What’s gonna set you free?
Look inside and you’ll see,
When you’ve got so much to say,
It’s called gratitude,
And that’s right.


That’s Ad-Rock’s nasally howling vocals on the cut Gratitude, off of Check Your Head. That’s MCA with the distorted, growling bassline, Mike D on the trap kit and Money Mark on the keys. It’s the track that first popped into my head when I heard the news today. Everybody has heard the news at this point. We have been struggling to come up with the words. Adam Yauch better known as the gravelly-voiced MCA, one of the founders of the trio of Brooklyn MCs, Beastie Boys, has died at the age of 47, losing his battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with a tumor on his salivary glands in 2009.

Yauch, was a pioneer of punk, hip hop and funk. He directed many of the group’s music videos operating under the pseudonym Nathanial Hörnblowér. He also was a staunch activist, founding the Tibetan Freedom Concert benefits.

I will be thirty six this September; the Beastie Boys were a mainstay for my generation. We first discovered Licensed to Ill, their party album which signaled their foray into the mainstream. It was at the same time we picked up Run DMC‘s Raising Hell. I distinctly recall purchasing that tandem of cassette tapes when I was ten.

Check Your Head came out during our high school years, an album where they embraced a skater-punk hip-hop mentality. It was perfect for the time, it was perfect for us. It immediately had me, my friend’s Curt and Jake, mimicking their moves, lip syncing their flows in our own video versions. East County Portland would be our pretend Brooklyn. When we made the trek up to the beautiful Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington in the summer of 1994, to see the B-Boys headline Lollapalooza, it all but solidified us as eternal fanboys of the trio. It would be one of the most gleeful times in my life.

We doubled back and dissected Paul’s Boutique ad ifinitum. It was their Los Angeles experimental album they crafted with the Dust Brothers. Paul’s Boutique still remains in my top 3 of the greatest hip hop albums ever made. It is a revolutionary, seminal and groundbreaking album in my eyes; still completely underrated at this juncture of hip hop history.

I am truly crestfallen to hear of MCA’s passing this afternoon. We knew he was sick but it still comes as a shock as we had not heard of his condition for the past couple of years. I kept three scrapbooks up until high school when I was a kid. One was of diminutive Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders. Another scrapbook collected all things Quentin Tarantino. The third scrapbook was composed of every clipping that was related to the Beastie Boys. Culturally speaking, I don’t think there was a group that made more of an indelible mark on me than these guys. They inspired my love for hip hop, they shaped and broadened my musical tastes. I owe much gratitude to the Silver MC, the King of the Ave, MCA.

Namaste, Yauch…



Jay Z pays tribute to MCA and the Beastie Boys after they had to drop out as headliners for Jersey’s All Points West Music & Arts Festival when Yauch was diagnosed with the tumor in 2009:

From the Beastie Boys’ site:

It is with great sadness that we confirm that musician, rapper, activist and director Adam “MCA” Yauch, founding member of Beastie Boys and also of the Milarepa Foundation that produced the Tibetan Freedom Concert benefits, and film production and distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories, passed away in his native New York City this morning after a near-three-year battle with cancer. He was 47 years old.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Yauch taught himself to play bass in high school, forming a band for his 17th birthday party that would later become known the world over as Beastie Boys.

With fellow members Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Adrock” Horovitz, Beastie Boys would go on to sell over 40 million records, release four #1 albums–including the first hip hop album ever to top the Billboard 200, the band’s 1986 debut full length, Licensed To Ill–win three Grammys, and the MTV Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement award. Last month Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Diamond and Horovitz reading an acceptance speech on behalf of Yauch, who was unable to attend.

In addition to his hand in creating such historic Beastie Boys albums as Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty and more, Yauch was a founder of the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness and activism regarding the injustices perpetrated on native Tibetans by Chinese occupational government and military forces. In 1996, Milarepa produced the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which was attended by 100,000 people, making it the biggest benefit concert on U.S. soil since 1985’s Live Aid. The Tibetan Freedom Concert series would continue to stage some of the most significant benefit shows in the world for nearly a decade following in New York City, Washington DC, Tokyo, Sydney, Amsterdam, Taipei and other cities.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, Milarepa organized New Yorkers Against Violence, a benefit headlined by Beastie Boys at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, with net proceeds disbursed to the New York Women’s Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) September 11th Fund for New Americans–each chosen for their efforts on behalf of 9/11 victims least likely to receive help from other sources.

Under the alias of Nathanial Hörnblowér, Yauch directed iconic Beastie Boys videos including “So Whatcha Want,” “Intergalactic,” “Body Movin” and “Ch-Check It Out.” Under his own name, Yauch directed last year’s Fight For Your Right Revisited, an extended video for “Make Some Noise” from Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, starring Elijah Wood, Danny McBride and Seth Rogen as the 1986 Beastie Boys, making their way through a half hour of cameo-studded misadventures before squaring off against Jack Black, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as Beastie Boys of the future.

Yauch’s passion and talent for filmmaking led to his founding of Oscilloscope Laboratories, which in 2008 released his directorial film debut, the basketball documentary Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot and has since become a major force in independent video distribution, amassing a catalogue of such acclaimed titles as Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy, Oren Moverman’s The Messenger, Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop, Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze’s Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait Of Maurice Sendak, and many more.

Yauch is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.


BONUS: from Neal Brennan, Chappelle’s Show co-creator, via Mass Appeal, a never-before-seen clip from the third season in 2004, where the Beastie Boys perform The New Style on a boat in the East River.