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Ricky Powell, Honorary Beastie Boys Member and Photographer, Dead

Written by on February 2, 2021


Ricky Powell, well-known photographer, author and honorary fourth member of the Beastie Boys, has died.

According to a report from Page Six on Monday (Feb. 1), which is when the news of Powell’s passing broke, he was 59 years old. The cause of death hasn’t been revealed.

The story of Powell becoming the rap crew’s famed photographer started back in 1986, when the master behind the camera lens ditched a job selling lemon ices to roll with the Beastie Boys on Run-DMC‘s Hell Raising Tour. Some of the photos the New York City native took became famous, later making him Def Jam’s in-house photographer while on the road with the Beastie Boys.

He also took pictures on their Licensed to Ill Tour in 1987 and Together Forever: Greatest Hits Tour with Run-DMC in 1983–1991. Powell toured with the Beastie Boys on their Check Your Head Tour in 1992 and on 1994’s Lollapalooza as well.

In addition to capturing images of the trailblazing rap group, Ricky Powell also photographed celebrities such as Madonna, Jam Master Jay, KRS-One, Frankie Crocker, Andy Warhol and Flavor Flav in his book of postcards called Frozade Moments: Classic Street Photography of Ricky Powell. His work has also appeared in The New York TimesNew York Post, New York Daily News, The Village Voice, TIME, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and more.

During his life, Powell released four books: The Rickford Files: Classic New York Photographs, Frozade Moments: Classic Street Photography of Ricky Powell, With Public Access: Ricky Powell Photographs 1985-2005 and The Individualist. He also had a public-access TV show, Rappin’ With the Rickster, which aired for six years from 1990 to 1996, and featured appearances from Russell Simmons, Doug E Fresh, Harold Hunter, Kool Keith, Rahzel, Laurence Fishburne, and Cypress Hill. The show bridged the gap between musicians and visual artists.

Powell was also famously mentioned on the song “Car Thief” on Beastie Boys’ 1989 album, Paul’s Boutique. He was name-dropped in the lyrics “Homeboy throw in the towel, Your girl got dicked by Ricky Powell.”

Questlove of The Roots honored the famed photographer via Instagram last night.

“Shoutout to The Rickster for being our first tour guide. We were just some young cats in the game on our first American tour & like the freshmen we were Rick was the varsity cat who literally introduced us to everything,” Quest wrote in the beginning of his caption.

XXL has reached out to Ricky Powell’s manager and business partner for a comment.

Members of the hip-hop community have paid tribute to the passing of the honorary Beastie Boys member via social media. See how they are honoring Ricky Powell below.

Q-Tip

Slick Rick

The Alchemist

El-P

Chuck D

Don Will

A-Trak

Catchdini

Mello Music Group

Chase N. Cashe

Dumbfounded

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