Released in 1994 as the first single from their fourth studio album Ill Communication, the song was ranked by Q magazine at #46 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.
If “Sabotage” was a style it would be Nu Punk, the song relies on impressive distorted bass
riffs and dirt guitars over live drums. Only the vocals give away that you are not listening to a demo from a punk band. And yes, I mean “demo”, there is no crystal-clear-low/high-cut-each-instrument-in-it-slot mix, it’s a messy, dirty wall of sound, but it is a finely crafted mess.
“Sabotage” is recognized as one of the greatest rock songs, a feat, considering Beastie Boys are a rap band. Rick Beato ranked it #18 in the Top 20 Bass Intros of All Time, it was placed at #19 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s, Pitchfork included the song at #39 on their Top 200 Tracks of the 90s, Q magazine ranked it at #46 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks and Rolling Stone magazine placed "Sabotage" at #480 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
The song's music video, a homage to, and parody of, 1970s crime drama shows such as Hawaii Five-O, S.W.A.T and Starsky and Hutch, was directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation.) and played extensively on MTV.
In the video, the band is presented, in the opening credits, as protagonists of a fictional 1970s-style police show called Sabotage. Each band member is introduced as a fictional actor, and the names of the characters are also given:
Sir Stewart Wallace guest-starring as himself (played by MCA)
Nathan Wind as Cochese (also played by MCA)
Vic Colfari as Bobby, "The Rookie" (played by Ad-Rock)
Alasondro Alegré as "The Chief" (played by Mike D)
Fred Kelly as Bunny (played by DJ Hurricane).
Actress Amy Poehler reviewed the music video in the 2018's Beastie Boys Book saying that, "there would be no Anchorman, no Wes Anderson, no Lonely Island, and no channel called Adult Swim if this video did not exist". Additionally, in the DVD commentary for the 1996 film Trainspotting, Danny Boyle credits the film's opening credits to those used in "Sabotage". The Beastie Boys Video Anthology featured a mock interview of the "cast" of Sabotage conducted by Jonze's then-wife Sofia Coppola.