July 12, 2004 12:00 PM

To the 5 Boroughs

On the Beastie Boys’ landmark 1986 debut, Licensed to III, they famously incited suburban kids across America to “fight for your right to paaaar-tay.” Eighteen years later, the Beasties are flipping the script. “We’re gonna party for the right to fight,” they rap on their politically minded sixth album, the trio’s first since 1998’s multiplatinum Hello Nasty. Now all grown up and approaching 40, the Boys—Adam Yauch (aka MCA), 39, Mike Diamond (aka Mike D), 38, and Adam Horovitz (aka Adrock), 37—are concerned with more than getting to their next kegger. But the results are sometimes juvenile. “Columbine bowling, childhood stolen/ We need a bit more gun controlling,” they rhyme on the didactic “Right Right Now Now.” Elsewhere, they take one of several swipes at President Bush on the jittery “It Takes Time to Build”: “We’ve got a President we didn’t elect.” And they make a post-9/11 paean to New York City on the affectionate if somewhat corny “An Open Letter to NYC.” The New York homeboys drop references to the Big Apple throughout To the 5 Boroughs, while musically drawing from the hip-hop that rose from the city’s streets in the late ’70s and early ’80s. While not as sonically inventive as past Beasties releases, such as 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, the disc still finds the group making clever use of beats and samples (like the Sugar Hill Gang’s 1979 classic “Rapper’s Delight” on the old-school throwdown “Triple Trouble”). They rock the party on tracks like the funky-fresh “Oh Word?” and the first single “Ch-Check It Out,” which show the Beasties are still at their best when at their brattiest.


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