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Licensed to Ill is the debut studio album by the American hip hop group Beastie Boys. It was released on November 15, 1986 by Def Jam and Columbia Records. It was the first rap LP to top the Billboard album chart. It is also one of Columbia Records' fastest-selling debut records to date and eventually sold over ten million copies in the United States.


The full album cover, front to back, features a Boeing 727 — with "Beastie Boys" emblazoned on the tail — crashing head-on into the side of a mountain, appearing as an extinguished joint.[4] The tail of the plane has the Def Jam logo and the tail number "3MTA3" which spells "EATME" when viewed in a mirror.[4] The livery of the plane is based on that of American Airlines.[4]

The group originally wanted to title the album Don't Be a Faggot, but Columbia Records refused to release the album under this title – arguing that it was homophobic – and pressured Russell Simmons, the Beastie Boys' manager and head of Def Jam Recordings at the time, into forcing them to choose another name.[5][6] Adam Horovitz has since apologized for the album's earlier title.[7]

Kerry King of Slayer made an appearance on the album playing lead guitar on "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" and appeared in the music video which is a parody of glam metal.[8] The name of the song itself is a spoof on Motörhead's No Sleep 'til Hammersmith album.[8] King's appearance on the track came about because Rick Rubin was producing both bands simultaneously (Slayer's Reign in Blood was originally released a month earlier on Def Jam).[8]

CBS/Fox Video released a video album of the five Licensed to Ill videos, plus "She's on It" in 1987 to capitalize on the album's success.[9] A laserdisc version was also released in Japan.[9] All versions of the CBS/Fox release are currently out of print because the rights to the album passed from Columbia and Sony Music to Universal Music Group, and also because of the acrimonious nature of the band's departure from Def Jam Records.[9] Until the 2005 release of the CD/DVD Solid Gold Hits, none of the Def Jam-era videos had been included on any subsequent Beastie Boys video compilations.[9] The Solid Gold Hits DVD includes the videos for "Fight for Your Right" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn", as well as a live version of "Brass Monkey" from a 2004 concert.[9]

Critical reception[]

Template:Album reviews

In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums.[10] It is the only album by a Jewish hip-hop act to receive 5 mics from The Source.[11] In 2003, the album was ranked number 217 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time[12] and in 2013 the magazine named it the best debut album of all time.[13] Vibe included it in Vibe's 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century.[14] Q gave the album four out of five stars, saying "Licensed to Ill remains the world's only punk rock rap album, arguably superior to Never Mind the Bollocks…knowing that apathy and slovenliness were just around the corner."[15] Melody Maker gave the album a positive review, saying "There's lots of self-reverential bragging, more tenuous rhymes than are usually permitted by law and, most importantly of all, an unshakably glorious celebration of being alive.… A surprisingly enduring classic."[16] In 2002, Pitchfork Media ranked the album at #41 in its list of the "Top 100 Albums of the 1980s", despite their prior unflattering review of the album.[17]

In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at number 16 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s".[18] In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 12 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s" saying "Rife with layer upon layer of sampling, start-stop transitions, and aggressive beats, it helped transform the genre from a direct dialogue between MC and DJ into a piercing, multi-threaded narrative" and "helped set an exciting template for the future".[19] Eminem said the album was one of his favorites of all time and said it changed hip hop.[20] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[21]

Commercial performance[]

The album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America on February 2, 1987 and eventually certified Diamond on March 4, 2015.[22] The single "Brass Monkey" was certified Gold for shipment of 500,000+ sales.[22] In 2012, in the week following Adam Yauch's death, which subsequently resulted in a surge in sales of Beastie Boys albums, Licensed to Ill reached number 1 on Billboard's Catalog Albums chart.[23] The album also re-entered the Billboard 200 chart at number 18.[24]

Track listing[]

All tracks are written by Beastie Boys and Rick Rubin, except where noted.

1."Rhymin & Stealin"4:08
2."The New Style"4:36
3."She's Crafty"3:35
4."Posse in Effect"2:27
5."Slow Ride"2:56
7."Fight for Your Right"3:28
8."No Sleep till Brooklyn"4:07
9."Paul Revere" (Adam Horovitz, Darryl McDaniels, Rubin, Joseph Simmons)3:41
10."Hold It Now, Hit It"3:26
11."Brass Monkey"2:37
12."Slow and Low" (McDaniels, Rubin, Simmons)3:38
13."Time to Get Ill"3:37

Sample credits[]

All credits taken from WhoSampled[25]

"Rhymin & Stealin"

"The New Style"

  • "Drop the Bomb" by Trouble Funk
  • "Kool Is Back" by Funk, Inc.
  • "Peter Piper" by Run-D.M.C.
  • "Two, Three, Break" by The B-Boys

"She's Crafty"

"Posse in Effect"

  • "Catch a Groove" by Juice
  • "Pee-Wee's Dance" by Joeski Love
  • "Change the Beat (Female Version)" by Beside

"Slow Ride"

  • "Low Rider" by War
  • "Down on the Avenue" by Fat Larry's Band
  • "Take the Money and Run" by Steve Miller Band

"Paul Revere"

  • "It's Yours" by T La Rock and Jazzy Jay
  • "Rocket in the Pocket (Live)" by Cerrone

"Hold It Now, Hit It"

  • "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" by Bob James
  • "Funky Stuff" by Kool & the Gang
  • "The Return of Leroy Pt. 1" by The Jimmy Castor Bunch
  • "La Di Da Di" by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick
  • "Christmas Rappin'" by Kurtis Blow
  • "Drop the Bomb" and "Let's Get Small" by Trouble Funk
  • "Time to Get Ill" by Beastie Boys

"Brass Monkey"

  • "Bring it Here" by Wild Sugar

"Slow and Low"

"Time to Get Ill"

  • "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby" by Barry White
  • "Down on the Corner" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • "Custard Pie" by Led Zeppelin
  • "Gucci Time" by Schoolly D
  • "Nothing From Nothing" by Billy Preston
  • "Mister Ed" by Jay Livingston
  • "Take the Money and Run" by Steve Miller Band
  • "Flick of the Switch" by AC/DC
  • "Green Acres" by Vic Mizzy, Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor
  • "Rocket in the Pocket (Live)" by Cerrone
  • "The Party Scene" by The Russell Brothers
  • "Funky Stuff" by Kool & the Gang
  • "Jam on the Groove" by Ralph MacDonald


  • Beastie Boys – producers
  • Joe Blaney – mixing
  • Steven Ett – audio engineer
  • Kerry Kinglead guitar on "No Sleep till Brooklyn"
  • Rick Rubin – producer
  • Steve Byram – art direction
  • Sunny Bak – photography
  • World B. Omes (David Gambale) – cover art
  • Keene Carse – Trombone
  • Danny Lipman – Trumpet
  • Tony Orbach – Tenor Sax


Chart (1986) Peak
US Billboard 200[26] 1
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[27] 2
Chart (1987) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[28] 62


  1. Parales, Jon (May 4, 2012). "Rapper Conquered Music World in '80s With Beastie Boys". The New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  2. Anderson, Kyle (May 7, 2012). "Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch's musical legacy: Changing all games, all the time". CNN. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named allmusic-review
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Jensen, K. Thor (March 24, 2011). "Licensed To Ill - Secrets Of Album Covers". Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  5. Plummer, Sean (September 16, 2011). "Beastie Boys "Licensed to Ill" – The most controversial lyrics in music". MSN Canada. Microsoft. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  6. Light, Alan (September 4, 1998). "The Story of Yo: The Oral History of the Beastie Boys". Spin. Spin Media. Retrieved May 4, 2013.
  7. Williams, Zoe (April 29, 2003). "Hiphopophobia". The Guardian. London. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Beastie Boys Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Klep One (November 15, 2013). "Since 1984: Beastie Boys - "Licensed To Ill" Released 27 Years Ago! Def Jam". Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  10. "100 Best Rap Albums". The Source. New York (#100). January 1998. ISSN 1063-2085. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
  11. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named 5 mics
  12. "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Straight Arrow (Special Issue). November 2003. ISSN 0035-791X. Archived from the original on August 21, 2006. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
  13. 'Licensed to Ill' | The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time | Rolling Stone
  14. "Vibe Magazine". Vibe. New York City: InterMedia Partners. December 1999. p. 158. ISSN 1070-4701.
  15. "Q Magazine". Q. Bauer Media. September 1994. p. 123. ISSN 0955-4955.
  16. "Melody Maker". Melody Maker. London: Holborn. July 22, 1995. p. 35. ISSN 0025-9012.
  17. "Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1980s | Features". Pitchfork. November 20, 2002. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  18. "Q Magazine". Q (241). Bauer Media. August 2006. ISSN 0955-4955.
  19. "The 100 Best Albums of the 1980s | Feature". Slant Magazine. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  20. "Eminem talks about his upcoming 8th solo album (2012 Interview)". YouTube. July 29, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  21. Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (March 23, 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  22. 22.0 22.1 "RIAA News Room - Pass The Mic…Beastie Boys Are Still 'Licensed' - Oct 02, 2001". October 2, 2001. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  23. "Catalog Albums - Week of May 19, 2012". Billboard. Retrieved May 10, 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  24. "Billboard 200 - Week of May 19, 2012". Billboard. Retrieved May 10, 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  25. "Beastie Boys on WhoSampled". WhoSampled. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  26. "Beastie Boys Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  27. "Beastie Boys Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
  28. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 29. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between 1983 and June 19, 1988.
Preceded by
Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi
Billboard 200 number-one album
March 7 – April 24, 1987
Succeeded by
The Joshua Tree by U2

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