By Jade Robledo
Many fans were disheartened to read the news this morning that Beastie Boy MC Adam “MCA” Yauch had passed away from cancer. It was only appropriate that the news was announced by Russell Simmons, who, with Rick Rubin, released the hip-hop/rap/rock trio’s first releases, the EP Rock Hard (1985) and the instant classic Licensed to Ill (1986), which was the first rap album to go to number 1 on the Billboard album chart, a position it held for five weeks.
Although the band is rightly recognized for such great releases as Paul’s Boutique (released in 1989, it was ranked number 156 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003), Check Your Head and Hello Nasty, the band should also be recognized for being among the first to be associated with a clothing line (X-Large), a magazine (Grand Royal) as well as a record label (also named Grand Royal). The label, which was active from 1992 through 2001, was home to many highly praised artists such as Luscious Jackson and At the Drive-In.
Working under the nom de plume of Nathaniel Hornblower, Yauch directed several Beastie Boys videos including “Intergalactic,” “So What’cha Want” and the 2011 “Fight for Your Right Revisited” short. This short, which featured Seth Rogen as Mike D, Elijah Wood as Ad-Rock and Danny McBride as MCA, was filmed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the original video by showing the aftermath of the events shown in “Fight For Your Right (To Party!).” In addition to his directorial work with his band, Yauch filmed the 2008 documentary Gunnin for That No. 1 Spot. In 2008 he also formed the independent film company Oscilloscope Laboratories, named after the band’s New York based studio that formed in 2002, which produced such features as the Oscar nominated Banksy documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop and the drama “The Messenger.”
Yauch was also a staunch supporter of Tibetan rights. He was a founder of the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization formed to raise awareness and activism on behalf of those suffering injustices of Tibetans by the Chinese government. In 1996 he helped to organize the Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco, CA, the first of six festivals to help raise awareness and funds for the cause. The last concert was held in Taipei in 2003. Milarepa also organized a benefit entitled New Yorkers Against Violence in the wake of September 11, 2001, with proceeds distributed between the New York Women’s Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association for New Americans September 11th Fund for New Americans.
In 2009 Yauch announced that he was being treated for cancer of the parotid salivary gland. Although he underwent surgery and radiation therapy, he was not able to fight the disease.
In 2012 the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although he was too ill to attend the ceremonies, he sent a letter to be read by his bandmates, who declined to perform without Yauch. In their place, the Roots performed as back-up band to Kid Rock and Travie McCoy as they performed a medley of their songs. This performance can be seen this Saturday, May 5th, on HBO’s broadcast of the ceremonies.
He is survived by his wife, daughter, parents, bandmates and millions of fans.