NEW YORK — Thousands came to Queens Monday night to pay their respects to the late Jam Master Jay, born Jason Mizell but known to millions as an innovative hip-hop "King of Rock."
The Mizell family and Jay's celebrity friends, such as Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, started arriving at the Jay Foster-Phillips Funeral Home early in the afternoon, and by 5 p.m. Busta Rhymes, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Doug E. Fresh, the members of EPMD and Brand Nubian's DJ Alamo were making their way in. Meanwhile, Linden Boulevard was lined for about five blocks with fans wishing to pay their respects.
The Run-DMC DJ and producer was shot and killed Wednesday night in his studio (see "Jam Master Jay, Run-DMC DJ, Killed In Shooting"). The longtime Queens resident was 37.
"He looked the way he lived," local resident Jane Mooreman said as she left the funeral home. "He's dressed! He has on the black leather suit, the trademark hat, and he had on his chains.
"I was longing to go inside," she continued. "When I came up here I wanted to go inside because looking at Jay [through the years] was like watching a son grow up. I'm 60 years old. He grew up with my younger brother. My kids know him. Everybody on the block knows this young man. He inspired everybody."
"It's incredible," Beatminerz producer Baby Paul marveled of the crowd while standing in line, about 300 people away from the entrance. "That's the kind of love he had. It's like a concert. It's worldwide love. Starting out in my career, Jay was one of the biggest influences, first as a DJ, then as a producer. Plus he's from where I'm from. Ironically, I saw him last week at the same barbershop we go to. When I found out what happened, it blew my mind."
While a multitude stood on line, others drove past, circling the block and blasting Run-DMC tunes like "My Adidas" and "Peter Piper." The mood amongst the fans — some sporting Run-DMC-inspired fashions, such as Adidas without laces or Kangol hats — was far from somber. Many focused on reliving their fondest memories rather than mourning.
"I remember my father taking me to see Run-DMC at Madison Square Garden like around '86," said 29 year-old Yvonne Spears of Staten Island. "That was the first show I ever went to."
Some even followed the exhortations of New York radio personality Ed Lover, who urged people to throw up "J"s with their fingers as he exited the wake.
Still, for those who knew him best, the reality that they would never see their loved one again was setting in.
"Jam Master Jay was my cousin," said Stephon Watford. "He was a real great man. The feelings from the family is man, we're hurt. We're devastated. It's a tragedy for something like this to happen to the king from Queens. We're dealing with it the best we can. Jay loved us all, and we loved Jay dearly. He did so much for me and my family. He helped everybody."
Jam Master Jay's funeral will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Allen A.M.E Cathedral, 110-31 Merrick Boulevard, also in Queens. While it's his final sendoff, the pioneering scratch master will live on through the legacy he built as part of Run-DMC as well as through tributes already being planned in his honor.
While their plans have not been made public, Simmons, his brother the Rev. Run, DMC, Jay-Z, Aerosmith, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York Police Department, Kid Rock and the Murder Inc. camp are among those who have formed a coalition to help Mizell's widow and three sons.
"This broad-based coalition was formed to provide immediate financial help to Jay's family," Simmons said in a statement released Monday. "The coalition is seeking to raise the necessary money to pay off the mortgage for the family's home for Jay's wife, Terri Corley-Mizell. Many of us lost a dear friend and an inspiration when Jay was killed. The work of the coalition is to see to it that his family gets the assistance it needs as they try to overcome this tragedy."
The Mizell family has said donations can be made to the Mizell Children's Fund, c/o Terri Corley-Mizell, P.O. Box 3497, New Hyde Park, NY 11040.
For full coverage of the Jam Master Jay case, see the Jam Master Jay Reports.