Calls and emails to representatives for the Beastie Boys were not immediately returned. Simmons' Def Jam label released the Beastie Boys' first album, "Licensed to Ill."
The cause and place of death wasn't immediately known. Yauch, who's also known as MCA, was diagnosed with a cancerous parotid gland in 2009. He had undergone surgery and radiation.
At the time, Yauch expressed hope it was "very treatable," but his illness caused the group to cancel shows and delayed the release of its 2011 album, "Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2."
He hadn't performed in public since 2009 and was absent when the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April.
The Recording Academy issued the following statement on Yauch's death:
"As a co-founding member of the three-time Grammy-winning Beastie Boys, Adam Yauch was part of one of the most groundbreaking trios in hip-hop. The group's music crossed genres and color lines, and helped bring rap to a wider audience. A rapper, musician and director, Yauch was an immense talent and creative visionary, and an instrumental force in the group's career for more than three decades. In addition to his music and artistry, he was a philanthropist who devoted much of his energy to his passionate support for freedom of expression. The music world has lost a true trailblazer, and our deepest sympathies are with his family, friends and fans throughout the world."
The Recording Academy
Yauch co-founded the Beastie Boys in 1979 with Mike D, Mix Master Mike and Ad Roc. They won multiple Grammys over the years.
Yauch is survived by his wife and daughter.
He was 47.
The Associated Press contributed to this report