Licensed to Ill is the debut studio album by American rap rock group Beastie Boys. It was released on November 15, 1986 by Def Jam and Columbia Records, and became the first rap LP to top the Billboard album chart. It is one of Columbia Records’ fastest-selling debut records to date and was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2015 for shipping over ten million copies in the United States.


The group originally wanted to title the album Don’t Be a Faggot, but Columbia Records refused to release the album under this title—arguing that it was homophobic—and pressured Russell Simmons, Beastie Boys’ manager and head of Def Jam Recordings at the time, into forcing them to choose another name. Adam Horovitz has since apologized for the album’s earlier title.

Kerry King of Slayer made an appearance on the album playing lead guitar on “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and appeared in the music video which is a parody of glam metal.The name of the song itself is a spoof on Motörhead‘s No Sleep ’til Hammersmith album. King’s appearance on the track came about because Rick Rubin was producing both bands simultaneously (Slayer’s Reign in Blood was released one month prior on Def Jam).

CBS/Fox Video released a video album of the five Licensed to Ill videos, plus “She’s on It” in 1987 to capitalize on the album’s success.[9] A laserdisc version was also released in Japan.[9] All versions of the CBS/Fox release are currently out of print because the rights to the album passed from Columbia and Sony Music to Universal Music Group, and also because of the acrimonious nature of the band’s departure from Def Jam Records.[9] Until the 2005 release of the CD/DVD Solid Gold Hits, none of the Def Jam-era videos had been included on any subsequent Beastie Boys video compilations.[9] The Solid Gold Hits DVD includes the videos for “Fight for Your Right” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, as well as a live version of “Brass Monkey” from a 2004 concert.[9]


The full album cover, front to back, features a Boeing 727 private jet with a Beastie Boys logo on its tail, which has crashed head-on into the side of a mountain, appearing as an extinguished joint.[10] The idea for the album’s cover came from the album’s producer, Rick Rubin, after reading the Led Zeppelin biography, Hammer of the Gods. The artwork was created by Stephen Byram and World B. Omes. The album cover was featured in Storm Thorgerson‘s and Aubrey Powell‘s book, 100 Best Album Covers.[11] The cover design has since been appropriated by fellow rapperEminem, for the cover of his 2018 album, Kamikaze.


Professional Ratings

In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source‘s 100 Best Rap Albums. It is the only album by a Jewish hip-hop act to receive 5 mics from The Source. In 2003, the album was ranked number 217 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and 219 in a 2012 revised list.In 2013 the magazine named it the best debut album of all time.Vibe included it in Vibe’s 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century. Q gave the album four out of five stars, saying “Licensed to Ill remains the world’s only punk rock rap album, arguably superior to Never Mind the Bollocks … knowing that apathy and slovenliness were just around the corner.” Melody Maker gave the album a positive review, saying “There’s lots of self-reverential bragging, more tenuous rhymes than are usually permitted by law and, most importantly of all, an unshakably glorious celebration of being alive … A surprisingly enduring classic.” In 2002, Pitchfork ranked the album at #41 in its list of the “Top 100 Albums of the 1980s”, despite their prior unflattering review of the album. In the 2018 edition of the “Top 200 Albums of the 1980s”, the album placed #103.

In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at number 16 in its list of “40 Best Albums of the ’80s”. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 12 on its list of “Best Albums of the 1980s” saying “Rife with layer upon layer of sampling, start-stop transitions, and aggressive beats, it helped transform the genre from a direct dialogue between MC and DJ into a piercing, multi-threaded narrative” and “helped set an exciting template for the future”.Eminem said the album was one of his favorites of all time and said it changed hip hop. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Commercial performance

The album was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on February 2, 1987 and eventually was certified Diamond on March 4, 2015. The single “Brass Monkey” was certified Gold for shipment of 500,000+ sales. In 2012, in the week following Adam Yauch‘s death, which subsequently resulted in a surge in sales of Beastie Boys albums, Licensed to Ill reached number 1 on Billboard‘s Catalog Albums chart. The album also re-entered the Billboard 200 chart at number 18.

Track listing

All tracks are written by Beastie Boys and Rick Rubin, except where noted.


1.”Rhymin & Stealin”  4:08

2.”The New Style”  4:35

3.”She’s Crafty”  3:35

4.”Posse in Effect”  2:26

5.”Slow Ride” Title refers to the Foghat song of the same name.2:57

6.”Girls”  2:14

7.”Fight for Your Right”  3:27

8.”No Sleep till Brooklyn” Slayer‘s Kerry King provided the guitar solo.4:07

9.”Paul RevereAdam HorovitzDarryl McDaniels, Rubin, Joseph SimmonsProminently featured in the track is reversed Roland 808 closed hi-hat, bass, and rimshot.3:41

10.”Hold It Now, Hit It”  3:26

11.”Brass Monkey”  2:37

12.”Slow and Low”McDaniels, Rubin, Simmons 3:38

13.”Time to Get Ill”  3:37


  • Beastie Boys – producers
  • Joe Blaney – mixing
  • Steven Ett – audio engineer
  • Kerry King – lead guitar on “No Sleep till Brooklyn” and “Fight for Your Right”
  • Rick Rubin – producer
  • Steve Byram – art direction
  • Sunny Bak – photography
  • World B. Omes (David Gambale) – cover art
  • Nelson Keene Carse – trombone
  • Danny Lipman – trumpet
  • Tony Orbach – tenor saxophone



See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Parales, Jon (May 4, 2012). “Rapper Conquered Music World in ’80s With Beastie Boys”The New York Times. Retrieved June 14,2016.
  2. ^ Anderson, Kyle (May 7, 2012). “Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch’s musical legacy: Changing all games, all the time”CNN. Retrieved June 14,2016.
  3. a b Erlewine, Stephen ThomasLicensed to Ill – Beastie Boys”AllMusic. Retrieved October 12,2011.
  4. ^ “Music: Top 100 Songs (DECEMBER 20, 1986)”86 Last Week: — (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!) Beastie Boys
  5. ^ Plummer, Sean (September 16, 2011). “Beastie Boys “Licensed to Ill” – The most controversial lyrics in music”MSN Canada. Microsoft. Archived from the original on June 2, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  6. ^ Light, Alan (September 4, 1998). “The Story of Yo: The Oral History of the Beastie Boys”SpinSpin Media. Retrieved May 4, 2013.
  7. ^ Williams, Zoe (April 29, 2003). “Hiphopophobia”The Guardian. London. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved November 24,2007.
  8. a b c “Beastie Boys Biography”Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  9. a b c d e Klep One (November 15, 2013). “Since 1984: Beastie Boys – “Licensed To Ill” Released 27 Years Ago! Def Jam”. Archived from the original on February 11, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  10. ^ Jensen, K. Thor (March 24, 2011). “Licensed To Ill – Secrets Of Album Covers”. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  11. ^ Diffuser|Cover Stories: Licensed to Ill
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert (1990). “B”Christgau’s Record Guide: The ’80sPantheon BooksISBN 0-679-73015-X. Retrieved August 16, 2020 – via
  13. ^ Duffy, Tom (December 21, 1986). “Beastie Boys”Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved April 7,2017.
  14. ^ Leone, Dominique (April 15, 2004). “Beastie Boys: Licensed to IllPitchfork. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  15. ^ “Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill“. Q (96): 123. September 1994.
  16. ^ Levy, Joe (2004). “Beastie Boys”. In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 49–51ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  17. a b The Source (150). March 2002.
  18. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record GuideVintage Books. pp. 46–47. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  19. ^ “100 Best Rap Albums”The Source. New York (#100). January 1998. ISSN 1063-2085. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
  20. ^ “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”Rolling Stone. Straight Arrow (Special Issue). November 2003. ISSN 0035-791X. Archived from the original on August 21, 2006. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
  21. ^ “500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone’s definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time”Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  22. ^ ‘Licensed to Ill’ | The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time | Rolling Stone
  23. ^ “Vibe Magazine”. Vibe. New York City: InterMedia Partners. December 1999. p. 158. ISSN 1070-4701.
  24. ^ “Q Magazine”. Q. Bauer Media. September 1994. p. 123. ISSN 0955-4955.
  25. ^ “Melody Maker”. Melody Maker. London: Holborn. July 22, 1995. p. 35. ISSN 0025-9012.
  26. ^ “Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1980s | Features”Pitchfork. November 20, 2002. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  27. ^ “Staff Lists: Top 200 Albums of the 1980s; Features”Pitchfork. September 10, 2018. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  28. ^ “Q Magazine”. Q (241). Bauer Media. August 2006. ISSN 0955-4955.
  29. ^ “The 100 Best Albums of the 1980s | Feature”Slant Magazine. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  30. ^ “Eminem talks about his upcoming 8th solo album (2012 Interview)”. YouTube. July 29, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  31. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (March 23, 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  32. a b “RIAA News Room – Pass The Mic … Beastie Boys Are Still ‘Licensed’ – Oct 02, 2001”. October 2, 2001. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  33. ^ “Catalog Albums – Week of May 19, 2012”Billboard. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  34. ^ “Billboard 200 – Week of May 19, 2012”Billboard. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  35. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 29. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between 1983 and June 19, 1988.
  36. ^ “Top RPM Albums: Issue 0795”RPMLibrary and Archives Canada. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  37. ^ “ – Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill” (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  38. ^ “ – Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill”. Hung Medien. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  39. ^ “ – Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill”. Hung Medien. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  40. ^ “Official Albums Chart Top 100”Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  41. ^ “Beastie Boys Chart History (Billboard 200)”Billboard. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  42. ^ “Beastie Boys Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)”Billboard. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
  43. ^ “Canadian album certifications – Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill”Music Canada. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  44. ^ “British album certifications – Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill”British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved September 2, 2020. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Licensed to Ill in the “Search BPI Awards” field and then press Enter.
  45. ^ “American album certifications – Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill”Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved September 2,2020. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

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