Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill Album Certified Diamond By The RIAA, A 1980s Rap First!
Nearly 30 years old, the Beastie Boys’ 1986 debut album, Licensed To Ill has sold 10 million copies. Officially certified diamond status, the Def Jam Records release (the only the Beasties recorded for Russell Simmons & Rick Rubin’s then-label)—this is the first for the 30-plus year-old label. Jay Z, DMX, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and Kanye West—all onetime Def Jam artists, have not yet accomplished this feat. In fact, no 1980s Rap albums have reached diamond, until L.T.I.
Following LL’s Radio, the debut from MCA, Ad-Rock, and Mike D was Def Jam’s second full-length release, after the label had received a distribution deal with Columbia/Sony Records. Notably a group of three white MCs, Licensed To Ill would be the first Rap album to debut at #1 on the charts—and it stayed there for a staggering five weeks.
The 13-track effort, produced by the group and mentor Rick Rubin, would include the hits “You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party),” “Paul Revere,” “Girls,” and “Brass Monkey.” Rooted in a party theme, the album focused on drinking, mischief, sex, and debauchery. For the music, samples—like some of Run-DMC’s work at the time—were pulled from Classic Rock bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and The Clash. Additionally, the Beasties pulled from their contemporaries such as Joeski Love, G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid, and Sugarhill Gang. The results gained support from Rock radio, something that collaborative act Run-DMC had also experienced with “Walk This Way” that same year.
Notably, Licensed To Ill is separated from much of the Beasties’ other catalog. Recorded when the group was either teens or in their early twenties, the album would not match their maturing sound and lyrics. After all, Rolling Stone reviewed the LP, “Three idiots create a masterpiece.” The group’s subsequent tour of the same name featured an inflatable penis, and cages of female fans. The sex-crazed lyrics were matched with these objects, along with beer showers and partying on stage.
Following 1987, the Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch, and Michael Diamond collectively decided to cease ties with Def Jam Records, Russell Simmons, and Rick Rubin. Signing with Capitol Records, where they immediately began recording 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, the trio remained at the storied imprint through MCA’s death from cancer in May, 2012. That same week, Licensed To Ill re-entered the Top 200 at #18.
In his book, Life & Def, Russell Simmons credited catalog sales of Licensed To Ill in later years, for helping sustain Def Jam Records through some creative and financial transitions in the early 1990s.
Do you think Licensed To Ill is deserving to be the first 1980s Rap album, or the first Def Jam LP to sell 10 million copies?
Spotted at XXL.