Adam Yauch, part of the pioneering rap trio Beastie Boys, has died after a years-long battle with cancer at the age of 47.
Yauch, known to fans as MCA, passed away yesterday morning, according to the Website of Def Jam label founder Russell Simmons. "Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist, who I loved dearly," Simmons wrote on his site. "I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us."
Yauch’s death was confirmed by the publicity firm Nasty Little Man, whose standard telephone-greeting became the title of the Beasties' Grammy-winning fifth album, "Hello Nasty."
A gravelly-voiced, almost hoarse-throated rapper, Yauch gave the lighthearted Beasties an edge of toughness and directed many of their rock videos under the mock-foreign name Nathanial Hörnblowér. At the same time, he also served as the group’s George Harrison, a practicing Buddhist and activist who helped start the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization devoted to Tibetan freedom. And like the Quiet Beatle, Yauch established his own film production company, Oscilloscope Laboratories, in 2008. Its better-known films include the Michelle Williams drama “Wendy & Lucy” and the Allen Ginsberg biopic “Howl,” starring James Franco.
“We are deeply, deeply saddened by the passing of Adam Yauch,” the studio said in a statement. “Adam's legacy will remain a driving force at Oscilloscope – his indomitable spirit and his great passion for film, people, and hard work - always with a sense of humor and a lot of heart."
Adam Nathaniel Yauch was born Aug. 5, 1964 in Brooklyn, to a Catholic father and Jewish mother. Yauch formed Beastie Boys as a hardcore band in 1979 while attending Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, but by 1986 the group was breaking down genre-barriers with guitar-inflected rap tracks like “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” both from their multi-platinum debut album “Licensed to Ill.” The Beasties’ all-white line-up, which included Michael Diamond (known as Mike D) and Adam Horvitz (Ad-Rock), helped break racial barriers as well.
Embraced by rap godfathers Run-D.M.C., who took the Beasties on tour in 1986, and cited as an influence by Public Enemy, the trio pushed hip-hop into new territory with the sample-heavy album “Paul’s Boutique” in 1989 and continued to mature along with its audience into the 1990s with “Check Your Head” and “Ill Communication.” The all-instrumental album “The Mix-Up” (2007) earned the group its third Grammy.
Yauch was diagnosed with a cancerous parotid gland and began treatment in 2009. His illness prevented him from appearing in music videos for Beastie Boys' latest album, "Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2," and Yauch did not attend the group's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month.