At the time, it surprised many listeners by being the first rap album to break into the mainstream and even get into the Billboard charts. Another album from that same year which showed the commercial viability of hip-hop acts was Raising Hell (1986) by Run–D.M.C., which also became an overnight sensation.
However, Licensed to Ill was especially notable because it came from a group of white middle-class boys of Jewish descent, who nevertheless managed to overcome prejudices and get acclaim and respect from within the hip-hop community itself. Much had to do with the fact that the Beastie Boys showed off great rapping skills, clever sampling and an overall creative and fun party atmosphere, exemplified by the hits "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn".
The Beasties themselves, however, would endure a Creator Backlash regarding this album. They felt that they were overly pigeonholed as mindless "party music" as a result of the album, and would come to consider the album's lyrics as a bit too pubertal. Also, "Fight for Your Right (To Party)", which became a Signature Song of theirs, was actually meant as a tongue-in-cheek jab at the same "frat bro" culture they were accused of promoting, but most fans didn't get the joke. As a result, Licensed to Ill became an Old Shame to them, and their follow-up would be the more mature New Sound Album Paul's Boutique (1989). Nevertheless, Licensed to Ill is still a classic and regarded as a cornerstone in the history of hip-hop and popular music in general.
- "Rhymin' & Stealin'" (4:08)
- "The New Style" (4:36)
- "She's Crafty" (3:35)
- "Posse In Effect" (2:27)
- "Slow Ride" (2:56)
- "Girls" (3:14)
- "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" (3:28)
- "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" (4:07)
- "Paul Revere" (3:41)
- "Hold It Now, Hit It" (3:26)
- "Brass Monkey" (2:37)
- "Slow And Low" (3:38)
- "Time To Get Ill" (3:37)
Licensed to Trope:
- Album Title Drop: Almost, in "Paul Revere" and "Time To Get Ill"My name is MCA, I've got a license to kill
- Alliterative List: "Time To Get Ill""I'm cool, calm, collected - from class I was ejected
- Alliterative Title: "Hold It Now, Hit It".
- Ambiguous Time Period: The faux- origin story described in "Paul Revere" "started way back in history," when the boys were outlaws in the Wild West. Notably, Ad-Rock was riding a horse, running from the sheriff and wearing a baseball hat.
- Barbaric Bully: All three of the boys present as this. Their then-producer Rick "Double R" Rubin was a fan of Professional Wrestling and their image was influenced by the over-the-top antics of Heels; depending on the song, their behavior ranges from literal barbarism in the vein of pirates and outlaws to stereotypical schoolyard bullying.So I went into the locker room during classesWent into your locker and I smashed your glasses
- Bar Brawl: "Paul Revere."
- Big Applesauce: "No Sleep Till Brooklyn", where the band declares that they will tour the entire world, but won't sleep until they are back in their home neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.
- Boastful Rap: "Rhymin' And Stealin'"And I'll be rockin' my rhymes all the way to Hell's gate
- Bowdlerize: Later in their career the Beasties didn't like some of the misogynist lyrics of some of the songs on this album anymore, so they changed them for live performances. For example, when performing "No Sleep Till Brooklyn", "M.C.A.'s in the back because he's skeezin' with a whore" was changed to "M.C.A.'s in the back with the mahjong board", and "Autographed pictures and classy hoes" was changed to "Autographed pictures to nobody knows".
- The Casanova: "The New Style"Got rhymes that are rough and rhymes that are slickI'm not surprised you're on my dick
- This trope is heavily in play for most of the album, but it's subverted by "Girls," which details Ad-Rock's sexual frustration (and failure to attract the girl he really wants, who rejects him after being rejected herself by MCA and later pursues Mike D).
- Celebrity Cameo: In the music video of "Fight For Your Right" several well known faces have a cameo, among them LL Cool J, members of the punk band Murphy's Law and producer Rick Rubin. Also present is Tabitha Soren (with dyed hair), who would later become reporter for MTV News.
- Continuity Nod:
Because the Beastie Boys have gone AWOL
- "Rhymin' And Stealin'" has the line "Yo-ho-ho and a pint of Brass Monkey", which receives a continuity nod in the song "Brass Monkey" and "Slow Ride" ("I got a new dance they call the Brass monkey")
- "Rhymin' And Stealin'" has a line which already foreshadows the song "AWOL" on the band's next album Paul's Boutique (1989).
- Another example of foreshadowing: The phrase "Time to Get Ill" appears in both "Paul Revere" and "Brass Monkey".
- "The New Style" and "Fight For Your Right" were sampled during "Johnny Ryall" from the Beasties' own album Paul's Boutique.
- "The New Style" was also infamously sampled on "Intergalactic" from Hello Nasty.
- Cover Version: "Slow and Low" was originally penned by Run–D.M.C. and recorded during the sessions for King of Rock. While it didn't get onto that album, the Beastie Boys liked the track enough to seek and obtain permission to record their own version, adjusting some of the more self-referential lyrics. The original version would eventually surface on the deluxe edition of King of Rock.
- Cowboy Episode: "Paul Revere."
- Department of Redundancy Department: From "Hold It Now, Hit It":And I come from Brooklyn 'cause that's where I'm from
- Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover was designed by David Gambale, under the pseudonym "World B. Omes," and features a Boeing 727 with the band name on the tail crashing head-on into a mountain side.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In addition to the over-the-top fratboy gimmick, it's the only Beastie Boys album (besides The Mix-Up) to completely lack profanity.
- Fight Fur Your Right to Party: "Fight For Your Right To Party" is the Trope Namer.
- Firing in the Air a Lot: Referenced in "Rhymin' & Stealin'" and "Paul Revere."
- Image Song: "Rhymin' and Stealin'", a sarcastic commentary of their embrace of hiphop. Most of the album in general also provides an image of the band as party animals, which they came to regret later in life when too many people took this image too seriously.Beastie Boys always on vacation
- Important Haircut: "Fight For Your Right To Party"I'll kick you out of my home if you don't cut that hair
- Kleptomaniac Hero: "She's Crafty", where MCA brings a girl home whom his friends suspects is a thief. Next morning she has stolen everything in their house.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: "Paul Revere"I said "I'll ride with you if you can get me to the borderThe sheriff's after me for what I did to his daughterI did it like this / I did it like that / I did it with a Wiffleball bat.
- Location Song: "No Sleep Till Brooklyn", an ode to Brooklyn, their home borough. In the song they sing that how exhausting their tours may be they will not rest until they are back in Brooklyn.
- Minsky Pickup: "Time to Get Ill" samples the intro to "Nothing From Nothing" by Billy Preston, which uses the Minsky pickup.
- Mirror Match: The tail number on the plane on the album cover is "3MTA3", which spells "Eat Me", when seen in a mirror.
- Misogyny Song: "Girls"Girls - to do the dishesGirls - to clean up my roomGirls to do the laundry
- Mundane Made Awesome: The lyrics somehow manage to get effective Boastful Rap out of spats with teachers, trips to White Castle and getting high while watching Mister Ed.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg:Coolin' on the corner on a hot summer's dayJust me and my posse and MCA
- Never Trust a Title: "Paul Revere" refers to Ad-Rock's horse, which is named "Paul Revere", but disappears soon after he's introduced.
- Ode to Intoxication: Literally every song references getting drunk and stoned.
I'm wheelin', I'm dealin' - I'm drinking, not thinkingNever cower, never shower - and I'm always stinkingYo-ho-ho and a pint of Brass Monkey
- "Rhymin' And Stealin'"
Rolled up a woolly (what did he do?) and I watched "Columbo"
- "The New Style"
I got a hat, not a visor - I drink Budweiser
- "Posse In Effect"
I sip the def ale with all the fly women
- "Slow Ride" is full of references to drinking alcohol and smokin' marihuana.
- "No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn''
- "Brass Monkey", which is named after a cocktail.
- One-Man Song: "Paul Revere".
- One-Woman Song: "She's Crafty", "Girls".
- One-Word Title: "Girls".
- Origins Episode: "Paul Revere" tells a fictional story how the band members met.
- Outlaw: All three of the boys in "Paul Revere."
- Parental Hypocrisy:Well, your pop's caught you smoking and he says "No way"That hypocrite smokes two packs a day
- The Parody: The music video of "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" parodies Glam Metal.
- The Piano Player: The one in "Paul Revere" continues providing the music throughout Mike D's holdup of the bar and doesn't stop until Ad-Rock punches him in the face.
- Pie in the Face: The music video of "Fight For Your Right" ends with a pie fight.
- Pirate: "Rhymin' and Stealin'" is a rap song about being pirates, and it's awesome. The Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath samples help a lot.
- Product Placement:
I got a hat, not a visor - I drink Budweiser
- "Posse In Effect"
So I reached in the Miller cooler - grabbed a cool Bud(...) I'm fly like an eagle and I drink Old Crow'..)Eating Colonels' Chicken - drinkin' Heineken brew
- "Slow Ride"
If I run out of ale, it's a Thunderbird wine(...) Chef Boyardee, cooling on the pot
- "The New Style", "Girls, "Hold It Now", "Slow Ride" and "Slow And Low" all mention hamburger restaurant chain "White Castle".
- "Hold It Now, Hit It"
We don't mind Chivas
- "Brass Monkey"
But I'm chiller with the Miller - cold coolin' at the barI can drink a quart of Monkey and still stand still
- "Time To Get Ill"
- Pun-Based Title: The album title is a pun on "license to kill". "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" is a parody of "No Sleep 'till Hammersmith" by Motörhead.
- Punk Rap: "Fight For Your Right".
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: "Rhymin' and Stealin'."
- Really Gets Around: "She's Crafty"She's crafty - she gets aroundShe's crafty - she's always down
- Record Producer: Rick Rubin.
- Rock-Star Song: "No Sleep Till Brooklyn", about touring the country and being good at it. "Fight For Your Right To Party" is a mockery of this.
- Roll in the Hay: "Girls"I hope she'll say: "Hey, me and you should hit the hay!"
- Running Gag: The boys' love of White Castle.
- "Rhymin' and Stealin'" has a sample lifted from "When The Levee Breaks" from Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin IV (1971), "Sweet Leaf" from Black Sabbath's "Master of Reality" (1971) and "I Fought The Law" by The Clash from their EP "The Cost Of Living" (1979).
- "The New Style" samples "2-3 Break" by the B-Boys, "Drop the Bomb" by Trouble Funk and "Peter Piper" from Run–D.M.C.'s album Raising Hell (1986).
- "She's Crafty" samples "The Ocean" from Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy (1973).
- "Posse In Effect" samples "Pee Wee's Dance" (1986) by Joeski Love and "Catch A Groove" (1976) by Juice.
- "Slow Ride" samples "Low Rider" by War.
- "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" samples "T.N.T." from AC/DC's TNT (1975), though tuned in a different way.
- "Hold It Now, Hit It" contains samples from "The Return Of Leroy" by the Jimmy Castor Bunch, "Drop the Bomb" and "Let's Get Small" by Trouble Funk, "Funky Stuff by Kool & the Gang, "Take Me To The Mardi Gras" by Bob James, "Christmas Rappin'" by Kurtis Blow and "La Di Da Di" by Doug E. Fresh and MC Ricky D.
- "Brass Monkey" samples "Bring It Here" (1981) by Wild Sugar.
- "Slow And Low" owes it's sound to the samples "8th Wonder" by The Sugarhill Gang and "Flick of the Switch" (1983) by AC/DC.
- "Time To Get It Ill" samples "Take The Money And Run" by Steve Miller, "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More" by Barry White, "Gucci Time" by Schoolly D from Schoolly D, the theme from Mr. Ed and Green Acres, "Down On The Corner" from Creedence Clearwater Revival's Willy and the Poor Boys, "Custard Pie" from Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti and Stevie Wonder's "Boogie On Reggae Woman".
- Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: A recurring theme all throughout the album. Many lyrics make reference to partying, playing music, drinking, smoking marihuana and making out with girls. Best summed up in these lines from "Fight For Your Right"You pop caught you smoking and he said "no way"That hypocrite smokes two packs a dayMan, living at home is such a dragNow your mom threw away your best porno magYou got to fight for your right to party!
Because mutiny on the bounty's what we're all about(...) We got 16 men on a dead man's chest(...) One for all and all for one(...) Friggin' in the riggin' and cuttin' your throat(...) Ah, Captain Bligh is gonna die when we break his face(...) Ali Baba and the forty thieves(...)Yo-ho-ho and a pint of Brass Monkey(...) Blackbeard's weak - Moby Dick's on the tickCause I pull out my jammy and squeeze off sixMy pistol is loaded- I shot Betty CrockerDeliver Colonel Sanders down to Davey Jones' lockerI got more juice than Picasso got paint(...)If I played guitar I'd be Jimmy Page(...)I got to the party, you know what I did? The Smurf(...)Rolled up a wooly (what did he do?) and I watched "Columbo"
- "Rhymin' And Stealin'" refers to Mutiny on the Bounty, the pirate's songs "Dead Man's Chest" and "Friggin' in the Riggin'", The Three Musketeers, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the Disney land attraction "Pirates of the Carribean", with the song "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life For Me", Blackbeard, Moby-Dick, Betty Crocker, Colonel Sanders and Davey Jones' locker.
I do the Smurf, the Popeye and the Jerry LewisI like Bullwinkle, but I don't like moose(...) Smokin' in the boys room is what I do best(...)You know I got rhymes like Abe Vigoda
- The line "mmm...drop" in "The New Style" has been sampled in "Drop" (1995) by The Pharcyde, "Benz or a Beamer" by Outkast and the Beasties themselves on "Johnny Ryall" (from Paul's Boutique (1989)) and "Intergalactic" (from "Hello Nasty" (1998)). The opening line of the song has been sampled on "Workinonit" and "The New" by J Dilla. OFWGKTA also used to the instrumental for their song "Swag Me Out" from their mixtape "Radical" (2010).
- "Posse In Effect" references The Smurfs, Popeye, Jerry Lewis (the song "Hold It Now, Hit It" also references Lewis), Rocky and Bullwinkle, the Brownsville Station hit "Smokin' In The Boys' Room" (1973) and actor Abe Vigoda
I'm fly like an eagle and I drink Old Crow(...) Sittin' around the house - gettin' high and watchin' tube
- "Slow Ride" references the Steve Miller songs "Fly Like An Eagle" and "Take the Money And Run".
Tour around the world - you rock around the clock(...) Cause I'll be rocking this party eight days a week
- The Dutch hiphop band Osdorp Posse covered "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" on their album "Vlijmscherp" (1993) in Dutch as "Geen Slaap Tot Osdorp" (translation: "No Sleep Till Osdorp" note )
- Stiff Little Fingers covered "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" as "No Sleep 'til Belfast" on their 1988 album of the same name.
- "Fight For Your Right To Party" was sampled on Public Enemy's "Party For Your Right To Fight" from their album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1989).
- "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" references "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets and "Eight Days A Week" by The Beatles from Beatles for Sale at one point.
Cooling at the crib watching my TVEd Norton, Ted Knight and Mr. EdOn the gong show, we won't get gongedWe're the Beastie Boys - not Cheech and Chong
- "Paul Revere" refers to the Folk Hero of the same name from the American War of Independence, who drove his horse to warn people that the "British army was coming.". The line "Been had a little horsey named Paul Revere" references "Fugue for Tinhorn" from Guys and Dolls. "Paul Revere" was covered by Cypress Hill as "Busted in the Hood" on their album "Till Death Do Us Part"
- "Hold It Now, Hit It" references The Honeymooners, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Mr. Ed
And I got more rhymes than Phyllis Diller
- "Time To Get Ill"
- The Show Must Go Wrong: "Paul Revere" has a backwards drumbeat, which was actually a mistake.
- Singer Name Drop: Virtually all songs namedrop the band members.
Your mom busted in and said: "What's that noise?!"Aw, mom, you're just jealous, it's the Beastie Boys!
- "Fight For Your Right"
- "No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn" is an entire homage to the band.
- "Paul Revere" tells how the band met each other for the first time, though it's completely fictional.
- Special Guest: Kerry King (Slayer) plays along on "No Sleep Till Brooklyn". He also appears in the music video of the same song.
- Spelling Song: "The New Style"B-E-A-S-T-I-E, what's up, Mike D?
- Steal the Surroundings: The girl in "She's Crafty" steals MCA's bed seemingly out from under him and goes from there.
- Stealth Parody: Their early material was a parody of fratboy douchebags, especially the "attitude song" parody "Fight For Your Right". Unfortunately, lots of people missed out that part, thought they were serious and became a Misaimed Fandom, and now Licensed to Ill is an Old Shame for them.
- Sucky School:
I'm the king of the classroom, coolin' in the backMy teacher had beef, so I gave her a smackShe chased me out of class, she was strapped with a rulerWent to the bathroom, rolled myself a wooler
- "Slow Ride"
You wake up late for school, man, you don't wanna goYou ask your mom "please", but she still says "no"You missed two classes and no homeworkBut your teacher preaches class like you're some kind of jerk
- "Fight For Your Right"
- Time Marches On: "Hold it Now, Hit It"I got the ladies of The '80s from here to White Castle
- Twin Threesome Fantasy: "The New Style"I've got money and juice - twin sisters in my bedTheir father had envy, so I shot him in the head
- Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness: "Rhymin' & Stealin'."Never cower / never shower / and I'm always stinkin.'
- Ur-Example: The final verse of "The New Style" features what might be the first trap beat ever put on a hip-hop album.
- Wild Teen Party: The music video for "Fight For Your Right" features the Beasties throwing a wild party while the parents of two squares are off for a few hours. They trash the place completely.