An Innovator in Rhyme, He Left Us in His Prime
In the city of 8 million stories, one has come to an abrupt and all-too untimely end. On Friday, May 4th, 2012, Hip Hop pioneer, Adam Yauch, perhaps better known to the world as MCA of the innovative rap trio The Beastie Boys, died in his native New York City after a three-year bout with cancer. He was 47 years old.
Originally founded as a hard-core punk band in 1979, the Beastie’s helped to put then-fledgling DEF JAM label on the music map with the now legendary rap music mogul, Russel Simmons and hip-hop rock studio mastermind, Rick Rubin. Though they began their career in the shadow of fellow rappers RUN-DMC and LL COOL J (some of whom they had attended the same high school with in Queens, NY), their first Album, Licensed to Ill (1986), became the best-selling rap album of the 1980′s. Their unique style of Rap/Rock featured sample cuts from old movies, 1960′s rock riffs and even obscure instructional LP’s from the 1950′s.
Musicians and entertainers to their core, the group had a solid 23-year run of albums ranging from the college-party anthology Licensed to Ill to 2009′s Hot Sauce committee, Pt. 2. In 2004, the Beasties released their sixth album, the post-9/11 inspired, The Five Boroughs, a musical rally cry for New Yorkers, and Americans everywhere, to pick themselves up, stay strong and move on.
Along with his career as a Beastie Boy, Yauch was deeply immersed in the free Tibet movement. Yauch, a founder of the Milarepa Fund, was a pivotal player in the first Tibetan Freedom Concert which drew more than 100,000 people in 1996. Yauch also directed a number of the Beastie Boys’ music videos under the alias Nathaniel Hornblower and in 2002, he launched his film production company Oscilloscope Laboratories.
An accomplished independent filmmaker, musician, entertainer and activist, Adam Yauch lived a full, dignified life of creativity, passion and innovation. And we could all do much worse than be remembered for telling a generation to ‘fight for their right to party’.
Thanks for everything, Adam. I for one will be turning up the volume on my iPod and blasting my favorite Beastie Boys album, Paul’s Boutique (1988), for many years to come.