Paul’s Boutique: A Singular Work of Genius

In listening to Paul’s Boutique, I’m reminded once again of the explosive nature of the album: for all intents and purposes, Paul’s Boutique must be considered sui generis in the fullest sense of the term.

Sampling isn’t new when the album came out, but what makes the album sui generis is how sampling was used. Instead of using the same old James Brown beats, the Dust Brothers and the Beastie Boys decided to use samples in a much more comprehensive and coherent way: they made the samples the foundation of the music. This inherently meant that they could not rely on any single particular sample, but must use multiple samples that form a coherent whole.

If this sounds like old tricks, well that’s because Paul’s Boutique is a tremendously influential record. I mean, can you imagine Odelay without Paul’s Boutique? Can you imagine DJ Shadow without Paul’s Boutique? And to use a contemporary example: can you imagine Girl Talk without Paul’s Boutique? And despite the fact that this record influenced most subsequent hip hop production, it still really doesn’t sound like anything out there today.

And that is the genius of the album: while its influence was felt deeply and widely, it retains its singular genius. There are very few other musical acts that can share that claim, not even a band as great as The Beatles.

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