Every great Beastie Boys album shares one thing in common - well, several really, but one in particular - there is no hint of the real world to be found. True, there are pop culture references abound, in fact the trio drown themselves in culture; but ultimately, all you can hear are three men having a blast, enjoying each others' company, and rapping over beats they put together themselves simply out of love for the genre of hip-hop. Even more importantly is perhaps the B-Boys' calling card, which is the MCs themselves. A detractor of the group or not, you cannot deny that every single LP this group has released (save To the Five Boroughs, maybe) boasts far more personality than any one album should ever be asked to bear. And we've gone a full seven years without a proper new one; thirteen, arguably, without a truly worthy album. Which brings us to the long awaited Hot Sauce Committee Part Two; it has not necessarily raised the bar, or shown us something entirely new, but it gives us all that Beastie Boys fix that we all so desperately needed.
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two can probably best be described as an amalgam of the near-masterpiece Check Your Head and lovely-but-somewhat-overlong Hello Nasty; all the grittiness and raw instrumentation (lo-fi production, broken microphones, etc) of the former are mixed wonderfully with the forward-thinking electronics of the latter, with attitude to spare. Initial singles Make Some Noise and Say It leave no doubt that these guys have still got it. And lyrically? Ad-Rock's verse on Nonstop Disco Powerpack says it all - in fact, there's no need to reference it; just listen to the damn thing. A minute into the track, Ad-Rock shows just how boring mainstream hip-hop has become. The fun, funky beat is almost enough, but hearing him spit "Non-stop going off, kingpin microphone boss, do my own thing, you can't afford the cost of my rhyme style, take you through a turnstile, 'cause I'm live and direct, and I'm wicked and wild" really reminds you not just of how good these guys are, but how absurdly they tower over the likes of any given popular so-called MC that dominates the airwaves these days. And that's just a minute and a half into the track! And furthermore, that's a mere two tracks into this album.
While they may embrace the role of elder statesmen in the genre with lines like MCA's "I burn the competition like a flamethrower, my rhymes age like wine as I get older" on the tremendous Make Some Noise, there's no mistake that they've still got energy to spare. Think these middle-aged men bearing the name 'Boys' sound tired? Just listen to Lee Majors Come Again. The punk rock of their early days drives on their rhymes like nothing the trio have put out since Ill Communication's Tough Guy back in 1994. Though there's really no cause to defend the energy that Ad-Rock, Mike D, and MCA have to offer, particularly when you have Too Many Rappers as evidence - when you can make a legend like Nas struggle to keep up, you know you've got your shit goin' on.
Hot Sauce Committee is essentially the album that should have come after Hello Nasty. Few Beastie fans would argue that Boroughs was anything NEAR their best, particularly since it was the first album of theirs that offered nothing new. Not to suggest that this one does, but it's got the energy and personality that we've been missing since 1998. It may not be their best, but as Mike D is heard saying at the end of Too Many Rappers, I can't help but say "...that was dope."