Adam Yauch

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Adam "MCA" Yauch
Yauch in 2007
Yauch in 2007
Background information
Birth nameAdam Nathaniel Yauch
Also known as
  • MC Adam
  • MCA
  • Nathanial Hörnblowér
  • Bloach
  • Abednego
Born(1964-08-05)August 5, 1964
New York City, U.S.
DiedMay 4, 2012(2012-05-04) (aged 47)
New York City, U.S.
  • Musician
  • rapper
  • songwriter
  • filmmaker
  • Vocals
  • bass
Years active1979–2012
Formerly ofBeastie Boys

Adam Nathaniel Yauch (/jk/ YOWK; August 5, 1964 – May 4, 2012), better known by the stage name MCA,[1] was an American rapper, bass player, filmmaker and a founding member of the hip hop group Beastie Boys. Besides his musical work, he also directed many of the band's music videos and did much of their promotional photography, often using the pseudonym Nathaniel Hörnblowér for such work.

Yauch founded Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film production and distribution company based in New York City. As a Buddhist, he was involved in the Tibetan independence movement and organized the Tibetan Freedom Concert.[2] He died in 2012 from parotid cancer,[3] after which Beastie Boys disbanded.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Brooklyn, New York City, Yauch was an only child. His father Noel was an architect,[4] and his mother Frances was a social worker.[5][6][7][8] Yauch's mother was Jewish and his father Catholic, but he had a non-religious upbringing[6] in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn.[9]

Yauch attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn's Midwood neighborhood. In high school, he taught himself to play the bass guitar[10] and formed Beastie Boys from hardcore punk band, Young Aborigines, with John Berry, Kate Schellenbach, and Michael Diamond.[11] They played their first show—while still a hardcore punk band in the vein of Reagan Youth—on his 17th birthday. He attended Bard College for two years before dropping out.[12]

His stage name, MCA, is an initialism for "Master of Ceremonies Adam."[13][14][15]

Beastie Boys[edit]

Yauch (center) with the Beastie Boys in 2009

Beastie Boys, a hip-hop trio, released their first album Licensed to Ill on Def Jam Records when Yauch was 22. He directed many of Beastie Boys' music videos, often under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hörnblowér.[12][16]

In 2002, Yauch constructed a recording studio in New York City called Oscilloscope Laboratories. He began an independent film distributing company called Oscilloscope Pictures.[17] He directed the 2006 Beastie Boys concert film Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!.

Beastie Boys had sold 40 million records worldwide by 2010.[12] In April 2012, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yauch was inducted in absentia due to his illness.[10] His bandmates paid tribute to him; a letter from Yauch was read to the audience.[18]

In 2011, Yauch received the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from Bard College, the college he attended for two years. The award is "given in recognition of a significant contribution to the American artistic or literary heritage".[19]

Other independent work[edit]

He directed the 2008 film Gunnin' For That #1 Spot about eight high school basketball prospects at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic at Rucker Park in Harlem, New York City.

Yauch produced Build a Nation (2007), the comeback album from hardcore/punk band Bad Brains. When Bad Brains released Into the Future (2012), the band dedicated the album to Yauch, their longtime friend and backer, who had died several months previously.[20]

In addition, Oscilloscope Laboratories also distributed Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy (2008) and Oren Moverman's The Messenger (2009).[21]

Personal life and views[edit]

Yauch in 1992

Yauch was a practicing Buddhist.[22] He became an important voice in the Tibetan independence movement,[2][23] creating the Milarepa Fund, a nonprofit organization devoted to Tibetan independence and organized several benefit concerts to support the cause, including the Tibetan Freedom Concert.[10][21][24]

In 1995, while attending a speech by the Dalai Lama at Harvard University, he met his wife, Tibetan American Dechen Wangdu. They married in 1998 and had a daughter, Tenzin Losel, the same year.[10][25][26]

In 1998, during the MTV Video Music Awards, when receiving the Video Vanguard Award, Yauch condemned America's wars in Muslim countries and prejudice against Muslims and Arabs. Artist Cihan Kaan wrote an obituary for Al Jazeera that Yauch was "Muslim Americans' hero, and America's personal Jewish Gandhi".[27]

Illness, death and legacy[edit]

Yauch in 2007

In July 2009, Yauch was diagnosed with a cancerous parotid gland and lymph node. He underwent surgery and radiation therapy, delaying the release of Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 1 until 2011 (when it was renamed to Hot Sauce Committee Part Two) and canceling the trio's planned tour.[28][29] He was unable to appear in music videos for the album. Yauch became a vegan on the recommendation of his doctors.[30] At the time, Yauch described the cancer as "very treatable".[31]

Yauch died in New York City at age 47 on May 4, 2012.[3] In his last will and testament, Yauch left instructions that his music could not be used in advertising, though the legal validity of such an instruction has been questioned.[32]

On May 3, 2013, ceremonies were held to rename the Palmetto Playground in Brooklyn Heights to Adam Yauch Park.[9]


with Beastie Boys


  1. ^ "Adam Yauch: Why MCA Was The Renaissance Man Of Hip-Hop". u discovermusic. August 5, 2019. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Goldberg, Eleanor (May 4, 2012). "Adam Yauch Of Beastie Boys Remembered For Tibetan Activism, Freedom Concerts". The Huffington Post.
  3. ^ a b "Beastie Boys Co-Founder Adam Yauch Dead at 47". Rolling Stone. May 4, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  4. ^ "Noel Yauch Obituary from the New York Times".
  5. ^ "Adam Yauch Dies at 47; Beastie Boy Became Advocate for Tibet", The Washington Post, May 4, 2012, archived from the original on May 8, 2012, retrieved May 6, 2012
  6. ^ a b Anthony DeCurtis (May 28, 1998). "Adam Yauch on His Spiritual Journey: 'I Don't Care If Somebody Makes Fun of Me'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 5, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  7. ^ O'Malley Greenburg, Zack (May 4, 2012). "Adam 'MCA' Yauch And The Beastie Boys: Hip-Hop Pioneers". Forbes. Retrieved May 7, 2012.
  8. ^ A. Greenberg, Brad (May 4, 2012). "Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, Jewish legend and hip-hop pioneer, has died". Jewish Journal. Archived from the original on November 19, 2016. Retrieved May 7, 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Brooklyn playground named after Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch NME May 1, 2013". May 1, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d Gray, Madison (May 4, 2012). "Adam Yauch, MCA of the Beastie Boys, Dies After Cancer Complications". Time. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  11. ^ "Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch dies at age 47". USA Today. May 4, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  12. ^ a b c Coyle, Jake (May 2, 2008). "Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47". Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  13. ^ "Tom Robinson's answer to Why did the Beastie Boys Adam Yauch make his rap name MCA? - Quora". Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  14. ^ "Todd Gardiner's answer to What did the owners of MCA Records, past and present, think of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch using their company's name, MCA for his stage name? - Quora". Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  15. ^ "Luke Hellwyck's answer to How did the MCA of Beastie Boys get his name? - Quora". Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  16. ^ "Nathanial Hornblower bio".
  17. ^ Ryzik, Melena (September 8, 2008). "Offstage, a Beastie Boy Enters the World of Independent Film". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  18. ^ "Yauch misses Hall of Fame ceremony". London Free Press. Archived from the original on May 8, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  19. ^ "Academics – Bard College Catalogue". Bard College. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  20. ^ Eric R. Danton (November 20, 2012). "Bad Brains Dedicate New Record to Adam Yauch". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  21. ^ a b Rafer Guzman. "Beastie Boys rapper Adam Yauch dead at 47". Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  22. ^ Van Biema, David; McDowell, Jeanne (October 13, 1997). "Buddhism in America". Time. Archived from the original on November 22, 2008.
  23. ^ "Frontline: Online Interview with Adam Yauch". Frontline.
  24. ^ "Tibet supporter Yauch of Beastie Boys fights with cancer". July 21, 2009. Archived from the original on July 31, 2013. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  25. ^ Seltzer, Sarah (May 4, 2012). "Adam Yauch, Feminist Ally - Sisterhood". The Forward. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  26. ^ Tibet Sun: "The union between Adam Yauch and Dechen Wangdu: a look back" from the International Business Times May 5, 2012
  27. ^ Kaan, Cihan (May 9, 2012). "Adam Yauch was a Muslim hero". Al Jazeera. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  28. ^ Thomson, Katherine (July 20, 2009). "Beastie Boy Adam Yauch has 'very treatable.' cancer". Huffington Post. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 26, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  29. ^ Yauch Announcement on YouTube
  30. ^ "Beastie Boy 'hopeful' over cancer". BBC News. October 8, 2009.
  31. ^ "The Associated Press: Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47". Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  32. ^ Goffe, Wendy (August 13, 2012). "Yauch's Will, Banning Use Of Music In Ads, May Not Be Valid". Forbes. Retrieved August 13, 2012.

External links[edit]