What Adam Yauch (RIP) Taught Me

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On 4 May 2012, the world mourned the loss of Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys who at the age of 47, lost his battle to cancer after being diagnosed with a tumour in his salivary gland in 2009.

It’s been 6 days since the news broke and yet there are many out there who, like me, that are still greatly affected by the news. With the news of his passing still fresh, there will not be anything that you wouldn’t know by now about Adam Yauch on the internet. There will be personal obituaries aplenty, from journalists whom might have had the chance of meeting Adam Yauch to personal accounts from friends. I’m neither his friend nor have I had the chance to interview him but he was always an inspiration to me.

Growing up, I listened to the Beastie Boys, and I came to learn of Adam Yauch was more than just MCA from the Beastie Boys. Together with members Mike-D and Ad-Rock, these Jewish boys became game changers for the predominantly black hip hop scene in the ’80s. But that would be a reductionist remembrance, much like covering ‘Fight For Your Right to Party’ as a tribute to him, Yauch had not been a frat boy since 1989.

Much more than any of those, Yauch was a Buddhist, a philanthropist, and an activist.

Adam Yauch once said “Whatever involvement I’m able to put in it (promoting social issues), it definitely makes me feel good to be able to help with that,” Adam Yauch played a significant role in the Tibetan Independence Movement, raising millions of dollars through the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organisation that he co-founded with activist Erin Potts. The overwhelming success of the organization led to the first of many Tibetan Freedom Concert in 2006 as a means of spreading awareness of Tibet’s plight to the youth with an all-star lineup that included The Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, Sonic Youth and even Cibo Matto.

Post September 11, Adam Yauch even organised a relief concert New Yorkers Against Violence for 9-11 victims and lest people mistook him for a f-yeah American, he was against the invasion of Iraq and was the first few to have fought Islamaphobia.  Adam Yauch even marched with Occupy Wall Street last year.

Heck, Adam Yauch even made an impact in the independent film world. Since 1998, his company Oscilloscope Laboratories was responsible for releasing some of the best indie movies in the past 14 years from Mark Singer’s Dark Days to Banksy’s Exit Through The Giftshop. To hit things even closer to home, Oscilloscope Records even picked up one of our own indie movies, Dain Said’s Bunohan for a US release.

Yes, Adam Yauch was much more than just an ex-party boy and a major influence in rap history, he wasn’t just a celebrity type activist that was all talk and no action, Adam used his success for positive change and got his hands dirty and got in on the action to fight for social injustice with a belief that change could happen without resorting to violence. Through Beastie Boys’ lyrics, and through Adam Yauch’s humanitarian efforts, Adam Yauch shaped who I’ve become today and taught me and countless others to be better people and that happiness comes from helping others.

RIP, Adam Yauch .

Adam Yauch aka MCA founded the Beastie Boys along with Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) in 1979 as a punk band before hip hop caught the attention of their music consciousness. They’ve been around for 33 years now. Yauch is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch. 

Beastie Boys live on.