Friday, May 4 saw the death of founding Beastie Boy, Adam Yauch. Known on stage as MCA, Yauch was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just one month before his death.
Though the Beastie Boys started as a Brooklyn punk band, they soon found artistic and critical acclaim by blending their knack for instrumentation with the booming east coast hip-hop scene of the late 80s and early 90s. They’ve currently sold over 40 million records worldwide and were the first hip-hop group to top the Billboard 200.
While the group’s focus hasn’t always been in politics, Yauch and other members have been able to use their acclaim for positive change. Yauch was a founding member of the Milarepa Fund which hosted a series of Tibetan freedom concerts for almost a decade and has raised money for Tibetan and social justice causes.
Even award ceremonies were a platform for the Beastie Boys to voice their message. At the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, Yauch address the crowd on the issue of the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists. “It was a real mistake that the US decided to fire missiles into the Middle East,” said Yauch “I think it is very important that the United States start to look towards non-violent means of resolving conflicts…Racism that comes out of the United States towards Muslim people and Arabic people needs to stop.”
With a second win in 1999 the group addressed the cases of sexual assaults and rape during Woodstock 99 saying that it was not just the festival’s organizers at fault for lack of security, but that the bands and public need to take a more active role in education and active non-violent communication.
While some may know the group as only fighting for one’s right to party, Yauch and the other members were actively for social justice across the globe. MCA will be remembered not just as a father, a husband, a musician, but an activist who was able to take his musical platform and use it to raise awareness for global political issues. In one of his famous lines, Yauch raps:
“So I Pledge Here Before Everyone Who’s Listening
To Try To Make My Every Action For The Good Of All Beings
For The Rest Of My Lifetimes And Even Beyond
I Vow To Do My Best To Do No Harm”