More than thirty years ago, Adam Yauch saw Black Flag and decided he needed to start his own punk band. Within a few years, the Beastie Boys were playing CBGB and Max’s Kansas City in support of successful groups like the Dead Kennedys and the Misfits. In 1983, the guys released an EP called Cooky Puss, which came to the attention of British Airways. The company used “Beastie Revolution” in one of its commercials, prompting a lawsuit and a judgment of forty thousand dollars. Flush with cash, the guys rented an apartment in Chinatown and began more fully exploring their interest in hip-hop.

Three years later, License To Ill was released and eventually sold more than nine million copies. Yauch’s dream of a punk band had turned into one of the biggest hip-hop acts in the world. A string of hit albums and world tours followed until 2009 when Yauch was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away earlier this week at the age of forty-seven.

People often forget about those early years as a punk band, but those roots are obvious throughout the Beastie Boys’ catalog. The legendary trio deftly combined the rebellion and aggression of early punk and added hip-hop’s flow and increased emphasis on lyrics. The result was a fun, yet aggressive blend that appealed to a very diverse and young demographic. To this day, License To Ill is the only hip-hop album made by white dudes to ever achieve five mics from The Source. It’s almost universally beloved and rightfully so.

Always a socially-conscious and eclectic artist, Yauch spent much of his later life pursuing non-Beastie Boys projects. He organized concerts for Free Tibet. He directed and produced. Most importantly, he married and had a daughter in 1998. It is that domestic touch those closest to him will remember, and it is fun spirit and brilliant music fans will always cherish.

Adam Yauch was a lovely man and a great musician. He will truly be missed.



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