Any way you look at it, it's been too long since the Beastie Boys have released a new album. It's been four years since the porn soundtrack instrumentals of The Mix-up. It's been seven years since the 9/11 hip-hop of To The 5 Boroughs. And it's been thirteen long years since Hello Nasty, the last time the Beasties ditched genre confinements and embraced their strange tastes simultaneously. Hot Sauce isn't a return to top tier Mike D, Ad Rock and MCA, but its collection of garage beats, self-referential rhymes and bizarre interludes is the best album these 40-somethings have made since their early 30s.
Skipping from reggae soaked collaboration ("Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win" featuring Santigold), to mellow funk ("Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament") to MCA introducing Bob Dylan to the Croc wearing generation ("Funky Donkey"), Hot Sauce forgoes new ground for a sampling of everything the group have accomplished in decades past. At its best, this musical melting pot yields gems like "Lee Majors Come Again," an assault on the senses that combines the Beasties' famous rhymes with their early 80s hardcore punk beginnings. Though they've sampled a wealth of styles before, it's still impressive to hear how cohesive Hot Sauce's genre mish-mosh sounds collectively. That's not to say the album's 16 tracks are flawless though.
"New Reactionaries" is far better than the album's weakest points, but the Nas collaboration fails to realize the full potential of its four New York rap legends. While the rhymes on "Reactionaries" are well written and well delivered, Nas' verses sound mailed in, lacking the collaborative in-studio feel that the Beastie Boys embody. A 1994 collaboration between Nas and the group would have showcased East Coast hip-hop at its pinnacle, but "Reactionaries" only magnifies the disparity between the Beastie Boys and their peers since the year of Illmatic and Ill Communication.
Still, quirks and all, Hot Sauce is the latter day Beasties album the fans have been waiting for. MCA finally does have more grey hairs than he does rhymes, but the Beastie Boys are clearly enjoying middle-aged life, and it shows in their music. After long delays and MCA's cancer struggle, Hot Sauce is a celebration of life and music, and the ways the Beastie Boys have improved both for so many people.