When Mixtape Awards founder Justo Faison died in a car accident Saturday, hip-hop lost another major player. He may not have been as well-known as Jam Master Jay, Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac, but he was a pioneer whom friends are remembering for his significant contributions to the culture.
Besides holding positions at Nervous, Atlantic and Epic and managing DJ Kay Slay, Faison founded the Mixtape Awards in 1996, which has gone on to become the Grammy Awards of the streets.
DJ Kool Kid described Faison, who died at age 36 (see "Justo Faison, Founder Of Annual Mixtape Awards, Killed In Car Crash"), as a "motivator who put visions into reality," while DJ EFN called him an instrumental part of the mixtape game.
"Justo repped the DJs like no one else," said Green Lantern, who has won multiple Mixtape Awards and was close friends with Faison for the past 10 years. "He was the one fighting for DJs when the labels said we were just like bootleggers. He basically was the bridge that legitimized mixtape DJs to where we were able to get record deals and progress into corporate settings. I still can't believe this happened to such a good person. He will truly be missed."
"Winning a Justo award was like a dream come true," said Whoo Kid, 50 Cent's personal DJ, who knew Faison for many years. "It gave me fame and promotional value to these ignorant companies and labels that don't know sh-- about hip-hop. My success in this rap sh-- is partially owed to Justo. So we both had respect for our grinds. I will miss him dearly. My last six CDs were dedicated to him and to help him promote his awards show. Now my next 100 CDs will be dedicated to him."
"Justo handing me my plaque for the Mixtape Awards was one of the best moments of my life," DJ Sickamore said. "I couldn't make it to the Mixtape Awards one year because I was in Houston doing a tape with Steve Francis. Instead of mailing my plaque to me or leaving it somewhere, he drove it to me and gave it to me in my hand. He didn't have to do that. I am grateful forever and was in total disbelief when I heard the horrible news. His awards were the only acclaim you got as a mixtape DJ. All other outlets picked up on it after. It's definitely a sad time for the mixtape game."
As significant as the Mixtape Awards were for DJs, Justo's annual ceremony also meant bragging rights and star-turning bows for MCs.
"Even 50 Cent thought he wasn't official until he won the Justo award," Whoo Kid remarked about 50's win in 2002. "It added more fuel to the fire that 50 had in the streets."
50; Kay Slay; Whoo Kid; Eminem's manager, Paul Rosenberg; and labels Atlantic, Koch, TVT and Interscope are contributing money to Faison's burial and a relief fund for his family. Nelson Taboada of Shady Records/ Interscope has been appointed the official point person for all moneys received ($23,000 has been raised so far). Nelson can be reached at Nels@tmail.com for pledges or more information.
Faison's viewing will be held Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Shekinah Youth Center, 111-54 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica, Queens. His funeral service will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at the nearby Allen AME Church at 110-31 Merrick Blvd.