Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill Album Tops Billboard 200 Chart – Today in Hip-Hop
XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
March 7, 1987: On this day in 1987, three former punk rockers reach a rap milestone.
Starting out in New York City as members of a rock band before transitioning to rap, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz, Michael "Mike D" Diamond and the late Adam "MCA" Yauch formed The Beastie Boys. As they started to take rap more seriously, they sought out a DJ for their live shows: enter Rick Rubin, long before he became a living legend of the music business. Rubin went from DJing for them, to producing, to signing them to his new upstart label, Def Jam Recordings, which he cofounded with Russell Simmons in 1984.
With Rubin's production and Def Jam behind them, the Beastie Boys released their debut album, Licensed to Ill, on Nov. 15, 1986. The album had seven singles, but none were more commercially successful than "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)." The track found them going back to their rock roots, with a wailing electric guitar and the call-and-response chorus etching the song into music history.
With the rap trio alternating rhymes in each verse and singing the hook, everyone got a chance to shine. The first verse is about a typical day of a young kid: "You wake up late for school, man, you don't wanna go/You ask your mom, 'Please,' but she still says, 'No'/You missed two classes and no homework/But your teacher preaches class like you're some kind of jerk." Then, the part of the song that everyone knows: "You gotta fight...for your right...to party!"
Licensed to Ill hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart on March 7, 1987, and held that position for seven consecutive weeks. This was a huge moment for hip-hop, as an album from the genre never lead the chart before.
The album was also certified diamond (10 million copies sold) by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on March 4, 2015. This was the beginning of a career for the rap trifecta that featured accolade after accolade, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, MCA passed away from cancer in May 2012, leading to the group disbanding out of respect for their late brethren.
Long live the Beasties.