“Licensed to Ill” is 25 years old. Over at New York Magazine check out this oral history of the Beastie Boys’ first album:
Adam Horovitz: That year was basically Mike’s house during the day, writing lyrics, going to the club, going to the studio, going back to the club. We would write and write and write, then read the lyrics out loud to see who liked what. And that’s kind of how we’ve always done it since then. Rick had a drum machine, and I used to go to his dorm room and make beats. I made the beat for LL Cool J’s first single, “I Need a Beat.” I bought an 808 at Rogue Music [the Roland TR-808 was one of the first programmable drum machines] with some of the settlement money.
Mike Diamond: We would start with the music, and then Rick would clean it all up. Rick had the ability to make things sound legitimate and bigger, to make it sound like a record.
Rick Rubin: Each one had a strong personality. When we came up with rhymes, we tried to cast them for the right character and the right voice.
Horovitz: It just sort of happened. It wasn’t like, “Okay I’m going to be like Melle Mel, you’re Kool Moe Dee.”
Diamond: We never broke it down like, “Okay, I’m the baritone.”
Chuck Eddy, music writer (who did a notorious Beasties piece in 1987 for Creem): They were smart, arty Jewish kids from New York, and they created these white-trash burnout characters with the help of Rubin. And they pulled it off.