As we enter the home stretch of this list, we come across this record--probably not the critical favorite, but it's accomplishment on the scale of popular music as a whole is substantial. Coming off the heels of the uber-popular Licensed to Ill, the Beasties had their back against the wall knowing, if there was any mis-step in their followup, they could disappear into pop oblivion as quick as they arrived. They jumped ship at Def Jam, landed at Capitol and without the careful ear of Rick Rubin, they recruited the relatively unknown production outfit of the Dust Brothers.
An astounding musical accomplishment by the standards of 1989, Boutique was a wide, colorful spectrum of breaks and cleverly lifted samples (from Johnny Cash to the Beatles, Isley Brothers to the Eagles) as the Dust Brothers painted a masterful backdrop for the Beasties to entertain varied approaches to songwriting that saw them move away from the party anthems (even though "Hey Ladies" and "Shake Your Rump" would be album favorites) and more towards darker, more haunting material like my personal favorite, "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun."
Boutique is the Beasties in full realization of their creative clout. The sleeve makes no mention of the Boys on the front or the back panel--unheard of for hip hop artist--and the content itself sees the Beasties pushing themselves beyond the clutches of conventionalism with the creation of the 15-minute plus, nine-movement hip hop symphony, "B-Boy Bouillabaisse."
The Beasties will never be considered one of the greatest groups of all time, but certainly the product that they have consistently produced over the years are a testament of their abilities as artists. Often times, purists are reluctant to even whisper their name, however, those who can, do so mainly because Boutique was what it was--a statement by the Beasties that, love them or hate them, they were going to be around for a long time and their commitment to the artform was not to be questioned. I'm convinced had the pivotal Boutique been half the record it is, we would have never been given the later Check Your Head or Ill Communication.
Boutique is no dress-up, but proof of the Beasties quietly transitioning from pop act to pioneers.
"Shake Your Rump"
"The Sounds of Science"
"Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"