Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys has passed away. He was 47. Yauch was diagnosed with a form of cancer in 2009, although the cause of his death is currently unconfirmed. The sad news of Yauch’s passing was first reported by Global Grind, a website owned by Russell Simmons, who in the past signed the group to his Def Jam label.
Yauch, who rapped and performed as MCA in the trio alongside Mike D and Ad Rock, started out making hardcore music before transitioning into the burgeoning New York City hip-hop scene of the early-’80s. Under the guidance of Rick Rubin, the Beasties caused a ruckus in the mainstream by running with a boisterous, hell-raising image that had them spewing beer into crowds and terrorizing audiences on Madonna’s Like a Virgin tour. But beyond the image, which was in part inspired by the group and Rubin wanting to channel the cartoonish elements of professional wrestling characters, the Beasties received open respect and acceptance from the golden wave of hip-hop artists like LL Cool J, Run-DMC and Public Enemy.
I was fortunate enough to interview Yauch around the release of the Beasties’ To the Five Boroughs album. For most of the interview we talked about what he considered were the best places to eat falafel in New York City. While enthusing about his recommendations out in Jackson Heights, Queens, Yauch told anecdotes about the day-to-day weirdness and bizarre vignettes of life he saw in the city around him. It seemed apt, a real life conversation that mirrored his own lyrics that were scatter-logical, packed with pop culture references, and quick to pay homage to the city he grew up in.
Yauch loved the city that birthed hip-hop, and hip-hop loved him back. His music and his presence will be noticeably missed.