Hometown pride has always been a staple of hip-hop lyrical culture. Hell, I could spend the next thousand words comparing the g-funk bravado of 'California Love' with the downright depressingly vague representation of city life in 'Empire State of Mind', but it would perhaps be easier to just say how few rappers have harnessed the ability to perfectly capture their surroundings quite like Beastie Boys.

Despite never going to New York (I haven't even been to regular York), Ad Rock, Mike D and MCA painted a sonic tapestry throughout their discography that seemed to define what life in their city was like. Every song cut with that synonymous goofball charm and a sense of youthful accessibility that meant even kids on the other side of the world can smirk at the effortless wit of lines like "I'm the kung-fu master vs the sumo wrestler, Got the beats in Manhattan you can hear in Westchester." It is perhaps a testament to The Beasties' creative prowess then that their 1994 release still has that raw urbanite feel to it despite the fact the trio were based in LA at that time.

III Communication is almost transcendent of other albums in its field from that time, as 20 years after its initial release Beastie Boys' fourth effort still manages to pack that gritty punch laced with a sense of experimentation that is perhaps perfectly indicative of the trio's impact on the hip hop landscape.

By this point in their career Beastie Boys had undeniably established a lot (sonically speaking), and while Check Your Head's return to visceral foundations didn't exactly push things forward creatively, one could argue that without that addition to their discography, Ill Communication would be a very different record. Seemingly a culmination of their career highlights to date, the album embraces the innovative (and regularly comical) sampling that became typical of Beasties' style, along with a decent amount of punk-influenced interludes and a somewhat surprising incorporation of smooth jazz. Needless to say, on paper this clash of styles sounds disastrous, but the avoidance of over-indulgence from the trio, and the fact that each song remains short without lessening the blow instead gives the album a momentous feel, almost like they're testing the boundaries of their sound whilst keeping the core values intact.

Comparisons to mixtape culture also wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination, as the transition from the clarinet-laden opening of 'Sure Shot' into the thrash-resurgent grit of 'Tough Guy' makes for surprising listening at first, but rather than sounding like a full-blown compilation, MCA's effortlessly impassioned delivery merely paints the picture that punk was always at the core of The Beastie Boys' sound, a point further proved on 'Heart Attack Man'. Elsewhere, 'Root Down' lives up to its namesake and takes a more back to basics approach over a refined set up of organs, bass and drums, the focus laying more on the lyrical rapport between the three piece than convoluted instrumentals. Perhaps the most typical Beasties track on the record (vocal wise), it sits in the middle ground between seriousness and wit, featuring lines such as "I've got the flow where I grab my dick and say, 'Oh my God that's the funky shit', So I'm a pass the mic and cause a panic. The original nasal kid is doing damage."

Naturally, 'Sabotage' still hits like a punch to the face (in a good, non-creepy way obviously), no doubt their biggest track from this period that is perhaps embodying of the album's more visceral moments, a perfect example of Beastie's ability to reassign rock stereotypes with rap sensibilities. Refusing to simply offer one dimension to their sound though, 'Bodhisatta Vow' sees a more serious approach to proceedings, as MCA waxes lyrical about his Buddist faith. This sudden sense of candidness amongst an album that is otherwise based around the trio having fun provides a poignant sense of depth as the record draws to a close, the lead into the restrained funky instrumental of 'Transition' ending things on an arguably mature note.

It is this unafraid sense to explore new grown-up territories that ultimately gives the album a timeless quality, as with each new aspect that is incorporated throughout this sonically sprawling release it becomes increasingly apparent that Ill Communication isn't a record typical of the contextual landscape in 1994, but instead an unconfined account of why Beastie Boys were so important to hip-hop's development.

One could say Ill Communication was the album that saw the Beasties develop into the superstar status their sound up to that point had always tempted. In comparison to the rest of their career it may be seen by some as a mere footnote due to its unashamedly experimental nature and lack of 'hit' singles (despite the fact it went to number one on The Billboard chart), but no one can deny the importance of those 'stepping stone' albums, and without this record Beastie Boys would not have become the formidable rap icons we see them as today.