On May 4th at the age of 47, Adam Yauch, one-third of the iconic hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, passed away. Yauch, better known by his stage name MCA, had been battling cancer of the throat since 2009, as he announced following his diagnosis via video on the group’s website.
The Beastie Boys, a trendsetting all-white group of rappers based out of the boroughs of New York, have made history with their unique crossbreeding of street, punk, and rock sounds. In April of this year, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although Yauch was too ill to attend, or to perform at the ceremony. In a show of solidarity that night, members Adam Horovitz (“AdRock”) and Michael Diamond (“Mike D”) refused to perform as well. On the evening of May 6th, HBO re-aired the ceremony, this time with a special “In Memory of Adam Yauch” message.
Yauch was not only a rapper, but an avid cinematographer as well, and directed many of the Beastie Boys early music videos. In 2008, he co-founded the production company Oscilloscope Laboratories, which has been responsible for the release of the harrowing Tilda Swinton feature “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, among many other dark, quirky indie films.
While well known for his edgy, gravelly rap voice on songs like “Intergalactic”, “Ch-Check It Out”, and “Sure Shot”, Yauch was equally renowned for his activist work concerning Tibetan civil rights. After attending a speech given by the holy Dalai Lama in the early 1990’s, he converted from his Jewish heritage to the spiritual path toward nirvana, in order to secure personal peace. Since that time, he contributed to the efforts of such organizations as the International Campaign for Tibet, working to secure the freedom and equality of the Tibetan people under rule of the People’s Republic of China. It was during his activism work that he met his wife, Dechen Wangdu, with whom he had a now-13-year-old daughter.
From the age of 22, when the Beastie Boys released their first album, “Licensed to Ill”, until the time of his last breath, Yauch was an ever-evolving, ever-growing spirit, whose work in music and social welfare will not soon be forgotten.