Adam Yauch , co-founder of one of the most influential hip-hop groups ever, has died. The Beastie Boys member and Brooklyn native passed away in the city Friday morning after a nearly three year battle with cancer. He was 47. Our Elizabeth Kaledin takes a look back now at Yauch's legacy.
UNITED STATES -- Adam Yauch, better known to millions as MCA, formed the Beastie Boys in 1981 while still in high school. The group started as a hardcore punk band, but Yauch and fellow New Yorkers Mike Diamond and Adam Horowitz soon embraced the city's emerging hip-hop scene.
Their debut album "Licensed To Ill," with hits "Fight For Your Right (To Party)" and "No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn," was an overnight sensation and became the first rap album to ever top the Billboard charts. It was the first of many successes for three white Jewish kids who had became pioneers in the world of hip-hop.
"The interesting thing is that people very rarely brought up the fact that like, 'Hey, what are these white guys doing here?' Simply because they were so good and so committed to the culture of hip hop. And they always paid respect to people like Afrika Bambatta and to Biz Markee and all these guys who had laid the groundwork that they then used to sort of catapult themselves to stardom," said Kyle Anderson, a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly.
The Beastie Boys' sound evolved radically from their early days, combining samples and live instrumentation on albums like "Paul's Boutique" and "Check Your Head" that earned raves from critics who had previously labeled them a novelty act. They sold over 40 million records and just last month, the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Anderson said, "They had serious songs, they had a sense of humor, they had loud stuff, they had quiet stuff, they had stuff that was meaningful, they had stuff that was political. They did it all, and they did it all exquisitely well."
Yauch was also an accomplished filmmaker who directed many of the Beastie Boys' best known videos and was the founder of Oscilloscope Laboratories, a video production company. He was also a political activist who created the Milarepa Foundation, which is devoted to Tibetan independence.
Adam Yauch is survived by his wife and daughter.