The Tragic Death Of Ricky Powell – Nicki Swift

Ricky Powell, the photographer known as “the fourth Beastie Boy,” has died. According to NME, Powell was 59 and died from heart failure.

As well as his close friendship with the Beastie Boys, Powell was renowned for capturing the hip-hop scene in New York through his photography. He worked with musicians like Run-DMC, Madonna, Eric B. and Rakim, and LL Cool J, along with artists like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He once called himself “an iconic photographer, by accident” and described his career as taking “pro photos on a hang-out tip.”

Powell first toured with the Beastie Boys when they were Run-DMC’s opening act in 1986, according to Vulture, and their close association continued throughout the band’s career. The band was even fond enough of Powell to give him a shout-out in the lyrics for their song “Car Thief”: “Homeboy, throw in the towel / Your girl got d***ed by Ricky Powell.” He also played a nerd in the music video for “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”, as NME observed.

“I just want to let everybody know he was a very special man, and he will be sorely missed,” his manager, Tono Radvany, told Complex.

LL Cool J and Questlove led the tributes to Powell

Outside of his work with the Beastie Boys, Ricky Powell published four books of photography. The Individualist, a documentary about Powell and his work, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2020. The film features interviews with Mike D, LL Cool J, Chuck D, Laurence Fishburne, and Natasha Lyonne, among others.

In response to his death, LL Cool J posted a picture of Powell and himself on his Instagram, claiming that he “captured the culture” with his camera.

Questlove also took to Instagram to share his reaction, writing “Shoutout to the Rickster for being our first tour guide,” and thanking him for showing The Roots around New York. “Rest In Breakbeats Man,” the musician concluded.

Rapper Q-Tip tweeted his tribute to the photographer, writing “Rip 2 my man Ricky Powell. So NYC official…” and reminiscing about “the parties when he would rock the slides.. the jokes and most importantly his capturing of life.”

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