Dropping Names, Cutting Tapes: Beastie Boys – “3-Minute Rule”

Coming after the aggressive intensity of the end of “The Sounds of Science”, “3-Minute Rule” seems slight, like the Beasties went on a mini-vacation.

Beastie Boys

Paul's Boutique

US Release: 1989-07-25
UK Release: Import
Label: Capitol

“3-Minute Rule” starts with the sounds of a ping pong game. This opening sample seems apropos for a track that is relentlessly laid-back, almost lazy-sounding, in fact. Coming after the aggressive intensity of the end of “The Sounds of Science”, “3-Minute Rule” seems slight, like the Beasties went on a mini-vacation. It’s forgivable, though, since everyone needs a rest sometimes, including the listener.

The texture of “3-Minute Rule” is remarkably sparse. The main samples are from Sly & the Family Stone, the Steve Miller Band, and Fancy. The groove settles into a mid-tempo, lethargic funk. Lyrical interaction between the three Beasties, the quality that characterizes so much of the group’s best music, is notably missing. Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock each contribute about a minute of rapping without any commentary from the other two. We realize how much the Beasties are dependent upon collective storytelling. When they try to each tell their own narrative, devoid of the other’s support, the result is slightly stilted verses. After Ad-Rock’s final “And I’m out”, the groove continues for another thirty seconds or so. This ending feels kind of tedious and perfunctory.

Lyrically, “3-Minute Rule” covers a lot of the same ground we have come to expect from the Beasties on tPaul's Boutique. Similar themes as “The Sounds of Science” are explored, such as the superiority of the Beasties rapping over anyone else, their top-notch sexual prowess, their mischievous, trickster natures, etc., but without the fun, over-the-top bravado of the former tune. A couple of the lines, in fact, are borderline clunkers. When MCA says, “A lot of parents like to think I’m a villain / I’m just chillin’ like Bob Dylan”, the rhyme feels predictable and too cheesy for its own good, even for a group that never takes itself too seriously. Sometimes the lines are just excessively matter-of-fact, like Ad-Rock’s pronouncement that “I’m reading On the Road by my man Jack Kerouac”. Normally, mentioning important literary/musical figures like Dylan and Kerouac would seem ironic and clever. But, without the other Beasties to support these allusions, the name dropping seems a bit hollow.

Even a mediocre Beasties track yields a lot of pleasures, though. At times, the rappers transform cliches into playfully original phrases (“Roses are red, the sky is blue / I got my barrel at your neck, so what the fuck you gonna do?”). A classic Jimi Hendrix album title is used to a simultaneously intriguing and creepy effect (“Are you experienced, little girl? / I want to know what goes on in your little girl world”). We’re not sure whether to laugh or cringe at a line like “I was making records when you were sucking your mother’s dick”. Of course, with the Beasties, this thin line between brilliance and stupidity has always been the point. If the group leans dangerously heavily towards the latter with “3-Minute Rule”, they bounce back to the former with “Hey Ladies”, the next tune on Paul’s Boutique, and the record’s most famous track. That, as they say, is a whole other story . . .





Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".


The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?


Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.


Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.


Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.


Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.


Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.


Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.