NEW YORK — Whether they were family, friends or fans, they all came out to express their love for the man who touched their lives in some way, Jam Master Jay. The DJ who helped introduce hip-hop to the masses was laid to rest in Queens on Tuesday.
Outside the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York it looked like it could have been the premiere of "Krush Groove," as such hip-hop legends as Doug E. Fresh, Russell Simmons, EPMD, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest, Kurtis Blow, Chuck D, Whodini and Pepa walked a red carpet into the church along with Jay's family and the rest of his friends. (Click for photos from Jam Master Jay's funeral.)
Some of those who weren't able to make it sent their condolences along with elaborate floral arrangements, one of which was shaped like two turntables with records on them. "Love and Respect," read a grouping of flowers sent by LL Cool J. "Hollis," read another. One person sent a mural of the Jam Master as most people remember him, wearing an Adidas jogging suit, the trademark Run-DMC black godfather hat and a thick gold chain. "R.I.P. JMJ," it read on the top left corner (Click for photos of fans' memorial to Jam Master Jay).
Some in the funeral congregation paid homage to Jay by wearing black leather pants and jackets and white Adidas without shoelaces.
From the onset of the ceremony, the Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake let people know they weren't in for a morning of sadness.
"He didn't live a long life," Flake said. "But he lived well by the people whose lives he touched. We are here to celebrate his life."
Jay's longtime good friend, the Rev. Run, who gave the Prayer of Comfort, echoed Flake's sentiments. He compared JMJ to someone who builds houses and then leaves when the job is finished.
"Jay helped build hip-hop, and now he's gone," Run said. He also urged people not to question why such a good person was gone, but to question why they are here and what they can contribute to society.
"I wasn't going to say this," Run continued, "but this is Jay's biggest hit with all the love and support we've been getting."
DMC later came up to speak and promised not to let the media portray hip-hop as something negative and violent. He also painted a picture of Jay as a man of peace and said others should follow in his footsteps.
"Jay was not a thug," he told the packed church. "Jam Master Jay was a B-boy. Jam Master Jay was the embodiment of hip-hop. ... Hip-hop manifested was Jam Master Jay. He was never a sucka MC, perpetratin' a fraud."
Gospel great Pastor Donnie McClurkin also contributed with a stirring performance of "We Fall Down."
After the ceremony, people including Foxy Brown, old school DJ AJ and Run-DMC biographer Bill Adler took time to embrace old friends. Merrick Boulevard seemed twice as packed as it was in the early morning, when hundreds were lining up as early as 8 a.m. to attend the funeral, which was open to the public (To read fans' thoughts on the loss of Jam Master Jay or to add your own, see You Tell Us).
"He was beautiful man," a numb Treach of Naughty by Nature said after the service. "Jay was one of the kindest-hearted people I met in hip-hop. I never seen him raise his voice, always seen him smiling."
"I think today's service was very nice," Doug E. Fresh said. "The way they put it together, with the preachers and ministers coming together from all religious backgrounds, that showed the unity that Run-DMC represented. I liked what Run said as far as this being a celebration of life and this was 'Jay's hit.' He made us look at it from another perspective. I loved what DMC said. He was very moving and it was very honest. To see all the different entertainers and the regular day-to-day people that just got love for Run-DMC come out. ... It's sad that it has to be because of his passing, but we can use this to make change for the better."
"Before we even went on tour with Run-DMC, we used to mimic them in the mirror, buy their posters," said EPMD's Parrish Smith. "This is like the bloodline of hip-hop has been shaken. Us as a whole, we're gonna bring forth some type of change and educate the youth."
"This is like a John Lennon of hip-hop," Parrish's partner Erick Sermon declared. "You saw the effect at the wake last night and today, it's like 10,000 people."
"For people that didn't know what that man meant to hip-hop, now they know," EPMD's DJ Scratch said. "It's like a president died, that's how many people are out here. The streets are blocked off and everything."
"I knew Run-DMC for 18 years," said Tyrone Williams, founder of former hip-hop powerhouse label Cold Chillin'. "Run-DMC and my artist Roxanne Shante would always do shows together. Jay would be more the one to be like, 'Let's go to the Waffle House, without security.' Not that the other ones weren't down-to-earth, but he was the most down-to-earth. A distinguished member of hip-hop got shot for no reason.
"The turnout was going to be huge because of the love everybody had for him," Williams continued. "It's not superficial starstruck garbage. People genuinely loved Jay." "Jam Master Jay was the foundation of Run-DMC," said 20-year-old Carin Moore of Queens, "and they were the kings of hip-hop. They showed us that, yeah, you can make it without having to sell drugs. I never met him, but he just inspired everyone. He deserved to have all his fans show up to his funeral and pay respect."
Wednesday's murder of Jason Mizell, better known to the world as Jam Master Jay, shocked everyone (see "Jam Master Jay, Run-DMC DJ, Killed In Shooting"). During his 19 years in the spotlight, he touched countless people as a DJ with Run-DMC and as a man of the community. He lived his whole life in Queens, and right up to the end the 37-year-old was doing what he enjoyed: helping to create music in the studio.
Of all the accolades he's received, perhaps nobody said it better than DMC and the funeral congregation he beckoned to join in: "Jam Master Jay, that is his name/ And all wild DJs he will tame/ Behind the turntables is where he stands/ Then there is the movement of his hands/ So when asked who's the best, y'all should say, 'Jason Mizell ... Jam Master Jay!' "
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.