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Beastie Boys/ A Tribe Called Quest

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BEASTIE BOYS/A TRIBE CALLED QUEST

The Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest--whose joint world tour makes a sold-out stop here this week--are probably at the peak of their popularity, but their new albums boot their groundbreaking days firmly into the past. At this point, I guess just maintaining relevance on such a large scale is enough of a feat. On Hello Nasty (Grand Royal/Capitol), the Beasties fall back on their formidable reputation as record collectors, filtering a hodgepodge of stuff they admire through their clownish sensibilities. In its shrill, goofy rapping ("Sometimes I like to brag, sometimes I'm soft spoken / When I'm in Holland I eat the pannenkoeken"), Hello Nasty sometimes resembles the trio's 1986 Def Jam debut, Licensed to Ill--though musically it's way denser, and the credits are studded with a range of stars only the latter-day Beasties could have roped in, including old heroes like Biz Markie and Lee "Scratch" Perry as well as new ones like Mix Master Mike and Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori. The old-school stuff is a blast, but the few truly new moves are all soft: "Picture This," a dreamy lounge tune, is crooned by Brooke Williams, and MCA himself goes gentle and confessional on "I Don't Know." And of course, between the countless invitations to party until "the break of break of dawn," there's plenty of cozy post-Free Tibet goodwill. On The Love Movement (which comes out Tuesday on Jive), A Tribe Called Quest gets sensitive too, using most of the 14 tracks to hold court on matters of the heart--though you'll still never confuse Q-Tip or Phife with a Casanova like Maxwell--and when they pledge allegiance to their ladies in "Common Ground (Get It Goin' On)," they're actually making a pretty bold cut against hip-hop's misogynistic grain. Stylistically, though, the group is on autopilot, and though most of its contemporaries still pale by comparison, Tribe used to reach a lot further than just above status quo. Money Mark, who performs later the same night at Metro (see separate Critic's Choice), opens. Wednesday, 7:30 PM, Horizon, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Ryan Murphy.

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