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In this May 12, 2009 file photo, musician Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys, attends a special evening to honor artist Ross Bleckner's appointment as Goodwill Ambassador at the United Nations. Yauch, the gravelly voiced Beastie Boys rapper who co-founded the seminal hip-hop group, has died at age 47. The cause of death wasn't immediately known. Yauch, who's also known as MCA, was diagnosed with a cancerous parotid gland in 2009. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)
Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47

First Published May 04 2012 11:57 am • Last Updated May 04 2012 07:19 pm

Adam Yauch, the gravelly voiced rapper who helped make the Beastie Boys one of the seminal groups in hip-hop, died Friday. He was 47.

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Yauch, also known as MCA, died in New York after a nearly three-year battle with cancer, his representatives said. He had been diagnosed with a cancerous salivary gland in 2009.

At the time, Yauch expressed hope that it was "very treatable," but his illness forced the group to cancel shows and delayed the release of their 2011 album, "Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2."

He hadn't performed in public since 2009 and was absent when the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month.

Yauch was an integral, founding member to the ever-weaving trio: three Jewish kids from New York who found widespread respect in a hip-hop world with few credible white performers.


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In a 25-year span that covered four No. 1 albums and more than 40 million records sold, the Beastie Boys played both prankster and pioneer, a groundbreaking act that helped bring hip-hop to the mainstream.

"The group's music crossed genres and color lines and helped bring rap to a wider audience," said Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy. "Yauch was an immense talent and creative visionary."

The demure, gray-haired Yauch wasn't the most boastful B-Boy; he was the thoughtful one and a steady source of the trio's innovative spirit. A devoted Buddhist, he led the group in performing concerts to benefit Tibet, and, as a filmmaker, he helped grow their imagery.

The rapper Q-Tip, a member of another major '90s New York hip-hop group, recalled that the Beastie Boys "showed us the ropes." Sean "Diddy" Combs called Yauch "a true pioneer and a creative force who paved the way for so many of us." The rapper Nas lamented the loss of a "brother."

"I think it's obvious to anyone how big an influence the Beastie Boys were on me and so many others," Eminem said. "They are trailblazers and pioneers and Adam will be sorely missed."

The Brooklyn-born Yauch formed the Beastie Boys with high school friend Michael "Mike D" Diamond. Originally conceived as a hardcore punk group, they played their first show on Yauch's 17th birthday.

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