When Yauch and fellow Beastie Boys began their career, their anarchic, tongue-in-cheek approach to frat boy-friendly hip-hop received widespread criticism for its sexist content -- though debut Licensed to Ill was still a commercial triumph, becoming the first hip-hop LP to top the Billboard charts.
Beastie Boys' first major tour was as the opening act of Madonna's The Virgin Tour. Madonna later said of them: "They were very bad boys... the audience always booed them and they always told everyone to fuck off. I just loved them for that."
Over the course of three decades, Beastie Boys released eight studio albums, including 1992's Check Your Head. It featured tracks like "So Whatcha Want" and "Pass the Mic." It was later re-released in 2009 with a slew of b-sides.
In 1998, Yauch (MCA), Mike Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horowitz (Adrock) received MTV's Video Vanguard award at the MTV Video Music Awards for their contribution to the media, including celebrated clips for tracks (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!), Sabotage and Intergalactic.
Yauch, a practicing Buddhist, performed several times at the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, initially organized by Beastie Boys and the Milarepa Fund to generate awareness of the plight of the Tibetan people.
An influential personality in the free Tibet movement, Yauch's musical philanthropy extended to other causes like the climate crisis. Yauch and Beastie Boys took part in the 2007 Live Earth show in London, a 24-hour, 7-continent series that followed on the heels of Live Aid and Live 8.
In 2009, Yauch was treated for a cancerous parotid gland and a lymph node and underwent surgery and radiation therapy, delaying the group’s release of the group’s album Hot Sauce Committee and a tour that included a headlining slot at Lollapalooza.
Starting in 2008, Yauch, a director, devoted much of his efforts to film. He launched Oscilloscope Pictures in 2008, a film distribution and international sales unit of his Oscilloscope Laboratories that includes a recording studio and production unit. Under Oscilloscope, Yauch distributed such successful films as Dark Days, Oscar-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop and The Messenger (Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson).