Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys, also known as MCA, passed away today after a long battle with cancer. He told fans about his condition in July of 2009 via a YouTube video.

Starting out as the bass player in the Beastie Boys when they were a hard-core punk rock band in the early ’80s, he, along with drummer Michael Diamond (also known as Mike D) and guitarist Adam Horovitz (King Ad-Rock) began rapping and were signed to Def Jam Records, where their Rick Rubin-produced debut, 1986’s Licensed To Ill became the first hip-hop album to top the Billboard charts.

After License, they left Def Jam and Rush Management (both run, at the time, by Russell Simmons) and moved from New York to Los Angeles, where they recorded 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, a huge artistic departure from Licensed To Ill, and at the time, considered to be a commercial failure. In the years since, it has been recast as a seminal album. For 1992’s Check Your Head, the group began playing their instruments again, and the album was split between conventional hip-hop tracks, hard rock/rap hybrids, instrumental funk workouts and a couple of hardcore punk blasts. It was the blueprint the group would follow in subsequent years, as most of their music fit into one of those categories.

Aside from MC-ing with The Beastie Boys, he also played bass on many of the group’s songs, and also directed a number of their videos (under the name Nathaniel Hornblower), including “Intergalactic,” “Body Movin'” and the recent short-form film “Fight For Your Right Revisited.” His work as a filmmaker extended beyond The Beastie Boys: in 2008, he founded Oscilloscope Labrotories, a company that distributed smallfilms, including documentaries and foreign language movies.

In June 2008, MCA paid a visit to the old KROCK studios and discussed his venture into film with former jock, Nick Carter.

Yauch was also an activist, co-founding the Milarepa Fund in 1994 to support Tibetan independence from China. Tibetan Freedom Concerts from 1996 – 1999 to support Tibetan independence from China. Artists who performed at those concerts included Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Alanis Morissette and Buddy Guy.

The Beastie Boys released their most recent album, Hot Sauce Committee, in April of 2011 to generally positive reviews, but were unable to tour due toYauch’s health.

The Beasties were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14. Diamond and Horovitz attended the ceremony, in which they were being honored by speeches from Chuck D of Public Enemy and LL Cool J and a performance by The Roots with Kid Rock and TravieMcCoy. Yauch was unable to attend, but Horovitz read a note at his request, thanking his bandmates and the fans.

The ceremony will premiere on HBO tomorrow night at 9 pm ET.

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