In contrast to their previous album, Paul's Boutique, the Beastie Boys returned somewhat stylistically to their punk rock roots on Check Your Head, playing their own instruments for the first time on record since their early EPs (although they did provide live instrumentation on at least two songs on Paul's Boutique). Hence photographer Glen E. Friedman's idea to shoot photos with their instrument cases (one of which became the cover). Supposedly, a trading card with Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. from a set of Desert Storm trading cards was the inspiration for the title.
The album was their first to be fully co-produced by Mario Caldato Jr. Caldato was an engineer on Paul's Boutique and was credited as producer on that album's track "Ask for Janice". The album also marks the first appearance of longtime collaborator keyboardist Money Mark. The Beastie Boys toured with the Rollins Band and Cypress Hill in early 1992 to support Check Your Head.
Rolling Stone gave the album three out of five stars, saying "…their most unconventional outing to date… Beneath the seeming chaos, the Beastie Boys have created a harmonious playground out of their musical fantasies."Spin ranked the album number 12 in Spin Magazine's "90 Greatest Albums of the '90s".Spin ranked the album number four in Spin's list of the "20 Best Albums Of The Year".Alternative Press - ranked the album number 23 in AP's list of the "Top 99 Of '85-'95".The Village Voice ranked the album number five in the Village Voice's list of the 40 Best Albums of 1992.Pitchfork Media ranked the album number 34 in Pitchfork Media's list of the Top 100 Albums of the 1990s.