Though sons of New York City, the Beastie Boys famously helped bring hip-hop to America's suburbs, cementing it as more than a passing fad, and the late Adam Yauch's consciously tough-guy performances and lyrics were a large part of their License To Ill-era appeal that made them internationally known.
But around the time of 1992's Check Your Head, Yauch became a practicing Buddhist, and in many ways the spiritual center of the Beastie Boys, pushing them away from their knuckle-headed past towards a more adventurous, high-brow plus junk culture aesthetic.
He apologized for the group's sexist lyrics, and wrote lines like "to all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect to the end." He never wanted anyone to feel excluded from any party he was throwing.
Yauch was almost as well known for his extra-musical activities as for his work as MCA. He organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts to raise awareness for the country's struggle for independence. He also founded the film production company Oscilloscope Laboratories, and dedicated himself to working on movies that were insightful, humane and surprising such as Wendy and Lucy, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Yauch's directorial debut Gunnin' For That #1 Spot, a documentary about inner city basketball.
Along with bandmates Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz, Yauch was recently entered in to the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame but his illness prevented him from attending the ceremony.