Jam Master Jay's studio was his sanctuary.
The late Run-DMC DJ's 24/7 Studio in Queens, New York, was a place where he could cultivate the talents of others, fulfill his obsession with making music and run his business, the JMJ label.
Ultimately though, despite all the pleasure the lab brought to the hip-hop icon, it will go down in infamy as the place where Jay took his last breath on the night of October 30, 2002. He was violently murdered there — and for years, Jay's studio lay shuttered, in shambles, as police conducted the investigation into his slaying.
Until this year, 24/7 was sealed off. Late last year, the owners of the building in which it is located decided to sell it. So Queens record-store owner/aspiring music mogul William "The Mayor" Pittman bought the studio with his partners Erik Jewel and up-and-coming female rapper Vein in January. It was fitting: For years, Pittman has worked around the corner from the studio at his Hall of Fame record store, which has long been housed in the famous hip-hop shopping haven the Coliseum Mall, a landmark that celebs including JMJ himself, Run and DMC, LL Cool J, Nas and Mobb Deep have frequented. Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon even shot the video for "Ice Cream" there in 1995.
Pittman told MTV News, on this exclusive tour of the studio, about the dire state it was in when he got the keys.
"It was a disaster," Pittman said, standing in front of a black leather couch that sits where Jay's vocal booth used to be. "The floors were [torn] up, all the carpet was ripped up. The walls were down, all of the wall panels were taken down. You could tell that a lot had [happened here] before we actually obtained it. It was really disturbing how it was left; it was very messed up construction-wise.
"This place was like a tornado hit it," he continued. "There were actually holes in the floor, like they were digging for gold or something. It was terrible. They ripped this whole place apart."
Pittman and company's most eerie discovery was the room where Jay was shot.
"This was his office here," he said, standing in the middle of a room cluttered with boxes and obviously in mid-construction. "His chair was here, his desk. He had boxes, a closet with records, a couple of tools. Some sneakers. It was a utility closet. Garbage on the floor, paper on the floor, holes on the wall. You could see the bricks from the outside. It was terrible."
JMJ's desk was in front of a window where you can see the busy Jamaica [Queens] Bus Terminal and people taking mass transit every day.
"This place right here was where he was struck — obviously," the Mayor said, pointing to the bottom of a wall in the room. "There was a big bloodstain on the floor. Blood splattered on the wall. People wonder, 'Why keep the office [intact]? I'm not going to move it. Why move it and forget what he meant to this place? I'm not going to do that."
As terrible as some of their discoveries were, Pittman and his crew did find awe-inspiring artifacts and music. Old DATs that have names like "50 Cent" and "Onyx" written on them, as well as ones that read "Jason's Tracks" on them were scattered all over. There were posters that looked to be straight out of the 1980s, as well as several pairs of JMJ's personal sneakers — Adidas brand, of course.
"My jaw dropped, because this is like a mystery to me," Pittman said. "I had never even been up here before. It's been amazing, the stuff we've come across and the stuff we had a chance to look at in here."
Like Jay, Pittman is starting his own record label, Hall of Fame, and is trying to help up-and-coming artists from his neighborhood get on.
"Me personally," he says, "I just feel that we have a duty to keep things moving. I'm a Queens native, I grew up listening to [Run-DMC's] music and understanding the culture of hip-hop. I think we have a big responsibility to keep this here. We could've made it a travel agency — but why? Why let it die?"
For full coverage of the Jam Master Jay case, see the Jam Master Jay Reports.