When Eminem dropped his surprise album “Kamikaze” late Thursday night, hip-hop fans of a certain age immediately noticed that the cover was both an homage to and a spoof of the Beastie Boys’ 1986 debut album, “Licensed to Ill.” A rep for the rapper confirmed that the homage was intentional; a rep for the Beasties said the group had not yet commented.
The group’s influence on Eminem should be obvious to any listener, and the rapper spoke to Rolling Stone about it in 2013.
“Obviously, yes, there was something about ‘Licensed to Ill’ — you had the Zeppelin samples and their vibe. You had Run-DMC, who were so cool, with the attitude of ‘F— you if you don’t like us.’ Same as the Beastie Boys. ‘F— you. We f—ing curse. We spit beer. We throw it on our f—ing fans.’ And obviously as they got older their views and things changed, as all of ours do. You can be mad at their sh– for not sounding like their last sh–, but if it did, then they didn’t grow as artists. Same as me.”
The Beasties also grew away from the snotty, sexist attitudes purveyed by their lyrics and image at the time — Adam Yauch in particular distanced himself from his former shtick, even rapping on the group’s 1994 song “Sure Shot”:
“I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women has got to be through / To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect to the end.”
After Yauch’s death in 2012, Eminem said in a statement, “Adam Yauch brought a lot of positivity into the world and I think it’s obvious to anyone how big of an influence the Beastie Boys were on me and so many others. They are trailblazers and pioneers and Adam will be sorely missed.”
Eminem obviously had fun with his parody of the album’s iconic plane-crashing cover, adding a pilot flipping the bird, a number on the plane reading “FU-2,” and just as the Beasties cover had the words “Eat me” written backward, Eminem’s says “Tikcu5.”
Reaction to the cover on Twitter was mixed, however many negative comments came from people who didn’t seem to realize that the cover was an homage (not plagiarism). Others commented on the fact that the reference may be lost on fans who may not be familiar with the 32-year-old “Licensed to Ill.”