New York, NY – Famed New York City photographer Ricky Powell, who was often referred to as the “fourth Beastie Boy,” has reportedly passed away. According to a source close to Powell, he died of heart failure on Monday (February 1) at the age of 59.
News of Powell’s passing started making the rounds on Twitter with The Roots’ Questlove being among the first Hip Hop artists to pay tribute to him by quoting a lyric from the Beastie Boys’ single “Car Thief” in which he’s mentioned.
“Homeboy Throw In The Towel …” he wrote. “#RIPRickster.”
Known mostly for his close relationship with the Beastie Boys’ Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA, the prolific photographer also captured iconic images of Run-DMC, Chuck D, LL COOL J, Madonna, Eric B and Rakim, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Basquiat, actress Sofia Coppola, actor Vin Diesel and countless downtown Manhattan icons for over a decade. His work was featured in the New York Times, the Village Voice and more.
But anyone who knew Powell knew he lived hard and often struggled with substance abuse. In the 2020 documentary Ricky Powell: The Individualist, filmmaker Josh Swade didn’t shy away from addressing Powell’s demons, including his “excessive drug use, hoarding tendencies and heartbreaking relationship with his mother.”
As he said in the documentary, “I’m a bum-y ass motherfucker, but my photography happens to be high falutin.”
Despite Powell’s struggles, he still managed to carve out an illustrious career any photographer would appreciate. He hit the road with the Beasties and Run-DMC on the infamous Raising Hell Tour and many subsequent Beastie tours, including the Licensed To Ill Tour and Check Your Head Tour in the late ’80s/early ’90s.
Hip Hop is coming out in droves to pay their respects. Check out posts from Run-DMC’s Rev Run, LL COOL J, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, Alchemist, El-P, Questlove, A-Trak, Blockhead and more below.
Rest In Peace to RICKY POWELL – I know it's cliche to call somebody 'one of a kind' after they pass…. BUT RICKY truly was a ONE OF A KIND personality, There was Nobody like him. The man was a staple to NEW YORK CITY and his photography was iconic and loved WORLD WIDE.
RIP to west village legend Ricky Powell. I can't count the times I have run into him in the village, with his camera, and we'd just shoot the shit. He always had jokes and was an original weirdo. pic.twitter.com/clmZ4dAMbc
RIP Ricky Powell. Man… I’ll never forget the hangs your crib back in the 90s, the never ending calls editing you column, or the crazy trip to Australia. You were there and had a camera when history was happening, and those images, like the memories, will live forever.
Damm RIP Ricky Powell. The final towel has been thrown. A hero of mine & one of my first interviews when we launched rubyhornet. A one of one. He made me send him the questions & was gonna just do it via email. Several days later he called me to do it over the phone..