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Licensed to Ill
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill was the best-selling rap album of the 1980s, but it generated controversy among rappers -- concerning whether these white artists were co-opting black culture -- and among parents who felt the rhymes on this album glorify alcohol and drug use, violence, and womanizing. Others believed the band's absurdist approach to these themes should be taken more as parody. The album and band became a focus in the debate over placing parental advisories on music releases. The lyrics do contain numerous references to sex with "girlies," some rude words ("ass," "whore," "ho," "t--ties," "dick"), and numerous mentions of guns and violence. There are also a few references to drug use (freebasing, crack, "dust") and one song featuring a dad who smokes cigarettes. Most concerning is the vast amount of alcohol (beer, vodka, champagne, rum, whisky) consumed in almost every song.
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What's the story?
The Beastie Boys began their career in the late 1970s as a punk band, but in the '80s began shifting their focus to rap music. Their debut album, Licensed to Ill, became the best-selling rap album of the '80s and the first rap album to reach the No. 1 spot on Billboard's album chart. It features the No. 7 single "Fight for Your Right (to Party)." When the album was released, it became a focus for debate concerning parental advisories for music releases. In the years since this album was released, The Beastie Boys released seven more albums of increasingly complex and mature music. The music world mourned the death of member MCA (Adam Youch), who died in May 2012 of cancer of the salivary gland.
Is it any good?
The Beastie Boys' debut, Licensed to Ill, is somewhat immature -- bratty even -- but in a good way. The Boys' brash, rude attitude, and the ways they deftly combined rock and pop with rap, rocked some boats when the album came out, but with a little hindsight, the album seems practically charming -- more like a perfect parody of kids and rappers. These clever songs have a lot of humor to them, as well as cool samples and a party vibe.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Beastie Boys' macho attitude. Does it seem real to you? Do you think they are the people in the songs?
Do you think that kids' behavior or views regarding sex, drugs, and alcohol are formed or changed by the music they listen to?
Do you think there are more guns and violence in rap music than in other music?
Themes & Topics
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For kids who love rap, hip-hop, and other teen music
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.