7” Sunday: The Beastie Boys

Before I go any further, allow me to introduce this new feature. 7” Sunday is a segment devoted entirely to 7” vinyl and the all-encompassing experience surrounding it. From the packaging to the music, my intent is to embody the spirit of vinyl and emphasize that music is still an activity beyond passive listening.

Although most publications cover major releases, the 7” is often overlooked and given nothing more than a half-hearted nod of acknowledgement. I intend for this weekly feature to become a hub for 7” reviews, exploring the B-sides and rarities of artists that may often go unnoticed.

While sifting through recent 7” releases and attempting to pick which would serve as the inaugural record, some crushing news came to my desk: the passing of MCA.

My musical tastes, like so many from my generation, were shaped by The Beastie Boys. I vividly remember waking up with my cousin countless times in the wee hours of mornings simply to catch “Intergalactic” playing on MTV (you know, back when they played music videos). They were one of my favorite groups growing up and still play a pivotal role in my music life.

While I was reminiscing about these moments and listening to their most recent album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, I remembered a recent 7” I purchased: Major Lazer’s remixes of “Don’t Play No Game that I Can’t Win.” So as a tribute to both MCA and Beastie Boys, the first segment of 7” Sunday will cover this recent release from the Boys, Santigold and Major Lazer.

Before I go any farther, I must take a moment to applaud the artist (maybe Ferry Gouw?) who conceptualized and illustrated the cover art. Not only do we get to see Major Lazer out of his element in a black/red jumpsuit, but we are also granted the privilege of experiencing both the Beasties and Santigold immortalized in cartoon form.

Now, onto the vinyl itself. This limited-edition Mad Decent release contains two remixes of The Beastie Boys’ “Don’t Play No Game that I Can’t Win” by Major Lazer. Engrained on a bright yellow 7” (see image below), Diplo and Switch take the original track and tweak its nuances into both a dancehall jam and dub rendition.

The A-side remix closely emulates the original song, reworking the traditional beat into a bouncy and hard-hitting percussive rhythm sprinkled with the duo’s token Jamaican samplings. Approaching the song with Major Lazer’s newfound less-is-more approach, this remix takes the original, builds off the preexisting formula and presents both The Beastie Boys and Santigold with a slightly altered, yet brand new attitude.

The B-side remix, titled the “Major Lazer Remix Dub,” starts off almost identically to the A-side, but quickly reanimates the track into a bass-heavy instrumental. Using the vocal utterances from both Santigold and Ad Rock, Major Lazer constructs a driving rhythmic force only interrupted when the dub-influenced horns of the underscore get pushed to the forefront. This back-and-forth between the two creates a strong duality, sending the listener mixed emotions on whether to get up and dance or relaxedly reflect.

Although both remixes are deserving of praise and shed an entirely different light on “Don’t Play No Game that I Can’t Win,” they only scratch the surface of MCA’s capabilities. I recommend we all take time in the coming weeks to sit down, pop in classics such as Licensed to Ill or Hello Nasty and devote a couple hours to truly grasp what Yauch and the Boys contributed to hip hop.

Check back next week for a review of the 7″ release for of Montreal’s “For Our Elegant Caste.”

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