Album: Licensed to Ill
Label: Def Jam
Producer: Rick Rubin

“The New Style” represents the zenith of Rick Rubin's hip-hop production technique. If Rubin's ethos was a repudiation of the typical rap arrangement's unwavering sameness, then “The New Style” was a study in unpredictability: Three distinct movements colliding with one another, followed by a startlingly slow fourth. The song presented a sonic surprise around every corner.

Such a complex creative effort is hard to top. But another Beasties' song, “Hold It Now, Hit It,” comes very close. This was the song that broke the Beastiesin the hip-hop market, the song that made Black fans surprised that the Boys were, in fact, white.

 

To this day, it's difficult to name hip-hop tracks that contain the level of musical thought that these two songs do, save for the work of Rubin's production progeny, The Bomb Squad.

 

To this day, it's difficult to name hip-hop tracks that contain the level of musical thought that these two songs do, save for the work of Rubin's production progeny, The Bomb Squad.

Something important to note here: Rick Rubin and the Beasties in many ways co-produced this record. Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch and Michael Diamond don't often get credit for their own vision and contributions to their first album; I think even Rick wouldn't contest that the record was in many ways a collaboration.

But if you want to understand what Rick Rubin brought to the studio, just compare Licensed To Ill to any of the Beasties albums that followed it. As creative as the rest of their career has been, The Beasties never wrote better songs nor stronger choruses than they did on their first album; they never quite had such a focused, consistent musical framework; and they never again had Rubin's sense of dynamics and drama.