While Run-D.M.C.’s monumental third album, Raising Hell, was the first rap album to hit platinum status, The Beastie Boys hold the honour of being the first hip hop act to have an album go number one on the Billboard 200 chart.
After forming in the early ’80s and making their way through the New York music scene, the group was approached by Rick Rubin, who had just formed Def Jam Recordings with Russell Simmons in his NYU dorm room, to sign them to the newly-formed hip hop label. At the time, they had only released their debut single, “Cooky Puss” in 1983.
Soon after signing to Def Jam, The Beastie Boys released their 12-inch single “Rock Hard” in 1984, featuring production from Rubin, and toured with Run-D.M.C., Whodini and LL Cool J. They also started working on their debut album, Licensed to Ill.
Thanks for the three singles released before the album dropped on November 15, 1986 – “Hold It Now, Hit It”, “Paul Revere” and “The New Style” – anticipation for Licensed to Ill was high, and when the project dropped, it quickly became the number one album in the country.
Licensed to Ill stayed on top of the charts for five weeks and became Def Jam’s fast-selling album to date, and the single “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” became their highest-charting single of all time, peaking at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.
Russell Simmons: They showed us that their brand of Hip Hop was more interesting to the core Hip Hop fans than I thought. It was for people who loved Hip Hop, but for alternative and a big part of the critics and the support for Hip Hop that was coming out of the punk clubs, Chester Lounge, Danceteria, and all these alternative downtown clubs. The Beastie Boys had created their brand of Hip Hop. But then the bridge between their brand and the core for what we understood was the best of both worlds. When I saw it, I understood it.Russell Simmons, Chuck D, DMC & More Examine Beastie Boys’ “License To Ill” Impact | HipHopDX