Adam “MCA” Yauch was the oldest member of the Beastie Boys and, in many ways, both the creative and spiritual center of the group. As they pivoted from the bratty white rap trio that gave hip-hop its first Number One album, 1986’s Licensed to Ill, to the socially conscious, genre-bending group that championed the Free Tibet Movement, it was Yauch – a practicing Buddhist and vegan – who was most vocal in leading the charge. He played bass both in the Beasties’ early incarnation as a hardcore punk band and in its later funky instrumental explorations, and directed many of the band’s eye-popping videos under the alias Nathaniel Hornblower. When cancer took Yauch’s life in 2012, his bandmates Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz closed the book on the Beastie Boys story.
This year, Yauch would have turned 53 on August 5th – which is also the anniversary of the band’s first show as the Beastie Boys in 1981, a house party for Yauch’s 17th birthday. Here are 10 of his most inspired moments in the group’s catalog.