The Beastie Boys' 1992 classic Check Your Head has now been given the re-issue/re-master treatment. Not sure why, as this disc sounded pretty good the last time I listened to it last week, but what do I know?
The new version comes with a total of 36 tracks (the 20-song original album and 16 B-sides and rarities and is available as very modern high-quality DRM downloads and the very old school four LP ultra-deluxe 180HQ vinyl. The latter comes in something described as a coffee table book and is limited to 2,000 copies. There's also a two-vinyl version for non- record collector geeks and a CD ecopack. Audio commentary regarding the album is available at the group's site for those who need to know where that first sample came from.
The B-Boys had an interesting career before Check Your Head. The group began as a hardcore punk act and somehow morphed into frat guy hip-hop. As great as License to Ill is, in hindsight, it's a bit, how do I say...cringe worthy? Some great tracks, but the shadow cast by "Fight For Your Right," "Brass Monkey" and "Girls" unfortunately dominates less embarrasing songs such as "Time to Get Ill," "Slow and Low" and "The New Style." Their follow-up was Paul's Boutique, perhaps the most beloved and unknown record in their collection. If only one hip-hop disc was needed to a time capsule of any era, this would be it. The production (provided by the Dust Brothers) is fucking sick. And the rhymes? Dope as dope can be.
Check Your Head was do or die time. The B-Boys could have gone in any direction and made the right choice by showing the world that they were not just emcees, but bona fide musicians. To date, I still can't think of a hip-hop disc as diverse and Check Your Head while still sounding 100 percent authentic. I'm also amazed at how the group didn't inspire more rappers to learn how to play instruments.
Just last week I was listening to Check Your Head and without even noticing, my feet got moving and my ass was shaking. Although the hits ("Pass the Mic" and "So What'cha Want") are amazing, I'll never get enough of "The Maestro," "Something's Got to Give," "Professor Booty" and "Gratitude."
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As I mentioned in my Pearl Jam post regarding the Ten re-issue, this whole thing is getting out of hand. Yes, we'd all love to hear the B-sides and whatnot of our favorite groups. And yes, we'd also love to hear our favorite albums sound even better than they do, but there's got to be a better way for people who already own these discs to get the current version without forking over dough for a record they already bought. In my case, Check Your Head was one of the first tapes I purchased. I still have that copy, along with a CD version. If ya ask me, the B-Boys got enough of my cash for this one.
But if you haven't already bought Check Your Head, you're either 11 years old or you think Chuck Mangione is God.