0317: “Time For Livin'” by Beastie Boys

In 1986, as rap had begun moving from Brooklyn to Manhattan to mainstream America, the Beastie Boys landed on the scene with Licensed to Ill. It was fueled primarily by the rock-rap anthem “Fight For Your Right,” which encapsulated producer Rick Rubin’s musical worldview to a tee: a guy who was absorbed by rap and hip hop, and who also produced Slayer’s landmark debut album. “Fight For Your Right” was the perfect sophomoric track that could connect a white suburban audience with a black genre. On the surface it looked like the Beasties were going to be a white novelty trying to cash in on black art but three years later they teamed up with the Dust Brothers instead of Rubin and dropped the seminal album Paul’s Boutique, a sprawling masterpiece that expanded the boundaries of sampling, and added more sophomore humor peppered with random Hawthorne Wingo references. Hip hop icons such as Rakim and Chuck D were blown away by what these dudes were doing; these weren’t just three dorks with a hot video on MTV. Three years later the Beasties released Check Your Head which added a layer of heaviness (the West Coast sound was becoming mainstreamed too) but still kept the odd sampling and ironic prowess. Almost exactly in the middle of Check Your Head is a cover of Sly and The Family Stone’s “Time For Livin'”—the only cover they ever did on a studio album. Their version is half the time of the original and instead of trying to capture Sly’s soulfulness they, uh, went the polar opposite route and made it into a kind of garage thrash rendition. The biggest departure that Check Your Head represents from their previous two albums was that it included instrumental tracks and tracks where the Beasties are playing instruments instead of relying on sampling. Their version of “Time For Livin'” is unlike most of their catalog: raw, loud, and kinda punk. The Beasties had a little chameleon in them, which endeared them to the casual fan and the professionals, which made them more than just three white dudes trying to rap and get on MTV. “Time For Livin'” is one of the best rock songs of the ’90s.

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