Today in Hip-Hop: Beastie Boys Debut Album ‘Licensed to Ill’ Tops Billboard 200
On this day, March 7, in hip-hop history...
1987: Three ex-rockers reach a rap milestone.
Starting out in New York City as members of a rock band before transitioning to rap, Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock 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 co-founded 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 harkened back to their rock roots, with a wailing electric guitar and the call-and-response chorus etching the song into music history. With the members alternating bars 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 was certified-platinum by February 1987, and hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts on March 7 of that year. This was a huge moment for hip-hop, as an album from the genre never lead the chart before. It's also Def Jam's fastest-selling debut, and went diamond in 2015. This was the beginning of a career for the trio that featured accolade after accolade, including entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, MCA passed away from cancer in 2012, leading to the group disbanding out of respect.
Long live the Beasties.
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