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Adam Yauch, the Beastie Boys rapper known as MCA, died on May 4, 2012. While not yet confirmed, it is assumed he succumbed to cancer. PM He underwent treatment for cancer in his salivary gland in 2009. It was reported in 2011 that he had beat cancer, but Yauch released a statement saying, “While I'm grateful for all the positive energy people are sending my way, reports of my being totally cancer free are exaggerated…I’m continuing treatment, staying optimistic and hoping to be cancer free in the near future.” BB The group has not performed live since Yauch’s diagnosis in 2009.
Yauch was 47. He is survived by his wife Dechen Wangdu and their daughter Tenzin Losel. In addition to being one-third of one of the biggest rap groups in history, Yauch “was heavily involved in the movement to free Tibet and co-organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts of the late Nineties. In 2002, he launched the film production company Oscilloscope Laboratories.” RS Russell Simmons, whose Def Jam Recordings released the Beasties debut album, Licensed to Ill, said of Adam, he “was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist who I loved dearly. I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us.” BB
With Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz started as a hardcore punk group in 1979, but had moved toward hip-hop by the time of 1986’s Licensed to Ill. It became one of the most important albums in rap history, giving the Beasties the distinction of being the first rap group to top the Billboard album chart. As producer Rick Rubin said, “The Beasties opened hip-hop music up to the suburbs…As crazy as they were, they seemed safe to Middle America, in a way black artists hadn’t been up to that point in time.” BB
That album owed much of its success to the iconic hit single, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party).” The DMDB ranks the song as one of the top 1000 of all time. A DMDB blog entry from December 2011 took an in-depth look at that song.
You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party
While that first album had a certain campy appeal, the Beasties surprised everyone the next time out with 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, “a critically lauded, sample-heavy record that featured production from the Dust Brothers.” BB
Both of those albums rank in the DMDB’s top 1000 albums of all time, as did their next two releases, 1992’s Check Your Head and 1994’s Ill Communication. All four albums also rank in the DMDB’s list of the top 50 rap albums of all time.
The latter album sported another of the Beasties’ most iconic songs, “Sabotage.” Not only did the song prove the Beasties had an audience beyond rap by ranking as one of the top 100 alternative songs of all time, but the video for the song proved one of the most celebrated in history, ranking in the top ten on the DMDB’s list of the top 100 videos of all time.
This year the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Due to his illness, Yauch was unable to attend the ceremony on April 14. Check out The Daily Guru’s blog for a nice tribute about what the Beastie Boys meant to him.
Resources and Related Links:
- Beastie Boys’ DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry
- DMDB blog: The Beastie Boys charted with “Fight for Your Right”: December 20, 1986 (12/21/2011)
- BB Billboard.com: Adam Yauch, Beastie Boys’ MCA, Dead at 47 by Billboard Staff (5/4/2012).
- The Daily Guru May 4: Rest in Peace, Adam Yauch (5/4/2012)
- PM Pastemagazine.com: Adam “MCA” Yauch: 1964-2012 by Adam Vitcavage (5/4/2012)
- RS RollingStone.com: Beastie Boys Co-Founder Adam Yauch Dead at 47 (5/4/2012)