NEW YORK — As police continue to search for suspects and a motive in the fatal shooting of hip-hop icon Jam Master Jay, the Run-DMC DJ is being remembered as a well-grounded pioneer who never lost touch with his roots.
Jay, born Jason Mizell, was shot in the head at his Queens studio Wednesday night and died on the scene (see “Jam Master Jay, Run-DMC DJ, Killed In Shooting” ). Another man, Uriel Rincon, was shot in the leg and was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition. Police said the shootings took place in the studio’s lounge around 7:30 p.m. and involved two assailants. (Click here for recent photos of Jam Master Jay .)
Mizell died in the environment he loved. The DJ was as comfortable working behind the boards as he was behind a set of turntables. Besides influencing many of today’s turntablists with scratch innovations, Jam Master Jay helped devise and produce many of Run-DMC’s classic cuts, including “It’s Tricky,” “You Be Illin’ ” and “My Adidas.”
“He was family to me,” DMC said in a statement. “We grew up together. We ate together. We slept together. We laughed together. We lived two-thirds of our lives together. He made every DJ not want to use a DAT machine. He stuck to the true essence of what a DJ in a hip-hop performance should be. The whole music industry has lost a great talent. I always thought we would be together forever. I will truly miss him.”
His fans and peers are feeling a void as well.
“For nearly 20 years, Run-DMC has been the closest thing to gospel artists that the contemporary music community has had,” Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons said in a statement Thursday (October 31). “They talked about God and their higher selves, the importance of staying away from drugs, and generally inspirational and uplifting subject matter. They represented everything good and positive about hip-hop.”
“There wouldn’t be no Run-DMC without Jam Master Jay,” Fat Joe said Thursday morning. “What’s really sad about the whole thing … out of Run-DMC … he was the one you’d see mostly in the ‘hood. He had his studio smack dab in the middle of the ‘hood in Queens, and he brought out groups like Onyx, kept working with young brothers, trying to get them off the street and put them on and make them blow up as rappers. To see somebody that’s given back so much to the community get his life taken, that is terrible. It’s probably gonna discourage other people who want to do what Jam Master Jay done.”
“He’s the heart and soul of Run-DMC,” said Chuck D of Public Enemy, who were discovered by Jay. “It’s almost like Charles Oakley diving for loose balls — it’s not gonna show up on the stat sheet, but he’s 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.”
“When we were down and out and in the depths, Jay and Run-DMC came along and said ‘Come play on our record,’ ” the members of Aerosmith said in statement. Their collaborative video for “Walk This Way” help restart the Boston rock band’s career and has become the second-most played video in MTV history. “Run-DMC and Jam Master Jay’s gift to the world was a new kind of music for a whole new generation. Jay was scratching before anyone had the itch and was still at the top of his game when we played with him this summer [on tour]. We will hear him every night when we play ‘Walk This Way.’ ”
In a phone call to MTV News, guitarist Joe Perry added, “We were just on the road with those guys, I don’t know, two or three weeks ago, and it was like yesterday I had my arms around him saying, ‘Wow, we gotta do this again sometime.’ I’m still in shock.”
“This is a great loss,” P. Diddy said in a statement. “Jam Master Jay was a pioneer. He led the way for a whole new genre of talent. Not only was he a great artist, but he was a great man who will be deeply missed.”
“Jam Master Jay was definitely [a] significant member of Run DMC,” Big Daddy Kane said. “I mean the brotha, he had his own songs on the albums. If you saw Run and D standing onstage without Jay, you’d wonder what’s wrong. With Run-DMC, it was like Jay’s presence was felt by the scratches that he did on the song.
“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. All that 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,” Kane said. (Click here for fan remembrances in You Tell Us. )
“It was Jason who I reported to from ’82-’85 as Run-DMC’s road manager,” said Lyor Cohen, CEO of Island/Def Jam. “Jay showed me how to settle shows and fulfill my responsibilities to the group. It’s those lessons from that period that I rely on daily in order to do what I do. Jason is a beautiful person, a husband, an amazing father and a gracious friend. He is a person who in the due course of his everyday life would offer people his smile and his help just because he was Jason. Jay’s smile is what I already deeply miss. Jay’s smile was a conversation, so many words in his smile.”
“We’re deeply, deeply saddened and devastated by the news,” the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz weighed in. The Beastie Boys toured with Run-DMC in the ’80s on the Together Forever tour. “It’s a terrible loss. He was a wonderful person and a great friend. If Jam Master Jay and Run-DMC hadn’t looked out for us way back when, I don’t know where we’d be now.”
Terri Mizell, Jay’s wife, released a statement Thursday thanking fans and friends for their support. “Jay’s tragic death has left all of us numb. We pray that the person or persons responsible for taking away the breath from this loving husband and wonderful father is captured and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Jason’s love, memory and music will continue to live on through all of us.”
Jam Master Jay was 37 and is survived by his wife, three children, brother and mother. A spokesperson said the family is still making funeral arrangements, which probably take place where Jay lived all his life, in Queens.
For a feature interview with Run-D.M.C., check out “Run-D.M.C.: Kings Of Pain.”
For full coverage of the Jam Master Jay case, see the Jam Master Jay Reports.