My Top 1000 Songs #621: Hey Ladies

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

In case the title of the blog, and the general music selection therein, haven't tipped you off, I'm not exactly an expert in all things hip-hop. Not really my genre (though I have great fondness for some of the groundbreaking, if obvious, tracks from the late 80s and early 90s). Still, the Beastie Boys' 1989 masterpiece Paul's Boutique is a personal favorite--and not so much for the rapping, though I do love the guys' three-part repartee, but for the production (provided by the band & the Dust Brothers). While I'd heard prior rap records as urban storytelling over vinyl snippets scratched by the DJ, Boutique presented a truly integrated sonic palette, a wide array of musical samples cleverly interwoven into impressive soundscapes, not just beats over which raps would be inserted. (I'll concede that others may have beaten them to the punch, but Boutique took it mainstream.)

The single "Hey Ladies" isn't necessarily a definitive track from the record--most of the LP works for me better as a unified suite than on a song-for-song basis--but it captures the vibe pretty well. It's based primarily in a sample from the Commodores' "Machine Gun" from 1974 (a song used brilliantly for the disco scene in Boogie Nights!), with various other snippets strewn about. And, yeah, one of those snippets being a drive-by moment from Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz," a formative moment from my childhood, certainly helped boost the track's emotional resonance for me. But overall, it's the elevation of sampling and hip-hop as high-art that makes the package special.

Now, the "Hey Ladies" lyrics are a different story. Some of the references are dated (or too insular for me even at the time), and it sees the band at peak misogyny--indeed, the misogyny is so over the top one can almost (almost!) enjoy them as mocking self-parody. But dial down the cringe factor and listen to it more for the sonic delights it provides, and it's the centerpiece of an incredible album.