Beastie Boys founder Adam Yauch lost his long battle with salivary gland cancer on Friday. In the world of the Beastie Boys he is commonly known as MCA, a true talent in the hip-hop genre. In a business where hip-hop acts sky rocket like roman candles and fizz out at the height of glory, the Beastie Boys have endured since 1979.
They initially came together as a hardcore punk band in the vein of The Dead Kennedys and Reagan Youth playing hip-hop venues all over the five boroughs of New York.
They were barely more than teenagers tearing up the Big Apple music scene. It was not until their shift to more of a hip-hop sound in 1983 that the boys from Brooklyn begin to see moderate success when their 12-inch single “Cooky Puss” (satirical references to the ice cream treat) became a hit in New York underground dance clubs and night clubs.
If Cooky Puss was the launching pad, their next release License to Ill was the rocket. They decided to hire a DJ for their live shows, and ended up getting an NYU student named Rick Rubin. Soon thereafter, Rubin began producing records, formed Def Jam Recordings and approached the band about producing them for his new label.
The band recorded Licensed to Ill in 1986 and released the album at the end of the year. The album was well-received, and was favorably reviewed byRolling Stone magazine with the now-famous headline, “Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece.” Licensed to Ill became the best selling rap album of the 1980s and the first rap album to go No.1 on the Billboard album chart, where it stayed for five weeks. It also reached No.2 on the Urban album charts. It was Def Jam’s fastest selling debut record to date and sold over five million copies. The first single from the album, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)“, reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
After the success of Licensed to Ill, the Beasties parted ways with Rick Rubin and ended their relationship with Def Jam to sign with Capitol Records. Their first release on the Capital label is the 1989 release, Paul’s Boutique. The album was a fan favorite and despite going double-platinum ten years later Boutique was considered by Capital Records a commercial failure. Rolling Stone ranked it No.156 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In 1994 the hit single Sabotage from Ill Communication had multiple nominations at the MTV music awards including video of the year, and award ultimately lost to Aerosmith‘s ”Cryin’.”
All in all, Beastie Boys have released eight studio albums including 2011′s Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. The group had sold 22 million albums in the United States and 40 million albums worldwide, making them, according to Billboard, “the biggest-selling rap group” since 1991.
They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14, 2012, “just the third rap group to enter the Hall, after Run-D.M.C. (2009) and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (2007).”
On May 4, 2012 founder Adam Yauch succumbed to a rare for of cancer at the age of 47. The illness delayed release of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two and the subsequent tour.
Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam said that Yauch was “a crazy talent whose contributions with his band were inspirational and consistently ground breaking”.