American culture was jolted when DJ Jam Master Jay was shot and killed in his Queens, N.Y., recording studio on Oct. 30, 2002. Born Jason Mizell on Jan. 21, 1965, he was only 37 years old. Yet his career as a DJ and hip-hop pioneer spanned 19 years and seven Run-DMC albums, including King of Rock (Arista, 1985); Raising Hell (Arista, 1986); and their last, Crown Royal (Arista, 2001).
As a DJ and producer, Jay was responsible for bringing the mesh of hip-hop beats with rock-guitar samples to the mainstream. He, along with rappers Joe “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, dished out such huge hits as “Rock Box,” “My Adidas,” “It's Tricky” and the rap-rock remake of Aerosmith's “Walk This Way,” recorded with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.
Until the end, Jay was recording and performing. Run-DMC had just finished a tour with Aerosmith and Kid Rock before Jay returned to his studio to record what would have been Run-DMC's eighth album and a celebration of the group's 20 years together. To pay respects to a legend, Remix asked DJs, producers and artists from all areas of the industry to say a few words about the hip-hop pioneer and what he brought to music in terms of his DJ skills and studio production. The result is an outpouring of love and admiration.
“We lost an American icon. Jam Master Jay inspired young kids to buy records, turntables and search for MCs. I know, because at 12 years old, I was one of those kids. Now, the world knows that a DJ is a band. RIP JMJ, the king of records and stabs!”
— DJ Nu-Mark, DJ/producer (Jurassic 5)
“Jam Master Jay's death is sad, and he will truly be missed. We are sure of this, though: His music will continue to make the world a much better place, especially through all of the thousands of DJs who are cutting his records at this moment! His rewards in heaven are high.”
— DJ QBert, turntablist
“For myself and QBert, Jay reinforced to us the importance of teaching the DJ arts to the youth and future DJ musicians of tomorrow. Our Skratch Conference events now have a newfound passion and commitment to continue his legacy. Jay's presence and influence will be stronger in his passing more than ever before for the future Mozarts and A-Traks of tomorrow.”
— DJ Yogafrog, turntablist
“If it weren't for Run-DMC's pioneering efforts — both recorded and live — Beastie Boys and basically everyone else making hip-hop wouldn't be where they are today. He was the first person who had the foresight to put a hip-hop show together. I credit him with the emergence of the DJ in a hip-hop group setting. Run-DMC was really the first hip-hop band.”
— Mike D, rapper (Beastie Boys)
“The way Run-DMC mixed rock and hip-hop was amazing. I was into rock music back when hip-hop was starting, and I loved it because of the beats. So when he sampled AC/DC “Back in Black,” when they did “Walk This Way,” when they did “Rock Box,” I was all in it. Run-DMC was one of the only groups that was mixing rock and hip-hop together. It really started something when they did that collaboration with Aerosmith. Now you've got your Limp Bizkits and Linkin Parks — everyone's doing it. But Run-DMC were pioneers of that, and that's all because of Jam Master Jay.”
— King Britt, DJ/artist/producer
“Jay was one of the first DJs to become an essential part of rap production. He used innovative and original scratching techniques that changed the course of hip-hop-music production. For being such a great person and legend, he was very humble and laid back. I enjoyed being around him, and I looked up to him a great deal. God bless his family. May he rest in peace.”
— Guru, rapper (Gang Starr/solo)
“I think Jay single-handedly created the entire DJ industry, not as far as his technical innovations or being the first to do it, but as far as bringing the whole concept to the people worldwide. He showed everyone you could have a one-man band — an entire rhythm section using two record players to play all the drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and percussion. And the sound that he brought to the group, the stripped-down beats with stabs of guitar, infused hip-hop with the energy of rock.
“As far as inspiring me to DJ, Jay and [Afrika] Bambaataa were it. I would not be doing it without them — no way. When I started DJing in the early '80s, I used to listen to those lines — ‘He's Jam Master Jay, the big beat blasta/He gets better 'cuz he knows he has 'ta/In '84, he'll be a little fasta/And only practice makes a real Jam Masta’ — over and over again, and I believed it. That song ‘Jam-Master Jay’ made him sound like Elvis. Seeing them do it live and seeing how a DJ could rock a whole arena blew my mind further. I'm totally heartbroken that Jay was taken from us, and I think the whole incident reflects really badly on a country where the gun culture is so prevalent. John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, the list goes on; these are artists, for God's sake.”
— Scott Hardkiss, DJ
“Jam Master Jay and Run-DMC created what it is that we do. I owe everything to them. I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for them. He brought the heart, the soul behind Run-DMC. He provided them with the constant inspiration, the foundation. They rhymed about the DJ. My new single is called ‘Waiting for the DJ.’ I wouldn't have done something like that if it weren't for Jay.”
— Talib Kweli, rapper (Black Star/Reflection Eternal/solo)
“Jam Master Jay was the first DJ I heard catching a break behind two MCs. At the time, I didn't even know what he was doing, but I remember how fresh it sounded hearing him cut over that fat 808 boom. Once I caught wind of Krush Groove [the 1985 rap film featuring Run-DMC], it was all over — I was a b-boy for life. When I listen to his music, knowing he also produced most of the beats and sounds for Run-DMC, I realize he was a pioneer who defined the sound of a generation. RIP JMJ.”
— J.Boogie, DJ
“The popularity of Run-DMC put Jay in the position to be the first DJ recognized the world over. He used that position to break down barriers and negative stereotypes that our industry was facing. Mobile DJs, club DJs and remixers wouldn't enjoy the levels of respect, prosperity and success they do if it weren't for Jay.
“Almost 20 years ago, Jay and Rick Rubin invented rap-rock by infusing rock breaks and guitar riffs with hip-hop beats and 808 bass. They laid the foundation not only for Run-DMC, but for future acts like the Beastie Boys, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, et cetera. How many people in history really change the face of music like that? Very few, but Jay was one of them.
“Another thing that a lot of people don't know is that Jay was always trying to mentor and help the next generation of DJs and artists. I'm living proof of that. When he saw what I was trying to do with CDs and digital turntablism, he recognized all of the barriers I was up against because he had fought through similar barriers early in his career. Instead of being part of the ‘vinyl wall,’ he respected my art, embraced me and created opportunities for me to expose what was just a fledgling movement at the time. He never asked for anything in return. It's amazing that one of the biggest stars in the world was so down to earth; generous; genuinely concerned; and so giving of his time, knowledge and experience. He has been a great role model — as a DJ and producer but more importantly as a man, a mentor and especially as a friend. Jay is sorely missed, but he will always be with us and will live through his three sons, me and many others. Rest in peace, bro.”
— DJ Gerald “World Wide” Webb, digital turntablist
“[Jay] is an executioner that made very few mistakes when it came down to a show. His scratches always had orchestration that didn't get in [Run and DMC's] way and always allowed them to shine. That takes a different skill level. He's a guy that goes around the world 80 million times, comes back and still works at the studio right there in Queens. That says it all right there.”
— Chuck D, rapper (Public Enemy; quoted fromMTV.com)
“I don't even know where to start about Jay. He was definitely one of the DJs who inspired me to get some turntables and start mixing. First of all, he made it cool to be behind turntables. He made it the in thing to be a DJ. He brought certain scratch patterns to the game, a lot of rubs and stuff. At that time when he was doing those scratches, they were very basic to what we're doing now, but when I heard them back then, I was like, ‘Yo! This kid is crazy!’ He opened a lot of doors for other DJs. A lot of the basic scratch patterns that I still use, I got from him while just listening to the records that he did with Run-DMC.”
— Ayatollah, hip-hop producer (Guru, Masta Ace, Talib Kweli, Mos Def)
“Jam Master Jay inspired me and DJs to get behind the turntables. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be where I am. I started cutting records in clubs and learned what makes a hit. This is why people come to me for beats now.”
— Lil' Jon, DJ (Lil' Jon & East Side Boyz)/producer/remixer (112, Whitney Houston, Too Short, Usher)
“With Run-DMC, Jay's presence was felt by the scratches that he did. When I'm thinking about ‘Peter Piper,’ the first thing that comes to mind is the line, ‘There it is,’ and then the next thing that comes to mind is that little scratch. [It] was a significant element to the song. The way he's cuttin' up a big beat in the beginning of ‘Here We Go,’ he was holding the rapper down. I think that a lot of DJs were influenced by Jam Master Jay just for the simple fact that you knew if you were a DJ, you knew that your presence could be felt.”
— Big Daddy Kane, rapper (quoted fromMTV.com)
Donations to Jam Master Jay's family can be made to the Mizell Children's Fund, c/o Terri Corley-Mizell, P.O. Box 3497, New Hyde Park, NY 11040.