Today marks 30 years since the release of Beastie Boys’ game-changing debut album Licensed to Ill. From socially expanding rap’s reach to graphically pushing the limits of its subject matter, it’s the project that has inspired the generations that followed to fight for their right to party while knowing the proper order of holding and hitting things.
But while memorizing “Paul Revere” and giggling at “Girls” are both still 7th grade rites of passage, there’s quite a bit that was removed from Licensed to Ill before it made its way into your heart forever. Three decades later, he’s what didn’t quite become classic.
Probably the most mythologized of the lost LTI tracks, “I’m Down” was a contemporary hip-hop remake of an aged rock classic (The Beatles’ “I’m Down” for those keeping score at home), which was the popular style at the time. By all accounts yanked from the record at the very last minute (most say it was cold feet from the Beatles’ publishers objecting to it), word of the song existed for years before it began resurfacing on bootlegs in the fan community in the 90s.
Originally meant for the soundtrack of the Rick Rubin directed Tougher Than Leather, the quasi-sequel to 80s hip-hop classic Krush Groove, the Beasties actually performed “Desperado” in their cameo. The soundtrack was never released, making the filmed snippet the only copy of the song in circulation until “Desperado” finally surfaced in the aughts.
The more famous of the Licensed to Ill demos-turned-scrapped soundtrack songs was “Scenario,” which found its way into the Christian Slater film Pump Up the Volume. Taking several cues from Schoolly D’s “P.S.K. What Does it Mean?,” the song largely credited with creating gangsta rap, “Scenario” is notably a bit darker in tone than the rest of LTI, even in the more cartoonish moments of “smoking my crack.”
The Beasties’ first single for Def Jam, AC/DC blocked it from appearing on any future releases due to the unauthorized use of “Back in Black.” When the Beasties attempted to negotiate with the band for a 1999 official re-release of the song for their Sounds of Science anthology, they were kindly rejected, citing that AC/DC “doesn’t believe” in sampling. However, producer Rick Rubin claims AC/DC verbally signed off on the song originally, after hearing the track played for them backstage at a concert via Rubin’s headphones.
“Fight For Your Right” (original w/ third verse)
By now we’ve all heard “Fight For Your Right” to the point where, honestly, some of us probably considered skipping it when revisiting it for this 30th anniversary. But for a song everybody over the age of 18 knows by heart, the very risqué cut third verse really makes hearing it now a new experience. While this original version benefits from the guitars being mixed higher, if you’re low on patience, jump right to 1:40 to hear where the Beasties’ partying/fighting was taken a little too far.