Paul's Boutique

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Paul's Boutique
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 25, 1989
  • Mario C's and the Record Plant, Los Angeles
  • The Opium Den, New York City
Beastie Boys chronology
Licensed to Ill
Paul's Boutique
Check Your Head
Singles from Paul's Boutique
  1. "Hey Ladies"
    Released: July 25, 1989
  2. "Shadrach"
    Released: October 30, 1989

Paul's Boutique is the second studio album by American hip hop group Beastie Boys, released on July 25, 1989 by Capitol Records. Produced by the Dust Brothers, the album is composed almost entirely from samples, and was recorded over two years at Matt Dike's apartment and the Record Plant in Los Angeles.

Paul's Boutique did not match the sales of the Beastie Boys' 1986 debut Licensed to Ill, and was promoted minimally by Capitol. However, it became recognized as the group's breakthrough achievement, with its innovative lyrical and sonic style earning them a position as critical favorites within the hip-hop community. Sometimes described as the "Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop",[3] Paul's Boutique has since been placed on several lists of the greatest albums of all time, and is viewed by many critics as a landmark album in hip hop.


Derided as one-hit wonders and estranged from their original producer, Rick Rubin, and record label, Def Jam, the Beastie Boys were in self-imposed exile in Los Angeles during early 1988, after being written off by most music critics.[4] Following the commercial success of Licensed to Ill, the Beastie Boys were focusing on making an album with more creative depth and less commercial material.[4] The group's previous album had been enormously popular and received critical acclaim among both mainstream and hip hop music critics, although its simple, heavy beats and comically juvenile lyrics led to its label as frat hip hop.[4]

The group signed with Capitol Records and EMI Records.[4]


Put together on samplers with tiny memories, small fragments of staggeringly disparate musics drop in, then are snatched away abruptly; rhythms and melodies remain in focus as textures and sounds constantly shift.


Paul's Boutique was produced with the Dust Brothers, whose use of sampling helped establish the practice of multi-layered sampling as an art in itself. While the Dust Brothers were set on making a hit record, they agreed with the group on producing a more experimental and sonically different record.[4] In total, 105 songs are sampled, including 24 individual samples on the last track alone. The Dust Brothers produced the backing tracks with the intention of releasing an instrumental album, but were persuaded by the Beastie Boys to use them as the basis of their album.[4][6]

Contrary to popular belief, most of the sampling for Paul's Boutique was eventually cleared, but at dramatically lower costs compared to today's rates.[6] According to Sound on Sound, most of the samples were authorized "easily and affordably, something that [...] would be 'unthinkable' in today's litigious music industry."[6] Mario "Mario C" Caldato, Jr., engineer on the album, said that "we realized we had spent a lot of money in the studio. We had spent about a $1/4 million in rights and licensing for samples."[7] This type of sampling was only possible before Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc., the landmark lawsuit against Biz Markie by Gilbert O'Sullivan, which changed hip hop artists' approach to sampling.

Speaking about the album 20 years on, Adam Yauch said,

The Dust Brothers had a bunch of music together, before we arrived to work with them. As a result, a lot of the tracks come from songs they'd planned to release to clubs as instrumentals – "Shake Your Rump," for example. They'd put together some beats, basslines and guitar lines, all these loops together, and they were quite surprised when we said we wanted to rhyme on it, because they thought it was too dense. They offered to strip it down to just beats, but we wanted all of that stuff on there. I think half of the tracks were written when we got there, and the other half we wrote together." [8]

All of the songs for Paul's Boutique were recorded in Matt Dike's living room in Los Angeles, with the exception of "Hello Brooklyn". The fifth part of the album's finale suite "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" was recorded at the apartment building of the Beastie Boy-member Adam Yauch, aka MCA, in Koreatown, Los Angeles. The location of recording was credited in the album liner notes as the Opium Den.[9] The recordings for Paul's Boutique were later mixed by the Dust Brothers at Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles.[4]


The panoramic photograph of Ludlow Street by Jeremy Shatan.

The cover art and gatefold is a photograph of Ludlow Street (as shot from 99 Rivington Street), credited to Nathanial Hörnblowér, but shot by Jeremy Shatan.[10][11]

On its initial release, Paul's Boutique was commercially unsuccessful because of its experimental and dense sampling and lyricism, in contrast to the Beastie Boys' previous album, Licensed to Ill.[12] It was a commercial disappointment,[13] peaking at only #24 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[14] The album received a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America on September 22 of its release year; it went on to sell over 2 million copies by January 1999 and was certified double platinum.[15] The album was re-released in a 20th anniversary package remastered in 24-bit audio and featuring a commentary track on January 27, 2009.[16]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[12]
The A.V. ClubA[17]
Christgau's Record GuideA[18]
Mojo5/5 stars[5]
Q4/5 stars[21]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[22]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[23]
Spin Alternative Record Guide10/10[24]

In a contemporary review, David Handelman from Rolling Stone said the songs are "buoyed by the deft interplay of the three voices and a poetic tornado of imagery", featuring "equally far-flung" musical samples on an album that is "littered with bullshit tough-guy bravado, but it's clever and hilarious bullshit".[22] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune commended the Dust Brothers' "deft" production and the Beastie Boys' rhymes, which he called "hilarious, vicious, surreal, snotty."[25]

Robert Christgau said although it "doesn't jump you the way great rap usually does, "the Beasties and Tone-Loc's Dust Brothers have worked out a sound that sneaks up on you with its stark beats and literal-minded samples, sometimes in a disturbing way". He commended them for "bearing down on the cleverest rhymes in the biz" and wrote, the Beasties focus on "tall tales rather than boasting or dissing. In their irresponsible, exemplary way they make fun of drug misuse, racism, assault, and other real vices fools might accuse them of."[26] In Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s (1990), he said the album's "high-speed volubility and riffs from nowhere will amaze and delight you", calling it "an absolutely unpretentious and unsententious affirmation of cultural diversity, of where [the group] came from and where they went from there."[18]


On July 26, 2014, artist Danielle Mastrion created a mural in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Paul's Boutique. It was painted on the corner of Ludlow and Rivington, where the original album cover was photographed.

Since Paul's Boutique was first released, its critical standing has improved significantly.[27] NME found the album to "still [be] an electrifying blast of cool" in a 1994 review, viewing it as a "younger incarnation" of Ill Communication.[19] Mojo asserted that the album "shredded the rulebook" and called it "one of the most inventive rap albums ever made".[28] In a 2003 review, Rolling Stone gave called it "a celebration of American junk culture that is still blowing minds today—even fourteen years of obsessive listening can't exhaust all the musical and lyrical jokes crammed into Paul's Boutique".[29] Mark Kemp of Rolling Stone gave the album five stars in a 2009 review, calling it a "hip-hop masterpiece".[16] Nate Patrin of Pitchfork Media described it "a landmark in the art of sampling, a reinvention of a group that looked like it was heading for a gimmicky early dead-end, and a harbinger of the pop-culture obsessions and referential touchstones that would come to define the ensuing decades' postmodern identity".[20] Stephen Thomas Erlewine summed the initial reaction to Paul's Boutique and praised the density that the album contains:

Musically, few hip-hop records have ever been so rich; it's not just the recontextulations of familiar music via samples, it's the flow of each song and the album as a whole, culminating in the widescreen suite that closes the record. Lyrically, the Beasties have never been better — not just because their jokes are razor-sharp, but because they construct full-bodied narratives and evocative portraits of characters and places. Few pop records offer this much to savor, and if Paul's Boutique only made a modest impact upon its initial release, over time its influence could be heard through pop and rap, yet no matter how its influence was felt, it stands alone as a record of stunning vision, maturity, and accomplishment.[12]

In a Vibe interview of all three Beastie Boys, Chuck D of Public Enemy was quoted as saying that the "dirty secret" among the black hip-hop community at the time of release was that "Paul's Boutique had the best beats." During the same Vibe interview, Mike D was asked about any possible hesitation he or the band might have had regarding their overt "sampling" of several minutes of well-known Beatles background tracks, including the song "The End" on "The Sounds of Science". He claimed that the Beatles filed preliminary legal papers, and that his response was "What's cooler than getting sued by the Beatles?"[30]

In the book For Whom the Cowbell Tolls: 25 Years of Paul's Boutique, host of KDOC's Request Video Gia DeSantis discussed the appeal of the album to local markets and the missed opportunity by Capitol Records to take the album over the top. The book was a follow-up to 33 1/3's book Paul's Boutique.


List of the album's rankings and listings on selected publications and top album lists:[31]

  • Ranked #5 on Slant Magazine's "Best Albums of the 1980s"[32]
  • Ranked #37 on Blender's "The 100 Greatest American Albums of All Time"
  • Ranked #2 on Ego Trip's "Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year (1980–1998)"
  • Ranked #156 on "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time"[33]
  • Ranked #12 on Spin's "100 Greatest Albums, 1985–2005"
  • Ranked #74 on VH1's "Top 100 Albums"
  • Ranked #98 on Q's "Q Magazine Readers' 100 Greatest Albums Ever"
  • Ranked #3 on Pitchfork Media's "Top 100 Albums of the 1980s"[34]
  • Selected as one of Rolling Stone magazine's "The Essential 200 Rock Records"
  • Selected as one of TIME magazine's "100 Greatest Albums of All TIME"[35]
  • Selected by Rhapsody as one of "The 10 Best Albums by White Rappers"[36]

Lost tracks[edit]

In 2013, music journalists Dan LeRoy and Peter Relic revealed that they had uncovered and restored a tape that represented the Beastie Boys' first recording session in Delicious Vinyl's colloquially named Delicious Studios.[37] The tape includes demo versions of six tracks, five of which were produced and utilized in some form on Paul's Boutique. Most notably, the track "The Jerry Lewis" was omitted.[38] Mike D was presented with the restored version of this track in 2013, and when asked if it deserved an official release, he said "Probably not this year." After widespread publication of the story, "The Jerry Lewis" has become a highly sought-after "lost track" among dedicated fans.[37]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Beastie Boys and the Dust Brothers[12] (Mike Diamond, Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch, John King, Mike Simpson).

1."To All the Girls"1:29
2."Shake Your Rump"3:19
3."Johnny Ryall"3:00
4."Egg Man"2:57
5."High Plains Drifter"4:13
6."The Sounds of Science"3:11
7."3-Minute Rule"3:39
8."Hey Ladies"3:47
9."5-Piece Chicken Dinner"0:23
10."Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"3:28
11."Car Thief"3:39
12."What Comes Around"3:07
14."Ask for Janice" 0:11
15."B-Boy Bouillabaisse"
  • Some releases separate the nine sections of the "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" suite:
    • a. "59 Chrystie Street" (0:57)
    • b. "Get on the Mic" (1:14)
    • c. "Stop That Train" (1:59)
    • d. "A Year and a Day" (2:22)
    • e. "Hello Brooklyn" (1:32)
    • f. "Dropping Names" (1:03)
    • g. "Lay It on Me" (0:54)
    • h. "Mike on the Mic" (0:48)
    • i. "A.W.O.L." (1:46)"
Total length:53:03


  • Beastie Boys – production
  • Allen Abrahamson – assistant engineer
  • Mario Caldato Jr. – engineer
  • Mike Simpson – producer, turntables, ensemble
  • The Dust Brothers – production
  • Matt Dike – ensemble
  • Ricky Powell – photography
  • Jeremy Shatan – photography
  • Nathaniel Hörnblowér – photography
  • Dominick Watkins – photography


Chart (1989) Peak
Dutch Charts[41] 30
German Charts[42] 28
New Zealand Charts[43] 50
Swedish Charts[42] 38
UK Albums (Official Charts Company[44] 44
Billboard 200[45] 14
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[14] 24


  1. ^ Cook 2009
  2. ^ Chick 2009
  3. ^ How the Beastie Boys Made Their Masterpiece
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Leroy 2006, pp. 54–59
  5. ^ a b Batey 2009, p. 118
  6. ^ a b c Tingen 2005
  7. ^ Burke 2002
  8. ^ Diver 2009
  9. ^ LeRoy 2006, pp. 100–106
  10. ^ Carlson 2006
  11. ^ New York: The Paul's Boutique corner
  12. ^ a b c d Erlewine
  13. ^ Harovitz, Adam in Diamond 2018, p. 294
  14. ^ a b Beastie Boys – Chart History: Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
  15. ^ Gold & Platinum: Beastie Boys
  16. ^ a b Kemp 2009
  17. ^ Rabin 2009
  18. ^ a b Christgau 1990, pp. 50–51
  19. ^ a b Moody 1994
  20. ^ a b Patrin 2009
  21. ^ "Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique". Q (355): 121. February 2016.
  22. ^ a b Handelman 1989
  23. ^ Levy 2004, pp. 49–51
  24. ^ Weisbard 1995, pp. 46–47
  25. ^ Kot 1989
  26. ^ Christgau 1989
  27. ^ Partridge 2014
  28. ^ "Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique". Mojo (79): 125. June 2000.
  29. ^ Sheffield 2003
  30. ^ Light 2006
  31. ^ "Paul's Boutique". Archived from the original on September 16, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  32. ^ Jones 2012
  33. ^ The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time–156: Beastie Boys–Paul's Boutique
  34. ^ Bowers 2002, p. 10
  35. ^ Tyrangiel 2010
  36. ^ Winning 2010
  37. ^ a b Relic 2014
  38. ^ LeRoy 2014
  39. ^ Beastie Boys (WhoSampled)
  40. ^ ポールズ・ブティック (Paul's Boutique)
  41. ^ Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique (
  42. ^ a b Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique (
  43. ^ Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique (
  44. ^ Official Charts: Beastie Boys
  45. ^ Beastie Boys – Chart History: Billboard 200