Adam Yauch, a member of the pioneering rap trio Beastie Boys, has died after a years-long battle with cancer. He was 47.
Yauch, known to fans as MCA, died Friday morning, according to GlobalGrind.com, the website of Def Jam music label founder Russell Simmons. "Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist, who I loved dearly," Simmons wrote. "I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us."
Yauch's death in New York City was also reported by Nasty Little Man, the publicity firm whose telephone-greeting inspired the title of the Beasties' Grammy-winning fifth album, "Hello Nasty."
An aggressive, gravelly voiced rapper, Yauch gave the lighthearted Beasties an edge of toughness, though he used the mock-foreign name Nathanial Hörnblowér when directing their videos. Yauch was also a practicing Buddhist who helped start the Milarepa Fund, a nonprofit 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 Allen Ginsberg biopic "Howl," starring James Franco, and the Michelle Williams drama "Wendy & Lucy."
"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," the studio said in a statement.
Adam Nathaniel Yauch was born Aug. 5, 1964, in Brooklyn, to a Catholic father and Jewish mother. Yauch formed Beastie Boys as a hard-core 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," from its multiplatinum Def Jam/Columbia debut, "Licensed to Ill." The Beasties' all-white lineup, which included Michael Diamond (known as Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock), broke racial barriers as well.
Embraced by rap godfathers Run-D.M.C., who took the fledgling Beasties on tour, and cited as an inspiration by no less a rap giant than Public Enemy's Chuck D., the trio pushed hip-hop into new territory with the sample-heavy album "Paul's Boutique" in 1989. During the '90s, the Beasties became beloved hip-hop mascots with the freewheeling albums "Check Your Head" and "Ill Communication." An all-instrumental album in 2007, "The Mix-Up," earned the group its third Grammy.
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Yauch was diagnosed with a cancerous parotid gland and began treatment in 2009. His illness delayed the release of the 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.
Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen, and his daughter Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.