The Beastie Boys: Sure Shot

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Far be it from me to class myself as some kind of musicologist – not by a long shot. Whilst I can write endlessly about certain bands and artists, I have to admit that hip hop is an area in which I’ve barely scratched the surface. The hip hop albums I possess number in their tens as opposed to the hundreds and I can’t say that I’m well versed in the timeline of hip hop’s lifespan. So there you go, I may not be able to go into the intricacies of various MCs’ techniques, nor the mastery of the shellac on the turntables. But one thing I can say for certain:

This is an absolutely outrageous track.

Getting fired up for a night out, driving at high speed, working out, chilling out – whatever you’re doing – turn the dial as far to the right as you can and get onto this motherfucker (this hip hop vernacular is contagious, evidently).

It’s barely necessary to break the song down and analyse it; it’s probably better to simply experience and enjoy the exhilarating rush of funky, furious drums and frenetic rhymes. But I’ll give it a whirl – it’s what I do.

The hook of the song, the suitably old school flute sample from Jeremy Steig’s “Howlin’ For Judy”, is practically hurled out from the speakers by the monstrous drums – played live by Mike D. The drum sound is unbelievable and pretty much makes the track for me. In fact the combination of sampling and live instrumentation from Sure Shot’s parent album Ill Communication is what appeals to me most. Kudos to Mario C’s production there.

The song adopts the standard verse/chorus format which betrays the Beastie Boys’ thrash/hardcore punk roots and the live instrumentation also bridges the gap between those disparate genres. Special mention to Mike D namechecking Dr John and the “funky” Lee Dorsey in the first verse, and the middle section’s liberal use of delay on MCA’s vocal is a particular scattergun highlight of mine that breaks up the song before taking it home with a final chorus.

And the chorus. Bookending the song with effortless cool, as soon as it finishes you want to listen to it again straight away – and you can’t, you won’t and you don’t stop.

And here’s a little bit of extra genius:

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