Celebrating 30 years of Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill

Russell Simmons, Bill Adler and Ricky Powell back on the classic hip hop album.
Beastie Boys' debut studio album, Licensed to Ill, came out on Nov. 15, 1986. (AFP/Getty Images)

Licensed to Ill has a lot of firsts attached to it.

It was the first full-length album by the Beastie Boys. It was the first rap album to hit number one on the Billboard Charts, knocking off Bon Jovi. And, for a lot of people, it was the first album your parents confiscated. 

The Beastie Boys themselves have mixed feelings about the album. Over the years, they've issued formal statments disavowing some of the language on it, especially when it comes to women and the LGBT community. 

But the massive success of this one record was also kind of a gateway. It created new rap fans everywhere and helped build a bigger audience for artists like Public Enemy and KRS 1. 

Today, q marks the 30th anniversary of the album with an oral history of Licensed to Ill featuring three people who were there when it happened: Def Jam Records label head Russell Simmons, publicist Bill Adler, and photographer and friend of the group, Ricky Powell.


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