Remembering Jam Master Jay in the Midst of Chaos.. 10 Years Later

Ten years ago today we lost one of Hip Hop’s dopest deejays and true pioneers, Jason Mizell aka Jam master Jay of the legendary group Run DMC He was shot in killed in his studio in Queens. Like so many who have been murdered , not just in Hip Hop but in our own community, his murder is still unsolved.. I republishing the piece I wrote the day after his death 10 years ago. Its sadly still relevant today..Please read, reflect and improve.. RIP Jam Master Jay…..(Jan 21 1965- Oct 30-2002)

Jay’s like King Midas, as I was told,
everything that he touched turned to gold.
He’s the greatest of the great, get it straight he’s great.
Claim fame cause his name is known in every state.
His name is Jay to see him play will make you say:
“God damn, that DJ made my day!”

-Run DMC… ‘Peter Piper’-

I’m not sure what exactly can be said at this time…All sorts of emotions are whirling inside my head and to be honest its hard to believe Jam Master Jay [Jason Mizell] is dead…Dude was 37 years old, had a wife and 3 kids.. I believe his oldest son is 15.. And if you ever met Jay, you knew he was a cool cat.. He didn’t bring a gangsta persona to the table. He wasn’t the type of cat who needed a bunch of body guards when he walked down the street. As far as I knew he wasn’t living foul, causing drama or somehow instigating any sort of ‘rap feud’ which are all but too frequent..

Jam Master Jay was a cool cat and it’s for that reason I don’t wanna do what we always seem to do when we encounter violent death….I don’t wanna simply ‘keep it moving’ and act like him being killed is no big deal..It is a big deal. I don’t wanna put a good face forward and stick the emotions of yet another violent death of another brotha in the back of my mind. There’s been one too many deaths and I no longer have room in the back of my mind. I don’t wanna fall back on old tired clich s and say things like ‘death is a part of life’ or ‘when it’s your time to go its your time to go’. That don’t cut it for me anymore. I don’t wanna act like this doesn’t bother me cause it really does. . I don’t wanna give into this unwritten code among us as Black men to not be phased by violent deaths because it’s an all too common occurrence..

I don’t wanna hold a candle, pour liquor on a curb or go on the radio station and play all my Run DMC records and rebroadcast all my old Run DMC interviews. I don’t want Jay’s death to be reduced to yet another tribute. It seems like in the past two or three years we’ve been doing a hell of a lot of tributes. In the past couple of year alone we’ve lost Big Pun and DJ Screw out of Houston to heart attacks. Too Poetic of the Grave Diggaz passed from cancer, but he courageously recorded his last album while he had the disease. We lost Aaliyah to a plane crash and Left Eye of TLC to a car crash. We lost San Francisco pioneering rapper Cougnut and San Jose’s D-Mac who died together in a car crash just days before the Sept 11th attacks. Days after the attack we lost Boogie Knight of the group The Boogie Boys. Many of us are still grieving from last moth’s the sudden death of Money Ray of the Cold Crush Brothers. He was diagnosed with cancer in August and died 5 weeks later.

And, Yo, I gotta be honest, I’m still recovering from the emotional upheaval of the sniper killings which just ended last week… I’m still asking questions with regards to Kenneth Bridges-co-founder of Matah. Why did this community activist and community leader have to be killed? Why was it another brother to be the one to take him out? I’m still trying to get over the haunting images of the distraught mother of the 35 year bus driver who was the last sniper victim. I’m still trying to process those heart breaking images….I’m still asking why?

I’m still asking why there are 94 murders in Oakland? And I’m really bothered by the fact that damn near everyone I knows someone who has been killed in the past few years.. And I’m still asking why we seem to take death so lightly? Why do we see life as so expandable? I keep asking myself what happened to the promises and commitments we all made when we came together in ’95 during the Million Man March? We promised to uplift and affirm life. What has happened since then? Why is loss of life no longer a big deal anymore? Why is Black life so cheap? What are we doing to ourselves and why? What’s going on? Will we ever get it together? Will we as Black people ever get it together…Will we ever get it together? I keep thinking about a song that poet D-Knowledge did a couple of years ago where he asks ‘Does Anyone Still Die of Old Age’?

I don’t know if we’ve been able to fully grieve and process all this death. Many of us are still left with unanswered questions as to why? Why did this have to happen? It seems like as soon as we start the
process we’re hit with another sudden death which means we wind up shoving a lot of feelings and emotions in the back of our minds, doing another tribute and moving on. This time around I don’t just wanna do
another tribute.. There’s just too many tributes to the point that it’s becoming routine and that’s bothersome for me… Jay’s death and for that matter anyone’s death should not be routine…

Maybe I’m feeling this way because I’m realizing that in many respects, I still never really got over the deaths of 2Pac and Biggie and Jay’s death is making me realize that.. There’s really been no closure despite all the VHI documentaries, articles, movie etc. This morning I was talking to my boy Pharrel over at Roc-A-Fella records
and he pointed out something that really hit home.. He told me.. ‘I hope they catch the guy who did this.. I hope they catch him because there have been way too many unsolved murders in Hip Hop’.

I kept thinking about that and all these names that ran through my mind..Scott La Rock, Freaky Tah of Lost Boyz, East Palo Alto’s Charizma, JoJo from Bored Stiff, Ray Luv‘s Dee jay DJ CAE, The Mac out of Vallejo, DJ Quick’s partner Mausberg, Pac’s homie, Yaki Kadafi, Oakland’s Seagram, 2 Pac and Biggie… The list goes on…There’s a whole lot of unsolved murders in rap and I don’t care what anyone says, that lack of closure has an effect.

And while one can easily make the case that there’s a lot of unsolved murders in our community in general, one would hope that we would be able to get to the bottom of some of these high profile slayings…The fact that we never seem to solve the murders of some of these artists the same way we don’t seem to be able to solve the murders of ‘Pookie’ or ‘Ray Ray’ from up the block, underscores the notion that in many circles the loss of Black life is no big deal…It don’t matter whether you’re a high profile artist or a d-boy on the local corner in the hood. It’s like we’re expected to die a quick and early death. And even sadder is the perceived circumstances of our deaths are all the same. In other words since last night, I’ve been fielding a lot of calls from local reporters who seem bent on making this connection to JMJ’s death with the deaths of 2Pac, East-West coast feuds and on going beefs in rap like Ja Rule vs DMX and Nas vs Jay-Z. This is not the Jam Master Jay I know.

It’s like cats are trying to make the case that perhaps Jay lead a crazy lifestyle that somehow invited the violence that befell him..I don’t wanna put JMJ in that category. Almost all the newscast and stories I’ve heard end with reporters trying to make that connection..”Jay Master Jay like 2Pac and the Notorious BIG’ is in a long line of rap stars who have died violently in a violent rap world“. Heck CNN has a poll on their website as we speak..asking who has the most musical influence 2Pac, Biggie or JMJ.. As innocent as it may seem to some, there’s something about that poll and the overall approach and questions raised that don’t sit well with me.

I don’t wanna say Jam Master Jay and 2Pac in the same breath. I don’t wanna compare him to Biggie. I don’t wanna say JMJ is in a long line of rap stars who died violently…Jay deserves his own space in our minds and hearts. We all need to take time out and reflect on Jay the musician, the pioneer, the man, the father, the husband, the friend, the associate and not categorize and compartmentalize him. I don’t wanna see him reduced to another violent casualty in a ‘violent rap world’ as one TV reporter described it.

Before asking questions about Hip Hop and violence let’s began by asking ‘Did you know Jam Master Jay?’ ‘How are you coping with this sudden loss of life?’ Are you sad? Are you angry? How will you deal with it and what changes will you try to bring about? ‘What type of man did you know JMJ to be?’ What did he mean to the community? What did he mean to his family?’ .. Words cannot express the hurt, sadness and anger I feel for this loss…

Please take time to hug those you love.. It should be obvious by one is promised tomorrow.. Please take time to say a prayer for Jay’s three kids and the wife he left behind Pray for the rest of his family and friends. One can only imagine what they must be going through. Pray that God gives them strength to get through the pain of his death..Pray that they be comforted..Lastly take time to reflect and allow yourself to grieve. Allow yourself to heal.. We’ve been hit with a lot of stuff over the past few years..

Your truly
Davey D


Below is a nice lecture JMJ gave to folks in Sidney, Australia talking about the important role deejays played..


Feds Set to Probe Rappers in the Wake of Jam Master Jay Slaying

jam-master-jay turntablesThe Hip Hop world will come together in mass over the next few days to pay tribute for the late Jam Master Jay. First today [Monday November 3 2002] there will be a public and private wake.. Tomorrow will be the funeral.

As the Hip Hop world grieves there have been a number of developments. First, we now know that the police have a video tape of the suspect. Shortly after the slaying newspapers and other media outlets reported that there was no video tape which aroused suspicion because the studio where the killing took place regularly recorded people coming and going. Media outlets were quick to jump on this facet and as a result implied that JMJ may have been involved with some sort of ‘rap war‘ which led to him being killed.

We now know that a tape was given to the police who say they have gotten a small break in the case. They have issued a description of the suspect. He’s described as a dark skin black male who is 6’2″ and 180-210 lbs…There’s no word as to whether or not they will have some sort of sketch. Thus far they are saying they got the description from eye witnesses. We’ll keep you posted on what the they find on the video tape.The police will be interviewing a couple of possible suspects including an unidentified man who supposedly has a long-standing feud with JMJ.

Another disturbing development is a cat named Kenneth Walker was shot and killed in the Bronx over the weekend. Walker was a promoter for rap star 50 Cent. The NYPD has been trying to see if there’s any sort of connection between JMJ and beefs involving 50 Cent.For those who don’t know, over the past couple of years 50 Cent has gotten under people’s skin for doing songs where he calls out so-called ‘gangsta rappers’. His new album has all sorts of dis songs.. As of Thursday last week, 50 Cent has reported to have left town because there have been a number of threats on his life. JMJ was friends with 50 Cent and produced some of music.

While all this is going on, the press has had a field day lambasting JMJ and trashing his image. The NY Daily News ran a disturbing article over the weekend pointing out that JMJ owed close to 500 million dollars in back taxes. They also reported that he owed one cat 10 thousand dollars. They noted that him being killed may have been because he owed so much money.

The NY Daily News article included callous quotes from a NY Franchise Tax Board representative stating that they intend to collect their money from JMJ’s estate. It’s like he hasn’t even been buried yet and already their lining up to get paid. The story also has everyone wondering, if these allegations are true, how in the world does a cat who belongs to a group as famous as Run-DMC which has more multi-platinum albums then we can count and is responsible for running his own label and for discovering and putting out multi-platinum acts like Onyx, be broke and in that type of serious debt?

All sorts of other media outlets from USA Today to the NY Times have jumped on the rap war/rap feud bandwagon. In spite of vehement denials from those closest to JMJ including Russell Simmons, the coverage from that angle has been relentless. This is now resulting in The Federal government intervening and using this as an excuse to probe the relationships that exists within the rap world. In fact the NY Post has a huge headline screaming this fact…

All this is coming at the heels of disturbing accusations suggesting that the recent killings by the accused Beltway snipers John Muhammed and Lee Malvo were inspired by rap songs and rap groups who belong to the 5 Percent Nation. Acts like Wu-Tang‘s Killarmy have been cited as the influence… Folks may wanna peep this latest article..