moment in an outstanding single.

    Beastie Boys jackets
  • Beastie Boys


    Lyric: “I can't stand it/I know you planned it/I'ma set it straight, this Watergate/I can't stand rockin' when I'm in here/'Cause your crystal ball ain't so crystal clear/So while you sit back and wonder why/I got this fuckin' thorn in my side/Oh my god, it's a mirage/I'm tellin' y'all, it's sabotage”
    Why It’s Dope: Maybe one of the most famous lyrics they ever wrote, the opening of "Sabotage" was absolutely massive, and the song's success—as well as its iconic music video—ingrained those words into every Beasties fan's head.

    Beastie Boys cops
  • Beastie Boys

    “Get It Together” featuring Q-Tip

    Lyric: “Well, I'm long gone, word is bond/Don't need a motherfuckin' fool tellin' me right from wrong/I don't think I'm slick nor do I play like I'm hard/But I'ma drive the lane like I was Evan Bernard”
    Why It’s Dope: Evan Bernard, who directed a few of the group's music videos, gets a shoutout as the boys continue their trend of shouting out their friends on their records, no matter how obscure or connected. They did it again and again throughout Ill Communication by shouting out their co-producer Mario Caldato.

    Beastie Boys hard hats
  • Beastie Boys

    “Get It Together” featuring Q-Tip

    Lyric: “I got some shit/I've got the kung fu grip behind my green trap kit/Never, ever, ever smoking crack (crack)/Never, ever, ever fucking wack”
    Why It’s Dope: In addition to it being a dope line, the way Mike D drops out and Q-Tip picks up the last line to finish the rhyme is a great reminder that no one gets together in the studio to make records together anymore.

    Beastie Boys beach
  • Beastie Boys

    “The Update”

    Lyric: “Because the Mother Earth needs to be respected/Been far too long that she's been neglected/Race against race, such a foolish waste/It's like cuttin' off your nose to spite your face/And at the end of the wars, what was the cost?/Well, it's clear that the Earth was the one who lost”
    Why It’s Dope: MCA goes in with a life philosophy here, spitting truth in a genre and an era that leaned more towards aggression than conciliation, and his environmentalism was ahead of his time for 1994. There are a lot of ideas wrapped up in this one lyric, but MCA managed to nail it all in a few brief lines.

    Beastie Boys old stairway
  • Beastie Boys

    “The Update”

    Lyric: “Over the years I've grown and changed so much/Things I know now, years ago I couldn't touch/There are things I've done that I wouldn't do again/But I'm glad that I did 'cause I learned from them”
    Why It’s Dope: Wisdom.

    Beastie Boys chains
  • Beastie Boys Phil Andelman

    “The Update”

    Lyric: “I dream and I hope and I won't forget/Someday I'm going to visit on a Free Tibet/Someday I'm going to see us all joined as one/'Cause it would be too bad to blow it up before we're done”
    Why It’s Dope: The dopest part about this one is that MCA actually did get to visit Tibet later on, and spent much of the final 20 years of his life raising awareness for the Free Tibet cause.

    Beastie Boys later years
  • Beastie Boys

    “Alright Hear This”

    Lyric: “As we learn to breed a love for one another/In these times of melding cultures/I give respect for what's been borrowed and lent/I know this music comes down from African descent”
    Why It’s Dope: Acknowledging that hip-hop was not indigenous to three white kids from New York City was a self-aware step, and giving lyrical respect was another instance of spitting a rhyme, but backing it up as well.

    Beastie Boys beanies
  • Beastie Boys

    “Do It”

    Lyric: “Step inside the motherfucker and I get my flow on/Amalgamate my style so I've got something to grow on”
    Why It’s Dope: 100 million extra points for MCA being, at least after a cursory glance around, one of only three lyricists in hip-hop history (and the first by three years) to ever use the word "amalgamate"—the other two being Pharoahe Monch and Aesop Rock—which might be the most impressive lyrical feat on this entire album.

    Beastie Boys globe
  • adam horovitz Beastie Boys

    “Do It”

    Lyric: “Well, I'm a six point seven on the Richter Scale/I've got rhymes gallot and then I never fail/Like gravy to potatoes, Luke to Darth Vaders/I'm a souped up sucker and I'll see you all later”
    Why It’s Dope: "Like gravy to potatoes, Luke to Darth Vaders" is such an incredible way of incorporating comfort food and Star Wars to tell everyone you're a lyrical assassin.

    Beastie Boys adam horovitz
  • Beastie Boys mike d

    “The Scoop”

    Lyric: “'Cause you hide in broad day light, a parasite/A hypocrite, you take a peek quick/You turn your nose up, you think you're high up/You play it real safe and now your shit's fake”
    Why It’s Dope: A smackdown to every rapper trying to bite their style without doing anything themselves.

    Beastie Boys mike d close up
  • Beastie Boys

    “The Scoop”

    Lyric: “D.I.Y., that means do it yourself/I don't sit around waitin' for someone's help/I don't sit back and say 'Good enough'/I keep on striving, reinventing, keepin' it off the cuff”
    Why It’s Dope: A vision for how to continuously move forward in the hip-hop game—don't sleep, don't rest, don't think you've accomplished something, just keep moving forward and further.

    Beastie Boys very young
  • 2004 MTV Video Music Awards Beastie Boys

    “Boddhisattva Vow”

    Lyric: “So I pledge here before everyone who's listening/To make my every action for the good of all beings/For the rest of my lifetimes and even beyond/I vow to do my best, to do no harm”
    Why It’s Dope: This song, set over Buddhist chants, could be considered preachy and lame, if it wasn't for the fact that MCA backed up every single thing he said on the track. It's a tricky line to walk, but it can work if done correctly, and Yauch was on top of his game.

    Beastie Boys mtv vmas

Previously: Monks Pay Homage To Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch By Breakdancing In Union Square
NYC Officials Reject Beastie Boys Square Proposal
Which Rapper Has The Most Platinum Albums Ever?
15 Highest-Selling Debut Rap Albums In Hip-Hop History
The Top 50 Summer Releases Of All Time

Recommended For You

Around the Web

Best of XXL

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to using your original account information.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Not a member? Sign up here

Sign up for XXL Mag quickly by connecting your Facebook account. It's just as secure and no password to remember!