When Jason Mizell was born in 1965, the culture and industry that he would one day help revolutionize was decades away from birth itself.
New York City transitioned incredibly over the space of 20 years, and within that time, Mizell would become a key, influential figure in the hip-hop scene – donning the moniker Jam Master Jay for the entirety of his career. Alongside Joe ‘Run’ Simmons and Darryl ‘D.M.C.’ McDaniels, Jay became a face – and the deejay - for international rap group Run-D.M.C., who are one outfit credited for breaking hip-hop out of its home in the New York ghettos, and putting it on a podium for the world to see and experience. His ability on a turntable was unique – cutting and scratching with rough chaos, that left listeners of Run-D.M.C. records hot on their toes, and stretched the boundaries of what a rap record was supposed to be, or sound like, in an era when everything about hip-hop culture was still raw at its core.
As the ‘90s began to stretch out and Run-D.M.C. moved over to make way for slightly younger, and more flavoursome acts such as Notorious B.I.G., Jay began to focus on molding and mentoring upcoming acts himself. As his legacy career in a rap trio became established, the careers of Onyx and 50 Cent were just beginning to shape under his guidance, and his presence and influence outside of the Run-D.M.C. dynasty flourished. That is until, sadly, the year 2002.
As Jay lingered in his Queens recording studio on the night of October 30, a number of assailants entered and shot the famed deejay and producer in the back of the head, killing him. His murder still hasn’t been solved to this very day, and there’s no shortage of rumours to match. Stories span from a botched drug deal interstate, to disputes over musical contract royalties, but nothing could be pinpointed due to the lack of witness statements and evidence throughout the police’ investigation.
The Adidas’ tracksuit, the shell toes, black hat and gold chains are what made Jam Master Jay stand out from the crowd. The things he helped do for music, at a time when people needed guidance through song, stand out for a lifetime in the eyes of the world.
Happy birthday, JMJ.