Jam Master Jay: Remembered by Pete Rock, Premier, & others…
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.”
“Me and Jay go back because we used to date these two sisters. During that time, I used to live on Washington Ave. between Lafayette and Greene in Clinton Hills and when I would go visit this girl, Jay was always there. We kicked it about music, everything. It was like late 1991, early 1992.
One time, we did a show at The Arc, in the heart of Flatbush, and Jay introduced us. It was very very grimy. That was a memory I will never forget because having Jam Master Jay introduce Gang Starr for a show and to pay homage to us and say he likes our music was big. Especially for me, because he was one of the first show DJ’s to play arenas.
When I was in high school. I saw him at the Fresh Fest with UTFO and Flash. What was ill was [Run-DMC] was in my age group but they were doing it. To do it all straight from turntables live, just solidified that I wanted to be a part of it. To me it was more of a hobby but I turned out doing it professionally and I owe a lot of that to Jay for showing me what live DJing is all about.
I have a lot of fond memories of Jay and a lot of good [video] footage. That’s my own personal footage that I’ll cherish. He also had the Scratch Academy, which is an instructional course that taught DJ’s how to produce, understand the history and respect the entire game. When you think of Jam Master Jay, you think of science and history. Everybody doesn’t do things that last a lifetime, he did, and that’s the reason why he wears a big belt even when he’s not here physically.”
DJ JAZZY JEFF
“Me and Jay go way back. Run-DMC broke me and Will on our first major tour in 1987. He sat down and taught us what to do on the road. ‘This is how you take care of your clothes. Be there for sound check.’ When I brought my girl on the road, he would introduce himself like, ‘How are you doing, I’m Jason.’ Jay would grab my son and take him for a walk. He made you feel comfortable. That was Jay.
Me, Jay, Will, Run and D were all really cool. Will had a birthday party a couple of years ago and Run-DMC came out and performed. Only a handful of us got to know how great of a person Jay was. For me, the two turntables an a mixer come second to him being a person. To be in hip hop as long as I am, you develop friendships outside of just admiring somebody musically. It was like, ‘I got to thank you for what you did for me and for your friendship.’ We’re sitting here talking about how two turntables and a mixer have pretty much paved the way for our lives.
Jay was a throwback DJ. When people started using DAT tapes and replay machines to do their shows, Jay used records. It was fun watching the last Run-DMC show I saw, which was at All-Star weekend in Philly. With two turntables and a mixer, Run-DMC went out there and [were] the true essence of hip-hop.
Jay was a member of Run-DMC, he wasn’t Run DMC’s DJ. He was the third member of that group. No one now has a DJ, and if they do he is hidden. He is not on the records, he’s not really a part of it except for the live shows. Me being a DJ, hell yeah I’ll speak up for what Jay meant to Run-DMC.”
“After Grandmaster Flash, there was Jam Master Jay. He was the one who took the ball and ran with it. He took the whole art form to the next level, as far as live DJ performances. The thing I always admired about Run-DMC was that Jay always performed and it was always live. Jay was always involved with the show and he was an intricate part of the group.
When ‘Sucker MC’s’ came out, I was breaking, so the whole Run-DMC movement was inspiring to me as a B Boy. ‘Sucker MC’s’ totally caught my attention because what they represented had a real B Boy feel. As far as Jay on the turntables, it sparked an interest in me to learn how to mix.
The first time we really kicked it together was in Puerto Rico, around 1992, 1993, for a Naughty by Nature/Run-DMC concert. I really got to build with Jay and we kicked it hard in the Puerto Rican ghetto. [Over the years], we made a few appearances together but what stands out the most was when we went to this place called La Perla. It was like the grimiest place in Puerto Rico and he was getting a lot of love over there. Ghettos across the world knew who he was and showed him love.
It was like a dream to be in the same room as [him]. To this day, I am a fan of the music and the culture. I couldn’t help but be star struck when we had a DJ session together. He always showed love and was grounded.” —As Told To Thomas Golianopoulos