Adam Yauch, known to millions of Beastie Boys fans as MCA, died of cancer today (Friday, May 4, 2012) at the age of 47. Yauch had been diagnosed in 2009, and when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year, the illness kept him from attending the ceremony. The band became so beloved in its native city that tonight, the Mets are playing Beastie Boys songs in place of the batters' usual walk-up music.
The group formed in 1979 to play hardcore punk; in 1982 it had two tracks included on the seminal tape compilation New York Thrash, and had its first release, the Polly Wog Stew EP.
The following year brought a big style change as the Beasties experimented with hip-hop by making the oddball 12-inch "Cooky Puss."
Further developing that style, they abandoned punk and devoted themselves wholeheartedly to hip-hop, with Rick Rubin first their DJ and then their producer on his new label, Def Jam. They also opened for Run-DMC on its Raising Hell tour, a package show that also included Whodini and LL Cool J, enabling the Beasties to reach a national audience with their 12-inches, such as "Hold It Now, Hit It."
The Beastie Boys broke through to worldwide fame with their first LP, Licensed to Ill, the first white group to achieve significant success in the hip-hop realm.
The Beasties got artier on the follow-up LP, Paul's Boutique (1989), which moved hip-hop into a denser sound of layered samples. It didn't sell as well, but was widely admired and imitated.
On their third LP, Check Your Head (1992), the Beasties moved into a funkier, more organic sound in which they played instruments and added a keyboard player.
The group returned to the top of the charts with its fourth album, 1994's Ill Communication.
With the addition of a West Coast DJ, Mix Master Mike of Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Hello Nasty (1998) maintained the group's momentum even as its sound continued to evolve.
The band's three albums in the following two decades have their fans, but the Beasties' legacy lies in their 1986-98 prime. - Steve Holtje
Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based editor, poet, and composer. Early this month he edited and mixed the recording of his song cycle setting five of James Joyce's Pomes Penyeach, which can be heard here.