Tomorrow (October 30) will more the eight anniversary of Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell. The New York, NY native was one-third of iconic Queens rap group Run-DMC, alongside Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels. While Jay played the role of DJ, his impact and influence within the group and hip-hop in general was much more than a background player.
A pioneer on many levels, JMJ co-founded one of the earliest hip-hop clothing lines with Walker Wear and headed up his own boutique label Jam Master Jay Records, which had a hand in the early careers of acts like Onyx and 50 Cent. Jay’s musical genius will be what he’s most remembered for as he and Run-DMC sold millions of records worldwide, influenced a generation of rap fans, and crossed musical barriers with their foray into a rock sound, which was recognized last year as the trio was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In honor of all things Jay, XXL broke into the archives of our sister publication SCRATCH to republish a special tribute piece, where Pete Rock, DJ Premier, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Tony Touch share their fondest memories of Jason Mizell.
Originally published in the November/December 2005 issue of SCRATCH
“Before I came into the music business, I was a big fan of Run-DMC. I looked forward to seeing their videos. They would make me go crazy in the crib and run out to the record store and buy their singles. When ‘Sucker MC’s’ first dropped, I had to have it. I actually stole $20 from my mom to go buy that shit. [Jam Master Jay] was a big influence to me [when] I was coming up in the DJ world. I looked up to a lot of DJs, but Jam Master Jay was official. If it wasn’t for him, ‘Down With the King’ probably wouldn’t have happened.
Doing a record with those guys was, ‘Wow, I can’t believe [Run-DMC] are in my basement.’ It bugged me out. These are muthafuckas who I used to run to the record store to buy whatever they were doing and now they’re here. It was a big exciting roller coaster ride for me. ‘Down With the King’ almost didn’t happen because Russell Simmons was shitting on it and didn’t really like it. Jam Master Jay was fighting for it and I was trying to tell Russell, ‘This is the new shit. This is a new era, the 90’s. This is what’s popping right now in the 90’s, Pete Rock. Pete Rock is what’s happening.’ And [Russell] couldn’t grasp it, so Jay made the song happen. He convinced people the song would do well and then it comes out and goes platinum.
I got love for [Run-DMC] for giving me the opportunity to work with them. That moved me a lot. When I did a record with them, that’s when I really knew in my career, in my mind and in my life that I was official in the hip-hop game.”