Jonah Bromwich can’t, he won’t, and he don’t stop.
The combination of MCA’s death and my first summer in New York City has had me listening to the Beastie Boys a lot. Though I already was a bona fide Beastie stan through my teenage love of License to Ill, my college love for Paul’s Boutique, and last year’s love for Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2, I’ve been surprised by the realization that none of these albums demands constant rotation like Ill Communication.
It’s not hard to explain. Ill Communication is simply the funkiest Beastie album [ed. note: “Check Your Head“], with live instrumentation that appropriately scores the circadian rhythms of the sweltering city. Take those deep 808’s and that moaning noisemaker on “B’Boys Makin’ with the Freak Freak” or the screeches and ambient noise undercut by a knowing sense of rhythm on the instrumental b-side, “Bobo on the Corner.” Listen to that incredible loop on “Sure Shot” or the way that the bass just owns “The Update.” “Alright Hear This” sounds like captured noise from the coolest camp class ever. And honestly, as long as the Beasties are being involved in official legislation, some enthusiastic councilman should propose that “Futterman’s Rule” be blasted from City Hall to herald the official arrival of the season.
The lyrics. Check their alternating energy (“Sabotage,” “Heart Attack Man”) and listlessness: “I try to do a lot, more than I can chew, balance out my ambition’s what I’ve got to do.” They suit the weather perfectly, better for chanting than deciphering when it’s too hot to get up and press rewind.
Rap is tricky in the summer. Pretty much anything G-funk is optimal, but there’s plenty of great music that’s off the table during the next few months. I can’t do Ka right now. As much as I like that Ab-Soul album, I can’t muster the paranoia to empathize with “Terrorist Threats” when the sunshine threatens to overwhelm. And while “Hypnotize,” “Juicy,” “Gimme the Loot” and “Machine Gun Funk” are ideal for this weather, “Warning,” “Things Done Changed” and “Ready to Die” all go into hibernation during this part of the year, only to return with the puffy jackets that I imagine are worn by the characters in those songs.
But the Beasties own the summer. “Get it Together” is the perfect song for suntan lotion and chilling near whatever open body of water is available to you. As such, it’s my favorite thing to listen to right now. The Abstract at his least serious self, offering rhymes about girls who he wants to let him “spawn on their eggs” and claiming that his “rhymes are not butt,” while Ad-Rock references John Starks, and the late great MCA ties it all together when he says “I’m working on my game because life is taxing, got get it together and see what’s happening.” It’s the sound of a perfect summer, three friends cooling out, talking about girls and basketball, and taking stock of what’s going on, stress-free as long as the air conditioning unit doesn’t break.