Paul's Boutique

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Paul's Boutique
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 25, 1989 (1989-07-25)
Beastie Boys chronology
Licensed to Ill
Paul's Boutique
An Exciting Evening at Home with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
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 Beastie Boys and the Dust Brothers, the album's composition makes extensive use of samples, drawn from a wide range of genres including funk, soul, rock, and jazz. It 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 group's 1986 debut Licensed to Ill, and was promoted minimally by Capitol. However, despite its initial commercial failure, 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 placed on several lists of the greatest albums of all time, and is viewed by many critics as a landmark album of golden age hip hop and a seminal work in sample-based production.


Derided as one-hit wonders and estranged from their previous producer, Rick Rubin, and record label, Def Jam, 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 group was 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 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 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 the tracks were recorded in Matt Dike's living room in Los Angeles, with the exception of the "Hello Brooklyn" and "A Year and a Day" from the "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" suite; "A Year and a Day" was recorded in Yauch's apartment building 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 album is named after a store the group made up called Paul's Boutique. On the cover of the album, the group hung a sign saying "Paul's Boutique" on an existing clothing store called Lee's Sportswear at the corner of Rivington and Ludlow streets, in Manhattan's Lower East Side.[10]


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,[11][12] who was the original bassist for the Beastie Boys, when they were known as The Young Aborigines.

On its initial release, Paul's Boutique was commercially unsuccessful because of its experimental and dense sampling and lyricism, in contrast to the group's previous album, Licensed to Ill.[13] It was a commercial disappointment,[14] peaking at only #24 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and #14 on the Billboard 200 chart.[15][16] 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.[17] The album was re-released in a 20th anniversary package remastered in 24-bit audio and featuring a commentary track on January 27, 2009.[18]

Critical reception[edit]

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
The A.V. ClubA[19]
Christgau's Record GuideA[20]
Rolling Stone[18]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[24]
Spin Alternative Record Guide10/10[25]

Contemporary reviews of Paul's Boutique were uniformly positive, with the production singled out for praise. David Handelman of 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".[26] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune commended the Dust Brothers' "deft" production and Beastie Boys' rhymes, which he called "hilarious, vicious, surreal, snotty."[27] David Stubbs of Melody Maker agreed, praising the Dust Brothers' production and calling the record "an outrageously funky triumph". Although he felt the group's performance did not match the quality of the production, he nevertheless considered the album a welcome return for the band after a three-year hiatus.[28] In Musician magazine, Jon Young noted the group's various pop culture references and numerous samples, and overall commended them for releasing another "classic LP".[29]

Writing for NME, Roger Morton gave praise to Paul's Boutique, finding that in terms of "weight of ideas", Licensed to Ill "shrinks to nothing in comparison".[30] Danny Weizmann in LA Weekly commended the group's evolution from "juvenile delinquents" on Licensed to Ill, to "psychedelic gurus". He went on to praise the Dust Brothers' production, the layers of samples, and felt the closing track "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" will "probably change the face of all hip-hop for a long time to come". He concluded his review stating: "This album will surely put an end to any notion that the Beastie Boys were a one-shot or a producer's creation."[31] In Q magazine, Charles Shaar Murray was less positive. He felt that the group failed to evolve from their debut, calling them "still unlistenable and uncivilized". He overall considered the samples "ill-matched" and the group's performance subpar.[32]

Robert Christgau said although it "doesn't jump you the way great rap usually does", "the Beasties and Tone-Lōc'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 concentrate 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 may accuse them of."[33] 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."[20]


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.[34] NME critic Paul Moody found the album to "still [be] an electrifying blast of cool" in a 1994 review, viewing it as a "younger incarnation" of Ill Communication.[21] Rob Chapman, writing for Mojo, asserted that the album "shredded the rulebook" and called it "one of the most inventive rap albums ever made".[35] In a 2003 review for Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield 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".[36] In a 2009 review, Mark Kemp of Rolling Stone called the album a "hip-hop masterpiece".[18] Nate Patrin of Pitchfork 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".[22] 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.[13]

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?"[37]

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.

Noting that Paul's Boutique was less commercially successful than the group's chart-topping debut had been,'s Marcus Shorter wrote, "Paul’s Boutique sat at a finish line waiting for the rest of the world to catch up."[38]


List of the album's rankings and listings on selected publications and top album lists:[39]

  • Ranked #5 on Slant Magazine's "Best Albums of the 1980s"[40]
  • Ranked #37 on Blender's "The 100 Greatest American Albums of All Time"[41]
  • Ranked #2 on Ego Trip's "Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year (1980–1998)"
  • Ranked #125 on "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time"[42]
  • Ranked #12 on Spin's "100 Greatest Albums, 1985–2005"[43]
  • Ranked #74 on VH1's "Top 100 Albums"[44]
  • Ranked #98 on Q's "Q Magazine Readers' 100 Greatest Albums Ever"[45]
  • Ranked #3 on Pitchfork's 2002 "Top 100 Albums of the 1980s",[46] and #15 on its 2018 "200 Best Albums of the 1980s"[47]
  • 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"[48]
  • Selected by Rhapsody as one of "The 10 Best Albums by White Rappers"[49]

Based on its appearances in professional rankings and listings, the aggregate website Acclaimed Music lists Paul's Boutique as 4th most acclaimed album of 1989, the 17th most acclaimed album of the 1980s and the 90th most acclaimed album in history.[50] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[51]

Beastie Boys Square[edit]

In 2022, the New York City Council voted to rename the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side - the location of the Paul’s Boutique album cover - “Beastie Boys Square”.[52] The vote was result of a grassroots campaign started in 2013 by historian LeRoy McCarthy.[53] The proposed renaming was voted down when first proposed in 2014, but was accepted on July 14, 2022.[54] The square was officially renamed on September 9, 2023, coinciding with celebrations of the 50th anniversary of hip hop.[55]

Lost tracks[edit]

In 2013, music journalists Dan LeRoy and Peter Relic revealed that they had uncovered and restored a tape that represented Beastie Boys' first recording session in Delicious Vinyl's colloquially named Delicious Studios.[56] 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.[57] 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.[56]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Beastie Boys and the Dust Brothers[13] (Mike Diamond, Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch, John King, Mike Simpson, Matt Dike[58])

Side A
No.TitleSample(s)[59][better source needed]Length
1."To All the Girls"
Contains samples of:
2."Shake Your Rump"
Contains samples of:
3."Johnny Ryall"
Contains samples of:
4."Egg Man"
Contains samples of:
5."High Plains Drifter"
Contains samples of:
6."The Sounds of Science"3:11
7."3-Minute Rule"
Contains samples of:
8."Hey Ladies"
Contains samples of:
Total length:25:22
Side B
9."5-Piece Chicken Dinner"
Contains samples of:
10."Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"
Contains samples of:
11."Car Thief"
Contains samples of:
12."What Comes Around"
Contains samples of:
Contains samples of:
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)"
Contains samples of:
Total length:27:16
Japanese bonus tracks[61]
16."33% God"3:53
17."Dis Yourself in '89 (Just Do It)"3:29
Total length:60:25


  • 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


1989 weekly chart performance for Paul's Boutique
Chart (1989) Peak
Dutch Charts[62] 30
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[63] 30
German Charts[64] 28
New Zealand Charts[65] 50
Swedish Charts[64] 38
UK Albums (OCC)[66] 44
US Billboard 200[16] 14
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[15] 24


Certifications and sales for Paul's Boutique
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[67] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[68] Silver 60,000*
United States (RIAA)[69] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cook 2009
  2. ^ Chick 2009
  3. ^ "How the Beastie Boys Made Their Masterpiece". Rolling Stone. March 12, 2013. Archived from the original on September 28, 2018. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  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. ^ "The Location of Paul's Boutique". Atlas Obscura. Archived from the original on September 27, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  11. ^ Carlson 2006
  12. ^ New York: The Paul's Boutique corner
  13. ^ a b c d Erlewine
  14. ^ Horovitz, Adam in Diamond 2018, p. 294
  15. ^ a b Beastie Boys – Chart History: Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
  16. ^ a b Beastie Boys – Chart History: Billboard 200
  17. ^ Gold & Platinum: Beastie Boys
  18. ^ a b c Kemp 2009
  19. ^ Rabin 2009
  20. ^ a b Christgau 1990, pp. 50–51
  21. ^ a b Moody 1994, p. 46
  22. ^ a b Patrin 2009
  23. ^ Barlow 2018, pp. 58–59
  24. ^ Levy 2004, pp. 49–51
  25. ^ Sheffield 1995, pp. 33–34
  26. ^ Handelman 1989
  27. ^ Kot 1989
  28. ^ Stubbs 1989
  29. ^ Young 1989
  30. ^ Morton 1989, p. 30
  31. ^ Weizmann 1989
  32. ^ Murray 1989
  33. ^ Christgau 1989, p. 25
  34. ^ Partridge 2014
  35. ^ Chapman 2000, p. 125
  36. ^ Sheffield 2003
  37. ^ Light 2006
  38. ^ "The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time". September 12, 2022. Archived from the original on September 20, 2022. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
  39. ^ "Paul's Boutique". Archived from the original on September 16, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  40. ^ Jones 2012
  41. ^ "100 Greatest American Albums of All Time". Archived from the original on September 23, 2022. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
  42. ^ The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time–156: Beastie Boys–Paul's Boutique
  43. ^ LLC, SPIN Media (July 2005). SPIN. SPIN Media LLC. Archived from the original on January 15, 2023. Retrieved September 24, 2022.
  44. ^ "Rock On The Net: VH1: 100 Greatest Albums". Archived from the original on November 2, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
  45. ^ "2006 Q Magazine Readers' 100 Greatest Albums Ever - All Time Top 100 Albums". Archived from the original on January 25, 2006. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
  46. ^ Bowers 2002, p. 10
  47. ^ "The 200 Best Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork. September 10, 2018. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  48. ^ Tyrangiel 2010
  49. ^ Winning 2010
  50. ^ Franzon, Henrik (n.d.). "Paul's Boutique". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on December 2, 2021. Retrieved December 2, 2021.
  51. ^ Reece, Craig (2006). "Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique". In Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Universe Publishing. p. 613. ISBN 978-0-7893-1371-3.
  52. ^ Kaufman, Gil. “Beastie Boys Mike D, Ad-Rock To Celebrate Hip-Hop 50 With Unveiling of Beastie Boys Square in New York”. Billboard. Published September 6, 2023. Accessed September 6, 2023.
  53. ^ Kreps, Daniel. ”’Beastie Boys Square’ Finally Approved for ‘Paul’s Boutique’ NYC Intersection”. Rolling Stone. Published July 16, 2022. Accessed September 6, 2023.
  54. ^ Post by @beastieboyssquare on Instagram. Posted July 15, 2022. Accessed September 6, 2023.
  55. ^ Bloom, Madison. “Mike D and Ad-Rock Unveiling ‘Beastie Boys Square’ in New York on Saturday”. Pitchfork. Published September 6, 2023. Accessed September 6, 2023.
  56. ^ a b Relic 2014
  57. ^ LeRoy 2014
  58. ^ Slotnik, Daniel E. (March 20, 2018). "Matt Dike, Hit-Making Founder of Hip-Hop Label, Dies at 56". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 9, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  59. ^ a b Beastie Boys (WhoSampled)
  60. ^ "Rappers sampling John Williams' scores". Alpha/Adaptations. WIRED. Vol. 24, no. 6. Condé Nast. June 2016. p. 37. ISSN 1059-1028.
  61. ^ ポールズ・ブティック (Paul's Boutique)
  62. ^ Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique (
  63. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2021). "Beastie Boys". Sisältää hitin – 2. laitos Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla 1.1.1960–30.6.2021 (PDF). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 27. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 22, 2022. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  64. ^ a b Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique (
  65. ^ Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique (
  66. ^ Official Charts: Beastie Boys
  67. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique". Music Canada. Retrieved August 21, 2022.
  68. ^ "British album certifications – Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved August 21, 2022.
  69. ^ "American album certifications – Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 21, 2022.


External links[edit]