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Obituary: Adam Yauch, Beastie Boys' MCA

Adam Yauch

Obituary by Jack Foley

ADAM Yauch (pictured far right), a founding member and rapper of The Beastie Boys, has died at the age of 47, his publicist has confirmed.

The star had been diagnosed with cancer in 2009 but was believed to have beaten the condition until issuing a statement last year saying that “reports of my being totally cancer free are exaggerated”.

It is not yet clear whether his death was connected with the illness.

But the music world has reacted with shock and sadness to the news, with Russell Simmons, co-founder of Beastie Boys label Def Jam, breaking the news on his website GlobalGrind, by saying: “Adam 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.”

Simmons’ brother Joseph Simmons, aka Rev Run (who was an original member of rap group Run-DMC), tweeted: “RIP Adam… I’m devastated. Praying for Adam Yauch’s family from the legendary Beastie Boys. You’ll be missed!”

And Justin Timberlake said he was “crushed” by the news, while Nirvana’s bassist Krist Novoselic thanked Yauch for his “Sabotage bass riff and many other great grooves”.

Better known under his alias MCA, Yauch co-founded The Beastie Boys with band mates Mike D and Ad Roc in 1981. Their critically-acclaimed debut album Licensed To Ill spawned the hit singles (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) and No Sleep Till Brooklyn and was notable for the way in which it fused rock guitars with lo-fi hip-hop beats.

Indeed, Licensed To Ill was one of the first rap records to crossover to a mainstream audience and the first to top the US charts. But it also arrived with controversy, both for its often outrageous lyricism and for the bad boy antics of the rappers themselves.

Their decision to wear the Volkswagen emblem on chains around their necks reportedly led to a rise in vandalised cars at the time, while their lively stage shows came under fire from the British press.

But as they got older, their image became more respected and they continued to draw critical acclaim for their music, which often spoke candidly about the state of the world as much as their beloved New York City.

Indeed, they even expanded the musical repertoire beyond hip-hop with the 1996 release of The In Sound From Way Out!, a collection of jazz and funk instrumentals, whilst also delivering such landmark hip hop standards as Sabotage and Intergalactic.

In total, The Beastie Boys have sold more than 40 million albums world-wide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

But Yauch’s interest in the arts didn’t just remain with music… he was the band’s filmographer, directing several of their videos under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower, and he also directed the band’s concert movie Awesome… I Shot That, which stitched together footage from dozens of audience-members.

His passion for the moving image led him to found the indie film company Oscilloscope Pictures, which was responsible for distributing films such as Dark Days, Exit Through The Gift Shop and the Oscar nominated The Messenger.

Beyond music, he was also heavily involved in the Free Tibet movement and co-organised several fundraising concerts in the 1990s, before travelling to a Tibetan community in Dharamsala, India to further his work after he had received treatment for cancer in 2009.

Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu, and their daughter, Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents, Frances and Noel Yauch.