ADAM YAUCH was the raspy-throated rapper known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, the influential hip-hop group with a penchant to party and produce chart-topping hits.
His death in New York, age 47, has come after three years of treatment for cancer of the salivary gland. He had been unable to attend the band's April 14 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bursting onto the black-dominated hip-hop scene in the 1980s, the Beastie Boys were at first considered rap gimmickry - three white beer-chugging hellions with little rhyming talent.
Hip hellions ... the Beastie Boys at the 2005 Big Day Out. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Today the Grammy Award-winning trio is regarded as hip-hop royalty and known for taking hip-hop music to the suburbs and making it mainstream.
Yauch's lyrics could be zany, socially conscious and surprisingly intellectual, with references to politics, the environment and the astrophysicist Carl Sagan.
Hip-hop expert Dan Charnas called Yauch ''in-your-face, loud, and electric''.
Royalty ... Yauch in 2010. Photo: Getty Images
The Beastie Boys first formed in the early 1980s as a hardcore punk band before they dropped their instruments and began rapping.
They were signed to new hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings in the mid-1980s. Joining Def Jam, the home of rappers Run-DMC and LL Cool J, provided the group with instant gravitas in the hip-hop industry.
In 1986 the group released their first studio album Licensed to Ill.
Propelled by the mega-hit (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!), an alcohol-soaked anthem to teenage angst, Licensed to Ill sold 4 million copies and became the first rap album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts.
Of the group's three bad boys - Yauch, Adam ''Ad-Rock'' Horovitz and Michael ''Mike D'' Diamond - Yauch was viewed as the baddest. His sexually explicit and violence-laced lyrics were often the most lewd, rude and crude.
In the early 1990s, the Beastie Boys began to mature musically and personally. On a trip to Asia, Yauch met Tibetan refugees while hiking in the Himalayas and was inspired to pursue Buddhism.
He is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu, a Tibetan-American, and a daughter. He also worked as a director and in 2006 released a basketball documentary, Gunnin' for that #1 Spot.
Last night one of Australia's biggest hip-hop groups, the Hilltop Hoods, honoured Yauch at a Victorian music festival, paying the Beastie Boys' 1992 hit Jimmy James.