NEW YORK CITY — Beastie Boys co-founder Adam Yauch has died at the age of 47, the hip-hop group confirmed Friday.
Yauch, known as "MCA," died in New York City Friday morning after a nearly three-year battle with cancer, the Beastie Boys said on their website.
"It is with great sadness that we confirm that musician, rapper, activist and director Adam 'MCA' Yauch...passed away," the Beastie Boys wrote.
The native Brooklynite started the Beastie Boys in 1979 with Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz. The group has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Yauch was also a filmmaker who started Oscilloscope Laboratories and a philanthropist who founded the Milarepa Fund, which supported activists in Tibet and organized the post-9/11 benefit New Yorkers Against Violence.
Bobbito Garcia, a DJ and writer who worked with Yauch on the 2008 basketball documentary "Gunnin' For That #1 Spot," told DNAinfo.com New York he respected the legendary rapper for not putting on airs once he became famous.
"He's an example of what you'd like for every artist to become," Garcia said. "Start out having a very limited view and then experience and realize your voice is responsible and use it to make change. That's Adam Yauch."
Darren Smith, manager at The Tibet Center, knew Yauch through the rapper's advocacy on behalf of Tibet and said the center will say special prayers for him next week.
"Everybody is really sad," Smith said. "We were just hoping this day wouldn't come.... He was a great patron of all Tibetan people and he dedicated his life to that."
Yauch was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 after doctors found a tumor in his salivary gland, according to reports.
Yauch had cut back his public appearances recently, and his illness prevented the Beastie Boys from performing and filming music videos for their latest album, "Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2," Rolling Stone reported.
As word of Yauch's death spread Friday, a small memorial with a candle sprouted up outside Bad Burger at 171 Avenue A, the building where the Beastie Boys recorded their first album in 1982.
William Johnson, a music student at New York University, stopped to look at the memorial Friday afternoon.
"It was pretty devastating," Johnson, 19, said of the rapper's death. "He's such an influential figure who paved the way for many musicians to come up."
Many rappers and rockers — along with US Sen. Chuck Schumer — posted their reactions to Yauch's death on Twitter Friday.
"I'm very very sad to hear of adam yauch's passing," the musician Moby tweeted. "He was a wonderful, generous, remarkable, and inspiring man and friend."
The rapper Common tweeted, "God Bless the soul of Adam Yauch aka MCA of the Beastie Boys. RIP."
Yauch was survived by his wife Dechen and daughter Tenzin Losel and his parents Frances and Noel Yauch, the Beastie Boys said.
Yauch's death was first reported by GlobalGrind.com, Russell Simmons' website.
"Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist, who I loved dearly," Simmons wrote. "I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us."
With reporting by Trevor Kapp, Tuan Nguyen and Alissa Ambrose