Hold It Now, Hit It

Album: Licensed to Ill (1986)
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is based on a stew of samples, with the "hold it now" line from Kurtis Blow's "Christmas Rappin'" and "hit it" from the end of Slick Rick's intro to "La Di Da Di" by Doug E. Fresh (Slick Rick was the MC on the track). The Beastie Boys were signed to Def Jam Records and immersed in rap music. They turned the choice bits from songs they heard (old and new) into tasty samples that they put over a beat and rapped on top of. Other groups, including their label-mates Run-DMC, had used samples, but they were the first to pour so many of them into a song, constantly switching things up instead of looping one throughout the song. Other tracks that show up on this one include "Funky Stuff" by Kool & the Gang, "Take Me to the Mardis Gras" by Bob James, and "The Return of Leroy (Part One)" by Jimmy Castor, which is where the "Yo! Leroy" bit comes from.
  • The lyrics are a mishmash of images and events that surrounded the group at the time: pints of Ballantine Ale, meals at White Castle, watching dumb shows on TV. They had finished a tour opening for Madonna in the summer of 1985 (really), and had lots of time to hang out and come up with lines, which they delivered in the Run-DMC style of trading off and doubling instead of giving each member a verse.
  • The song started out with a beat created by Beastie Boy Ad-Rock on a DX drum machine. The group added bells and (literally) whistles, then added their lyrics on top. Their producer, Rick Rubin, received a co-writer credit.
  • "Hold It Now, Hit It" was a creative breakthrough for the Beastie Boys, who started as a hardcore punk band in 1981 and transitioned to hip-hop a few years later. In their early hip-hop efforts, they were trying to emulate other groups that were blazing the trail - acts like the Funky 4 + 1 and the Treacherous Three. With this song, they found their own style and delivered lyrics personal to their own experience, although exaggerated for effect.
  • The song was released as a single in April 1986 and got a fair amount of airplay in clubs and in radio stations on the East Coast - far more than their previous singles. With this new sound, the band was on to something.

    "Hold It Now, Hit It" was included on their debut album, Licensed To Ill, in November, and over the next few months, the group went from a quirky regional act to the hottest act in America. In March 1987, the album went to #1 and stayed there for seven weeks.
  • The Beastie Boys would sometimes drop in lyrics that were in-jokes among their friends and cohorts. There's one in this song:

    Surgeon general, cut professor, DJ Thiggs

    This is a reference to a guy named Thiggs that Run from their labelmates Run-DMC told them about. He wasn't a real DJ, but Run said he would be if he ever tried it.

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