Beastie Boy Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch dies of cancer at 47

"I'm as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce," rapped MCA in the Beastie Boys Classic, "So Whatcha Want." Adam Yauch is pictured here in September of 2010.

After a three-year battle with cancer, Beastie Boys co-founder Adam Yauch has died at the age of 47.

According to Rolling Stone, Yauch, who went by the stage name MCA, was diagnosed in 2009 after he found a tumor in his salivary gland. His health began taking a toll on his work with the band, and he hadn’t performed live with the Beastie Boys since the summer of 2009. Last month he sat out from the trio’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Yauch was a pioneering member of the Beastie Boys, forming the group in 1979 with fellow New York City kids Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz. They began as a hardcore punk rock group, but by the mid ’80s they had adapted to the rap style that would make them famous.

What made the Beasties so unique was not only their pioneering work with sampling and their dedication to evolving into a band who played their own instruments, but also their style of team rapping where even within a single line of a song, all three members might say a different single word to make the line complete. Check out “Shadrach” from their 1989 classic, “Paul’s Boutique.” What makes this performance from “Soul Train” especially touching is the trio’s salute to the show’s host, Don Cornelius, who also died this year.

Yauch was also known for his activism in the free Tibet movement. He founded the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to
promoting awareness and activism regarding injustices perpetrated on
native Tibetans. He also organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts.

In 2009 he announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Here he is in a video he made for fans with fellow Beastie Boy Ad Rock. Although they addressed the matter with seriousness, it is telling of their fraternal bond that they begin the video with laughter.

Not only will MCA be remembered as the Beastie with the raspy voice and the social conscience, but also for his role in immortalizing the trio with his video direction. His directing credits include “So Whatcha Want,” “Intergalactic,” “Body Movin” and “Ch-Check It Out.” He also wrote, directed and produced this hilarious 30-minute production last spring, cajoling dozens of celebrity fans to participate.

Even before MCA was directing half-hour films based off earlier Beastie hits, he was interested in video shenanigans. In 1994, when Spike Jonze (who directed the Beasties’ video for “Sabotage” that year) didn’t win the MTV Video Music Award for Best Director, MCA rushed the stage for his own style of sabotage. It seems the Beastie Boys were influential to Kanye West for more than just their rhymes.


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