Adam Yauch, one-third of the pioneering hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died at the age of 47 overnight after losing his battle with cancer.

Yauch, also known as MCA, was diagnosed with cancer back in 2009 after discovering a tumour in his salivary gland, and had been in treatment ever since.

According to Rolling Stone, the sad news was confirmed by an official statement made this morning by the remaining members of the Beastie Boys.

“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,” his bandmates wrote.

Rumours that his battle with cancer had taken a turn for the worse were heightened when he was unable to attend the Beastie Boys’ recent induction to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame just weeks ago.

At the time of his diagnosis in 2009, Yauch remained positive saying that it was “very treatable”, but since then the group were forced to cancel a number of shows – they hadn’t performed live since the summer of 2009 – and the release of their 2011 album Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2 was also delayed.

Yauch co-founded the Beastie Boys with Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz in 1979 as a hardcore punk group before they found their feet in hip hop.

Love Eminem?

Get the latest Eminem news, features, updates and giveaways straight to your inbox Learn more

When they released their debut LP in 1986, Licensed to Ill, it became the biggest selling rap album of the decade and earned them the honour of having the first rap album to reach #1 on the charts in the United States.

Since then the group have released a further seven albums, three of which went #1, and are estimated to have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide, establishing the trio of white Jewish kids as one of the most respected groups in hip hop at a time when white rappers were virtually non-existent.

Tributes have poured out from some of the world’s biggest music stars on hearing the news of Yauch’s passing, including from fellow rap pioneer Eminem who said Yauch “brought a lot of positivity into the world and I think it’s obvious to anyone how big of an influence the Beastie Boys were on me and so many others. They are trailblazers and pioneers.”

“Today, the music industry lost one of its brightest stars,” added Sean “Diddy” Combs. “As a founding member of the Beastie Boys, Adam was a true pioneer and a creative force who paved the way for so many of us.”

The current President of Def Jam Recordings, the Beastie Boys first record label, also expressed his condolences saying, “It’s impossible to measure the influence Adam Yauch and The Beastie Boys have had on me personally, on hip-hop culture as a whole, and on rock and roll in general.”

“His legacy here at Def Jam is nothing short of iconic _ he was one of the pioneering artists of this great label and family. We are filled with a sense of loss today…the Def Jam flag is at half mast. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”

In addition to his highly successful music career, Yauch was also a prolific activist, heavily involving himself in the movement to free Tibet. Yauch helped pull off the Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1996, an event that had over 100,000 people attend – the largest benefit concert in the US since 1985’s Live Aid.

Yauch’s third passion was film, directing a number of the Beastie Boys’ music videos before founding his own film production company Oscilloscope Laboratories. Yauch was at the helm of a number of film ventures, including the 2008 basketball documentary Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot, and Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film about acclaimed street artist Bansky.

Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu, and his daughter, Tenzin Losel Yauch.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine