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Beastie Boys love letter to NYC

Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys - To The 5 Boroughs
(Capitol Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 12, 2004

Review by Tony Bonyata

Six years. That's how long it's been since Beastie Boys released their last album Hello Nasty. Considering that trends and musical tastes change with the weather, six years is more than a lifetime for most musical acts. But as Adam "MCA" Yaunch, Mike "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Adrock" Horovitz prove on their sixth and most focused record to date, To The 5 Boroughs, their own unique brand of hip hop is still as vital as when they where just three snot-nosed punks from Brooklyn willing to fight for their right to party.
Since the events of 9/11 the entire world has become compassionate towards NYC - no one more than New Yorkers themselves. So it comes as no surprise to find that Beastie Boys' latest release is a love letter to their hometown city. While they may have originally started out as a hardcore punk act in 1982, ever since their 1986 debut Licensed To Ill smashed onto the charts they've adopted the hip hop sounds birthed in the streets of New York in the early '80s.
In the past the trio has broadened the boundaries of hip hop's possibilities - most notably by adding not only a more organic sound with the use of real instruments but also by crossbreeding a melting pot of world music styles. But on To The Five Boroughs, however, Beastie Boys stay singularly focused on the hip hop they originally cut their teeth on. Instead of seeing how far they can push the genre, they've taken a step back to reflect on where they've come from - both musically and geographically.
With their sophomoric sense of humor still fully intact the B Boys take us on an entertaining ride through Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island. From the skittish beats, braying rhymes and stuttering chorus on the album's first single "Ch-Check It Out" to the rubbery "Time To Build" to the foreboding funk that bubbles underneath "An Open Letter To NYC" this album finally finds these three misfits, now pushing 40, maturing without really ever growing up.
When the threesome cries "we got to keep the party going on," throughout "All Lifestyles," it might appear that their credo hasn't changed much in the last 18 years, but as their love for their hometown (and ultimately their country) proves, these guys are willing to fight for a lot more than just another party.

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