In 1986 the Beastie Boys released Licensed to Ill, and the world of whiteboy rap was changed irrevocably. Licensed to Ill was the first rap album to hit #1 on the Billboard charts, and for two years you could hardly go anywhere without hearing the double-parenthetical “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “Girls.” But mainly “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”
But the album that sold in CD shops everywhere was quite different from the album that almost came out. Two tracks, “Scenario” and a cover of the Beatles’ 1965 track “I’m Down,” were cut at the last minute.
For years Beastie Boys diehards have circulated an alternate sequencing of Licensed to Ill called Original Ill in which “I’m Down” and its deleted partner “Scenario” are part of the tracklist. (In case you’re wondering, “I’m Down” occupies the 4th slot on side 1, after “She’s Crafty” and before ”Posse In Effect,” whereas “Scenario” is the last track on the album.) The phrase that is invariably used to describe those two songs is “deleted at last minute,” which definitely suggests a possible legal problem or some similar final-hour issue. In the case of “I’m Down” it does seem as if Def Jam or someone in a position to get sued might have been worried about Michael Jackson’s attorneys, whereas for “Scenario” the red flag was quite different—the mere mention of the popular smokable cocaine variant known as crack. (Michael Jackson had recently purchased the entire Beatles catalog; for his part Greil Marcus—see below—apparently understood worries about Michael Jackson to be the central problem at the time.)
On the crack tip, here’s the (oft-repeated) lyric from “Scenario”:
Well chillin’ on the corner this one time (time)
Coolin’ at the fuckin’ party and runnin’ that line (line)
Smokin’ my crack sayin’ them rhymes (rhymes)
Countin’ my bank just to pass the time
This thread from a Beastie Boys message board supplies the supposed original track listing of Licensed to Ill as well as this quotation about the crack lyrics:
It almost seems as if the Beastie’s mentioning Crack was a bad thing because not only was Scenario completely removed from the album, which mentions crack all through out the song, but the original version of Rhymin’ & Stealin’ was edited to take out just two small phrases, “Most crackin-est B-Boy!!” “I Smoke My Crack!” The phrase is left intact on this release though so you can hear how it originally sounded. I do find it weird that they can mention dust, and being dusted out, over and over, but when they mention crack, songs and phrases get deleted.
It’s interesting that the line “And I’m never dusting out cause I torch that crack” still lingers on in “Hold It Now—Hit It,” however.
Continues after the jump…