Terrible news to pass along. We’re getting word that Adam “MCA” Yauch, one of the three members of the Beastie Boys, has passed away at the age of 47 years old. Yauch had been fighting cancer since a diagnosis in 2009, and it appears that the terrible disease got the best of him today.
The Beastie Boys began their career in the late 1970s as punk group playing hardcore thrash music in underground clubs in New York City, but when they teamed up with NYU student Rick Rubin circa 1984, they began experimenting with the fledgling sounds of hip-hop. Nobody quite understood the group’s potential at the time, but by the time 1986 rolled around, thanks to the Beastie Boys’ good looks, dangerous-yet-radio-ready rhymes and the trademark Def Jam sound that fused classic rock riffs with huge breakbeats, the threesome — Adam “MCA” Yauch, Michael “Mike D” Diamond, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz— became breakout superstars with the release of Licensed To Ill.
From the outset, Adam “MCA” Yauch’s distinctive, gravelly voice was the element that prevented the Beasties from being viewed at the outset purely as a cartoon-y, novelty “white rapper” act. Both Ad-Rock and Mike D had slightly nasally voices, but MCA —the eldest Beastie— provided the group an air of machismo and danger. “Born and bred Brooklyn U.S.A. / They all me Adam Yauch but I’m M.C.A.,” he sang in “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” as a formal introduction to his character. “Like a lemon to a lime a lime to a lemon / I sip the def ale with all the fly women.”
Licensed To Ill was the first hip hop album to top the Billboard album chart, selling over 9 million copies and establishing the Beasties as the new faces of the hip-hop. Ill was a hilarious yet crude romp through the minds of three wild young men in their early 20s, but the group quickly came to realize the negative effects that their music was having. The trio was accused of being sexist, date-raping jerks, accusations that they took to heart and were instrumental in the path that their career would go on to take.
MCA, in particular, grew up the fastest. In the early Nineties, became a practicing Buddhist, and it was his influence that led the group to create the series of Tibetan Freedom Concerts from 1996-2001, which raised well over $2 million towards the Tibetan independence movement, as well as an incalculable level of awareness.
In addition to being a talented MC and thoughtful crusader for human rights, Yauch also became a well-respected filmmaker, both as a director and a producer. Not only did he direct such Beastie Boys video classics as “Body Movin” and “Intergalactic,” he was a co-founder and self-described “Minister Of Information” the independent film distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories.
In 2009, Yauch announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer in his lymph nodes; specifically, the parotid gland. He immediately underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and in 2011, he was given the “all-clear” with regards to his battle with the disease. However, things took a turn for the worse in recent months, and Yauch did not attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland last month. He passed away today at the age of 47 years old.
Just this afternoon, we spoke to Lyle Preslar, the guitarist of the underground punk band Minor Threat, who knew Adam. “I was so saddened to hear of Adam’s sickness and death,” he told us. “He and the band had such a tremendous impact on music and culture for so many years it almost seemed otherworldly. Most of all I saw how many hardcore punk kids embraced hip hop and rap — that phenomenon was all about the Beastie Boys. They led the way and so many followed.”
From everyone here at VH1, we’d like to offer our deepest condolences to Yauch’s wife, Dechen, and his daughter, Tenzin Losel Yauch, as well as everyone in the extended Beastie Boys family.
If you would like to share your memories of Adam “MCA” Yauch, go to Twitter and use the hashtag #MCAMemories.
[Photo: Getty Images]