“Twenty-six years ago it would have been difficult to believe that someone could write seven paragraphs about the Beastie Boys without a single mention of race, and it still shouldn’t be entirely ignored. When Licensed to Ill became the best-selling rap album of all time it prompted (well-founded) accusations that skin color had allowed the group to jump the line. The triumph of Paul’s Boutique was partly a triumph of belonging: If Licensed to Ill was the best record ever made by a white rap group, Paul’s Boutique was one of the best records ever made by a rap group, period, and the first to render that qualifier unnecessary. In the wake of MCA’s passing, some folks have remarked that the Beastie Boys made it cool to be white, or some variation on this, an intelligible sentiment that I think is pretty wrong. The Beastie Boys made it cool to aggressively treat being white as a meaningless condition, a crucially different and far better thing. I was 12 years old when Check Your Head came out, and it didn’t teach me that my whiteness was cool—it taught me that great music was infinitely more interesting than the color of anyone’s skin. I learned the exact same thing from A Tribe Called Quest, who, it should be said, loved the Beastie Boys too.”
— Glad to have this piece by Jack Hamilton on MCA.