Adam Yauch, better known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, passed away this morning at age 47.
Yauch, a bedrock and founding member of the trio, was first diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in July of 2009. He now appears to have lost his multi-year battle with the disease, though at this time, we’re not clear on the exact cause of death.
Yauch’s stamp on hip-hop, popular, and music culture started back in 1979, when the Brooklyn native joined forces with co-conspirators Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad Rock” Horowitz. What started as ear-splitting punk quickly morphed into the rap-inspired Beastie Boys, though the group showcased some of their hardcore roots on 1992 release, Check Your Head.
That was part of an extremely-eclectic LP, one that showed incredible amounts of experimentation and variety. But the Beastie Boys had an ample platform with which to experiment at that point. After successfully progressing past their party-rockin’ Licensed to Ill, the Beastie Boys received time-delayed praise on the relatively dark-horse Paul’s Boutique. It was a rare shift-in-gears: Boutique was first panned as a sophomore sleeper, but eventually hailed as one of the most classic hip-hop releases. This was a serious group with incredible music, and the world was starting to recognize it.
Throughout, the smokey voice of MCA formed a critical part of the musical fabric, and offered a perfect contrast the nasally tones of Ad Rock (and higher-pitched rapping of D). The chemistry lasted for decades – a rarity in the music industry – though MCA’s condition forced delays with the latest release, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. It also created complications for related video shoots, and Yauch was unable to attend the Beastie Boys’ induction in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
That release will undoubtedly start to assume a different color, based on the untimely passing. But MCA and the other Beasties managed to remain culturally relevant deep into their 40s, another rarity in modern musical culture. Especially for a group whose first impression largely consisted of tongue-in-cheek party-raps and outrageous, x-rated shows.
The Beastie Boys have now posted a full obituary on their site honoring MCA.