Famed New York hip-hop photographer and honorary "fourth Beastie Boy" Ricky Powell has died at age 59 from heart failure.
Powell’s manager and business partner, Tono Radvany, confirmed the tragic news late on Monday, February 1. "I just want to let everybody know he was a very special man, and he will be sorely missed," Radvany said.
Powell spent the '80s and '90s immersed in New York City's vibrant downtown arts and music scene. He was widely known for photographing the iconic stars of rap's golden age, including Eric B and Rakim, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Madonna, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sofia Coppola and Laurence Fishburne.
However, Powell caught his big break in 1986 when he went on tour with the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC — he landed the gig because he had previously been a classmate of Beastie Boys member Ad-Rock’s sister. He earned the unofficial title of the 'fourth Beastie Boy' and was even given a shoutout in the trio's tune, "Car Thief," with the lyrics: "Homeboy, throw in the towel / Your girl got d**ked by Ricky Powell."
Powell also wrote four books and hosted a public access show called Rappin With the Rickster, where he frequently brought on some of his hip-hop icon pals.
Following the news of the beloved photographer's death, the rap and entertainment industry took to social media to pay tribute.
Public Enemy’s Chuck D tweeted: "#RestInBeats The Rickster aka RICKY Powell of course to the right of Clyde Frazier was the quintessential New York Cityer, iconic B Boy and the 'freezer of great NEW YORK moments and figures' as a photographer. He shot with authentic ease and NYC swag before the popular term."
#RestInBeats The Rickster aka RICKY Powell of course to the right of Clyde Frazier was the quintessential New York Cityer , iconic B Boy and the ‘freezer of great NEW YORK moments and figures’ as a photographer. He shot with authentic ease and NYC swag before the popular term pic.twitter.com/8omwjYvRXc— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) February 2, 2021
Icon Q-Tip also took to Twitter to recall the "parties when [Powell] would rock the slides.. the jokes and most importantly his capturing of life."
LL Cool J posted an array of snaps of himself with Powell and wrote: "Your 📸 captured the culture. Rest in power."
Questlove shared a lengthy tribute on Instagram alongside an illustration of the photographer. "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," the Roots drummer and joint frontman wrote.
"Powell was that older been there done that figure who schooled us to everything," he added before concluding: "Last day he told me 'always save mementos & documents & photos' I never forgot that. Thank you Rickster! Rest In Breakbeats Man."