Adam 'MCA' Yauch
Beastie Boys rapper who used his lyrics to champion causes close to his heart like Tibetan freedom, by Barry Egan
'I'm out, 'n I'm gone," MCA rapped on 'Sabotage' in 1994. "I tell you now, I keep it on 'n on."
At 9am on May 4 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, Adam Nathaniel Yauch -- aka MCA, one third of the Beastie Boys along withAdam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond -- was truly out 'n gone when he lost his three-year battle with cancer of the salivary gland.
The icon of rap had his family, his wife, Dechen Wangdu, and his 13-year-old daughter, Tenzin Losel Yauch, at his side when the 47 year old passed, conscious until the end, into that great hip hop party in the sky.
Born August 5 1964, in Brooklyn, New York, to architect Noel Yauch and schools administrator Frances, Yauch used his celebrity to push causes that were close to his heart. He was a leading advocate for Tibetan independence. After a visit to Tibet and Nepal in the early 90s, he converted to Buddhism. On one track on the Ill Communication album he rapped a Buddhist vow.
In 1994 he founded the Milarepa Fund, to promote awareness of the unjust treatment of native Tibetans by the Chinese government. In 1998 he married fellow activist Dechen Wangdu -- whom he met at a talk given by the Dalai Lama at Harvard University in 1995. Together, through Milarepa, they promoted a series of Tibetan Freedom Concerts. His heart seemed never but in the right place.
"We've got a president we didn't elect/The Kyoto Treaty he decided to neglect", MCA rapped on the Beastie Boys' epochal 2004 album To the Five Boroughs.
In an email to the Beastie Boys fan club in 2010, Yauch, who was battling cancer, implored his fans to meditate with him in "smashing apart all the cancer cells of the world."
"A few friends and I are meditating at the same time twice a day. 9.30am and 6.30pm eastern standard time for about an hour and half," he wrote. "We are picturing smashing apart all of the cancer cells in the world. We are visualising taking the energy away from the cancer, and then sending it back at the cancer as lightning bolts that will break apart the DNA and RNA of the cells. If you have the time, please join us in whipping up this lightning storm. Mind over matter."
He and his bandmates leave behind a legacy that our minds won't forget in a hurry. "It's obvious to anyone how big of an influence the Beastie Boys were on me and so many others," rapper Eminem said after Yauch's death. "They are trailblazers and pioneers."
"The cultural impact the Beastie Boys had was so massive, not just then but for years and years," Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea told the New York Times last week. "It was record after record after record where they were just the coolest thing on earth. Every kid wanted to look like them, wanted to dress like them, wanted to be them..."
"And you can't ignore the racial part.They were absorbing part of a culture that they weren't born into, but they approached it and channelled it in such an authentic way. The fact that they were white brought people together.
"There was never any minstrelsy or weird vibe about it. People felt the integrity and the love in what they were doing so it transcended all these cultural boundaries and brought people together."
Coldplay paid tribute to Yauch at a gig at the Hollywood Bowl last week when singer Chris Martin performed a lilting piano version of the Beastie's infamous anthem to lad excess '(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)'. Yauch would have liked the sentiment, but not the choice of song perhaps.
In later years, he practically apologised for his band's lyrical and misogynist excesses of their early material. "Born and bred, Brooklyn, USA, they call me Adam Yauch, but I'm MCA," he once rapped on 'No Sleep Till Brooklyn' on the The Beastie Boys' seminal first album License to Ill in 1986. "Got limos, arena, TV shows, autograph pictures and classy hos."
"The last few days have just been a blur of deep emotions for our closest friend, bandmate and really brother," wrote Mike D on the band's Facebook page. "I miss Adam so much. He really served as a great example for myself and so many of what determination, faith, focus, and humility coupled with a sense of humour can accomplish. The world is in need of many more like him."