Hello Nasty is the first time I remember a Beastie Boys album release being a big, highly anticipated deal. They’d had hits in the past and several albums had gained iconic status, but I feel like they were still seen as a bit of a novelty by the mainstream; The white rappers who did Fight for Your Right. But Ill Communication changed that. After that seminal record, they were legit, mainstream stars.
After releasing their first four albums in just eight years, there was a mammoth (by Beastie Boys standards) four years between Ill Communication, and Hello Nasty. I remember it seeming like a triumphant return. I remember Intergalactic being an unavoidable staple on Channel V. I remember buying a copy on cassette in a service station. What I don’t remember, is the album itself. So here I am, getting stuck right into Hello Nasty.
While Super Disco Breakin’ and The Move are pretty cool, there’s nothing new to be found. No sign of evolution in the band’s almost half decade holiday. They’re more like refreshers, to get people back up to speed on what the Beastie Boys do. But then Remote Control kicks in. Taking those familiar Beasties ingredients and ramps things up for what I have to assume was pretty ground breaking and mind blowing in the late 90s. Especially for established fans who probably assumed they knew what to expect.
Song for the Man and Just a Test are the first signs of Ad Rock, MCA and Mike D at their eclectic goofy best. From the trombone break down in Song for the Man, to the disjointed beats and music box tinkling of Just a Test, they’re the kinds of songs that could fall into a pile of experimental mess, if not being guided by these three dudes, and Mix Master Mike, on his first album their resident DJ.
While Intergalactic was the flagship single, launching this new record and previewing what Hello Nasty had in store, Body Movin’ is the song that has stayed with me the most in the 17 years since. A fun sampled hook, traded off verses, a silly costume filled video. It has all the fruit. But once Body Movin’ leads into Intergalactic, I get why this was the single chosen to kick things off. It’s full of quotable lines, bite sized zingers and an infectious hook that’s impossible not to imitate, even though you’ll never sound a thing like it.
With such a relatively long break between records, the 22 tracks that make up Hello Nasty is proof that they didn’t sit around doing nothing all those years. But songs like the quartet that is Sneakin’ Out the Hospital, Putting Shame in Your Game, Flowin’ Prose and And Me make me wish they’d delayed the release even longer, and spent that time culling the track listing a little. None of these songs are bad, but they do take away a little of the impact from the rest that are close to amazing.
Three MCs and One DJ is a good mid album reinvigorator, but things slow down again with the salsa heavy Song for Junior and the weirdly hippyish I Don’t Know. I don’t really tune in to a Beastie Boys album for tender, falsetto crooning over dreamy acoustic guitars and bongos. But at least it’s not Picture This. Whoah, that is a terrible, terrible piece of shit.
But the run home starts strong with Unite. It’s funky enough, and the three MCs are so in sync and on fire, that even after the mostly meandering 20 odd minutes before it, Unite is enough to get me excited for how Hello Nasty will play out.
About half of Hello Nasty is more than worth your time. And it’s such a long, dense album, that even if you just took that good half and ditched the rest, you’d still have a full length album. Maybe the Beastie Boys were worried about their long hiatus and felt like they had to make up for lost time. Or maybe this bloated version of Hello Nasty is exactly the album they set out to make, with not a single note or beat that they see as superfluous. But to me, it’s a good album that could have been an amazing album at half the length.