Given the erratic nature of every musical climate they’ve had to endure, the Beastie Boys’s unprecedented longevity is a testament to the enduring quality of their work. The trio has remained relevant by virtue of their complete disregard for doing so, making music and penning rhymes that seemingly exist only to impress each other and conforming to no set style other than their own. Their long-delayed new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, is no exception, stuffed with the same inimitable exuberance that imparted cast-iron classic status to the lion’s share of the group’s back catalog.
The boys bounce off one another with less rigidity than your average rap posse, which goes a long way to embellishing the new album’s footloose nature. As usual, the mic is tossed to and fro, often spliced by some offbeat instrumental break, only for a chorus (in the loosest sense of the word) to appear out of nowhere like a bolt from the blue. Curtain-raiser “Make Some Noise” is a glowing example of the Beasties’ tried-and-tested songcraft, endearingly scatterbrained both in lyrics and structure, and glossed over with fuzzy-jazz trappings and rhythmic scratching. “Funky Donkey” is cut from a similar cloth, with the three MCs trading giddy rhymes across an eccentric beat that fuses a throbbing dub bassline with exotic Eastern influences. With Hot Sauce Committee, it’s advisable to always expect the unexpected.
Thematically, the trio plays fast and loose with geek-chic frames of reference and random hollers. On a reworked version of 2010’s Grammy-nominated “Too Many Rappers,” they grumble about the bogus posturing of the modern rap game, with Nas contributing a superb guest spot. The Queensbridge MC makes swipes like “A slug-peeler you’re not, Mafioso? No, you ain’t got the cutthroat in ya, beginner,” while Ad-Rock points to his own durability with “Oh my God, just look at me/Grandpa been rappin’ since ‘83.” Though lyrics concerning authenticity are justly few and far between, the Beasties’ age (all three are now in their mid 40s) seems to be a more pertinent topic: MCA explicitly stresses, “My rhymes age like wine as I get older,” while shout-outs are reserved for figures that thrived way back when.
Sonically, too, it feels as though the Beasties are purposefully shying away from cutting-edge sounds. The group has clearly settled with the choppy grooves and oddball samples that cropped up circa Check Your Head, and so it’s no surprise that the album consists of slight variations on this well-tried formula. Nothing that’s served up here sounds stale, but the beats—and particularly the instrumental breaks—are geared toward evoking a degree of nostalgia.
Essentially, the album recalls a time when the Beastie Boys were fighting for their right to party, and one where they weren’t blighted by the idea of their hair turning gray. Gracefully light on the cynicism that’s plagued numerous efforts by rappers entering the twilight of their career, and shamelessly heavy on the comical musings that have come to define the Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee is an irresistibly fun record. Think of it as a trip down memory lane en route to the retirement home, though hopefully we can expect a few more detours before these New York veterans reach their destination.