As with any decent Zeppelin album, you can’t figure out Licensed to Ill’s title by looking at its phallic airplane-crash cover; the group wanted to call the record Don’t Be a Faggot, but CBS didn’t. The music here is no dumb joke, though -- by administering tons of timbale and sundry squeals and bells and scratches and fadeouts, Rubin varies the application of his standard ball-peen pulse even more than on Cool J’s Radio and D.M.C.’s Raising Hell. “Paul Revere” is a freestyle blaxploitation spaghetti Western with a tape-reversed salsa track, and “Girls” pays homage to the Coasters’ “Girls, Girls, Girls” and the Isley’s “Shout” while the guys hunt for a sucker to wash their dishes and laundry over a Gay ‘90s piano melody. Hip-hop’s limited bag of tricks has almost turned the genre into one big answer record, but Rubin and the Beastie Boys would rather abuse the formulas than use them. “Brass Monkey” looks like the fraternity battle tune of the new college semester, England’s notoriously Yankophobic Melody Maker has named Licence to Ill 1986’s best album, and that record’s surprisingly early showing on Billboard’s pop and black charts is more than encouraging. Given a good publicity push, these bums will sell millions.
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