A seminal hip-hop voice and human rights advocate passes away.
Beastie Boys founder Adam "MCA" Yauch passed away after a three-year struggle with cancer. He was 47 years old. Yauch and fellow New Yorkers Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Mike "Mike D" Diamond first formed as a hardcore punk band in the late '70s, though, like many of their generation, they quickly became enamored with hip-hop culture. Their 1986 debut Licensed to Ill was a collection of Golden Age rap delivered with a tongue-in-cheek frat boy swagger. It had the unintentional, subversive side effect of appealing to the very target of their satire. But as they outgrew the pose, so did their listeners. In the decades that followed, the Beastie Boys churned out several classic albums that were equal parts playful and forward-thinking.
The trio's impact extended well beyond their own catalog: in many ways they were the first cross-media tastemakers, bringing a self-consciously throwback and distinctively multicultural New York perspective—hip-hop, punk, reggae, record collecting, skateboarding, basketball and vintage fashion—to a worldwide fanbase. (Yauch helped solidify this aesthetic through his film work, directing a number of retro-psychedelic Beastie videos under the alter ego Nathanial Hornblower.)
As they matured, they once again took their audience with them, sharing their burgeoning interest in social activism. Yauch, in particular, helped to spearhead this movement, having founded the non-profit organization The Milarepa Fund, which organized the now-legendary Tibetan Freedom Concert in 1996. It's hard to imagine exactly what the contemporary alt-culture landscape would look like without the influence of Yauch and the Beasties. Remember the musical life of Adam "MCA" Yauch with our special tribute collection of Beastie Boys albums and influences. – Andrew Nosnitsky, Google Play