May 4, 2012


Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch Dead at 47

Kristian Dowling
Kristian Dowling

Wow, this is incredibly sad. Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, aka MCA, has died at 47 after a 3-year battle with cancer.

In 2009, Yauch announced in a YouTube video that he was diagnosed with cancer in his parotid glands. He had since undergone surgery and radiation therapy, which delayed tours and the release of the Boys' last album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.

The Beastie Boys remain one of the most influential groups in the past 30 years. Along with Run-D.M.C., the group elevated hip hop from a fringe genre to a national phenomenon. As the first "safe" (read: white) rappers to gain prominence on a mainstream stage, the group was the first to bring the genre to suburban white teenagers, with their 1986 debut Licensed to Ill ensuring that hip hop would be heard at frat parties as much as the streets.

Having started as a hardcore band, the Beastie Boys were vilified by some for cultural hijacking, but their smarmy lyrics and brash personas made them immediate superstars. In 1989, the group linked up with sample-loving producers the Dust Brothers for Paul's Boutique, a landmark album combining more than 100 samples with the group's all-over-the-map pop culture references.

Never ones to musically repeat themselves, the group shunned the samples that made Paul's a classic, picking up their own instruments on 1989's Check Your Head. The group continued to remain in the public eye, reinventing themselves each time, but always hewing to their joie de vivre aesthetic.

Outside of music, Yauch was a dedicated social activist, having founded the Milarepa Foundation that produced the Tibetan Freedom Concert series and New Yorkers Against Violence, a benefit for two 9/11 charities.

In 2008, Yauch's founding video production company Oscilloscope Laboratories released its first film Gunnin' For that #1 Spot, the rapper's directorial debut about the country's top high school basketball players facing off in an all-star game. It has since released 50 films, including Exit Through the Gift Shop and the award-winning Burma VJ. 

Under the alias Nathaniel Hornblower, Yauch directed many of the group's most iconic videos, including "So Whatcha Want," "Intergalactic," "Body Movin" and, under his own name, "Fight For Your Right Revisited," a 30-minute mini-movie for "Make Some Noise"  featuring Elijah Wood, Danny McBride, Seth Rogen, Jack Black, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

Twitter remembers Adam Yauch

Listen to our 40-song Spotify Playlist of the Beastie Boys’ Greatest Hits

See highlights from Adam Yauch's 30-year career

Photos: Remembering MCA