Gravelly-voiced Adam Yauch, who helped make the Beastie Boys a pioneer of hip-hop, died Friday morning in New York after a nearly three-year battle with cancer, his representatives confirmed. He was 47.
Yauch, also known as MCA, was diagnosed with a cancerous salivary gland in 2009.
With the other Beastie Boys — high school friend Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz — he wrote and performed “Sure Shot,” which was heard on the soundtrack of the 2010 cartoon movie Shrek Forever After.
As “Nathaniel Hornblower,” Yauch co-directed the five-minute animated Beastie Boys video Shadrach (1989), which was executive produced by Gabor Csupo. He used the Hornblower pseudonym when working as a filmmaker.
The grey-haired rapper was born Adam Nathaniel Yauch in Brooklyn, New York on August 5, 1964. Over 25 years, the Beastie Boys were both humorous and series, recording four no. 1 albums and selling over 40 million records.
“The group’s music crossed genres and color lines, and helped bring rap to a wider audience,” said Recording Academy president Neil Portnow. “Yauch was an immense talent and creative visionary.”
Born to a Catholic father and Jewish mother, Yauch was a devoted Buddhist. He led the trio in performing concerts to benefit Tibet.
When diagnosed with cancer, Yauch said he hoped that it was “very treatable.” However, his illness forced the Beastie Boys to cancel shows and delayed the release of last year’s album Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2. In fact, he had not performed in public since 2009.
Yauch was absent last month when the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Sean “Diddy” Combs called Yauch “a true pioneer and a creative force who paved the way for so many of us.”
“I think it’s obvious to anyone how big an influence the Beastie Boys were on me and so many others,” said Eminem. “They are trailblazers and pioneers, and Adam will be sorely missed.”
First planned as a hardcore punk group, the Beastie Boys first performed publicly on Yauch’s 17th birthday. They became a hip-hop trio soon after Horovitz joined. The group developed further after Yauch dropped out of Bard College following two years of study.
In 1986, the group released its chart-topping debut Licensed to Ill. “Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist, who I loved dearly,” Russell Simmons, whose Def Jam label released the album, said on his Web site.
In 2008, he co-founded film distribution company Osciolloscope Laboratories, named after his New York studio.
Adam Yauch is survived by wife Dechen Wangdu and daughter Tenzin Losel Yauch.