One of the legends of rap passed away on Friday. Beastie Boys’ Adam “MCA” Yauch died at the all-too-young age of 47. He died in Brooklyn (where he was born in 1964) after a three-year battle with parotid salivary gland cancer since 2009. Yauch is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel Yauch, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch. Though Beastie Boys began in the early 1980s as a hardcore punk band, it was the final lineup of Yauch, Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “King Adrock” Horovitz and their conversion to the then new genre of rap that broke the trio through to fame, fortune and most importantly, artistic achievement of the highest order.
Beastie Boys totaled over 40 million records sold including four number one albums and a reputation for a better than average live show for a rap act. In fact the band even began playing live instruments in the early '90s, expanding the boundaries of both hip-hop and rock in the process. Just last month, Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Yauch was unable to attend, leaving Horovitz and Diamond to read an acceptance speech on MCA’s behalf. On Beastieboys.com
today, the only page viewable was a tribute to Yauch along with an interesting picture of him, where he seems to be holding back a smile for some reason, perhaps only known to him.
Beastie Boy's debut album, 1986’s Licensed to Ill was the first rap LP to hit number one on the Billboard 200, with Yauch’s rough-voiced MCA balancing perfectly with Adrock’s “Jerry Lewis” style and the trippy high pitch of Mike D. While Ill propelled Yauch and his bandmates to the top of the charts, it was 1989’s relatively ignored at the time Paul’s Boutique that saw the band create their masterpiece, which this reviewer regards as the second greatest rap album ever (only surpassed by Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back). Boutique is like an aural journey through the history of rock music, a sample smorgasbord of hundreds of songs - some famous, others totally obscure, but it all came together in an astonishing manner. It’s also Beastie Boys’ best pot album, with great lyrics like “I’m a writer, a genius, a poet, I know it, I don’t buy cheeba, I grow it” and one solely rapped by MCA: “Yeah, I smoke cheeba, it helps me with my brain, I might be a little dusted but I’m not insane."
Yauch and his fellow Beasties lived in L.A. during the early 1990s and released Boutique's almost as impressive asfollow-up Check Your Head, arguably one of the most stylistically diverse albums ever in rap, rock or any genre of music. As for Yauch, he himself was much more than a rapper, forming the Milarepa Foundation to bring awareness to the plight of the Tibetan people. He was also an accomplished filmmaker donning his second alternate persona of “Nathanial Hörnblowér” (Yauch’s real middle name was Nathaniel). Yauch was also a practicing Buddhist; though when he first delved into Buddhism, it’s said that his fellow Beasties didn’t quite understand and goofed on him about his newfound spirituality, but Yauch left his party boy image behind and became a serious and dedicated practitioner of the Buddhist philosophy.
While it’s obviously too soon for the two surviving Beasties to make any official announcement, it would seem Yauch’s death will likely spell the demise for Beastie Boys. And though it’s said nearly every time a great artist passes, it still rings true - Yauch will live on forever through his music, voice, lyrics and films as well as his tough-guy-who’s-deeper-than-you-think persona of MCA. He was unquestionably one of the pioneers of rap.