Jam Master Jay Biography

Hailed by many critics as the "Beatles of hiphop," the group Run–D.M.C. ( Joseph "Run" Sim mons, Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, Jason William "Jam Master Jay" Mizell) was a seminal hardcore rap group that became the first such act to craft concept albums, enjoy crossover success in mainstream rock, and to earn a Grammy nomination. All natives of the New York borough of Hollis, Queens, rappers Run and D.M.C. enlisted Mizell, an accomplished turntable scratcher, while still in high school and formed the group Orange Crush in the early 1980s. Upon leaving school, the trio changed their name to Run–D.M.C. and began actively circulating demos ultimately signing a deal with Profile Records for a $25,000 advance. Their first single in 1983, "It's Like That" and B-side "Sucker M.C.s," introduced a new rap sound fusing hard drum machine beats and turntable scratching furnished by Jam Master Jay with dynamic literate lyrics and overlapping vocals supplied by Run and D.M.C. "It's Like That" entered into the R&B Top 20 while "Sucker M.C.s" gave rap one of its signature phrases. The group scored other notable singles ("Hard Times," "Jam Master Jay," "Rock Box," "30 Days") all included on their debut album, Run–D.M.C., released in 1984. Viewed as a landmark album in hip-hop, the group's blending of the sounds of hard rock with gritty raps about life on the streets resulted in a gold record, the first in rap's history. In addition to a new sound fusing rock with hip-hop, the group's signature look (three-striped white Adidas shoes, sports clothes, black leather coats, caps) also became an instantly recognizable and widely imitated fashion statement. In 1985, Run–D.M.C. toured relentlessly, but found time to star in a film, Krush Groove, and to release their second album, King of Rock, a clear statement of the group's commitment to further explore the union of rock and rap. In this album, Jam Master Jay (Mizell, born in Brooklyn on January 21, 1965) emerged as what music writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine called the backbone of the group and his turntable scratching skills are prominently featured in "Jam-Master Jammin" and "Darryl and Joe." Mainstream stardom beyond the insular world of hip-hop, however, came in 1986 after producer Rick Rubin signed on to co-produce their third album, Raising Hell, with longtime Run–D.M.C. producer and Run's brother, Russell Simmons. The most memorable track on the record paired the hip-hop pioneers with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith in a rap-rock cover of the rock group's 1975 hit, "Walk This Way." The support - ing video became the second most played piece on MTV and helped fuel album sales of over three million units making it the first rap record to reach Number One on the R&B chart and to go platinum. Other "firsts" soon followed. In August 1985, the group became the first rappers to appear on American Bandstand, and followed that distinction by being the first of their musical genre to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone (December 4, 1986). If musical success was not enough, in July 1986 the shoe giant Adidas signed Run– D.M.C. to endorse its three-stripe sneaker (the first non-athletes ever to be asked) which had long been the group's signature footwear. Tougher than Leather, their fourth album released at a time when the group was commanding $100,000 per live performance, also supported a motion picture by the same title directed by record producer Rick Rubin. A 1970s blaxploitation parody starring Run–D.M.C., the film failed to connect with rap audiences who had turned suspicious of hip-hoprock crossover acts and were now embracing hardcore rappers like Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and Ice-T. Although the album went platinum it failed to yield any hit singles and marked the beginning of the end of the group as rap innovators and top sellers. Three other albums (Back from Hell, 1990; Down with the King, 1993; Crown Royal, 1999), while enjoyable were further proof that the group's glory days were behind them although popular artists of the day (Public Enemy, Naughty by Nature, Q-Tip) openly acknowledged their debt to Run–D.M.C. Shortly after the release of Back from Hell key elements of the group experienced hard times. Run ( Joseph Simmons) was accused of raping a woman after a concert in Cleveland in August 1991 and arrested. While awaiting trial, Run became a born again Christian and had further reason to believe in the almighty after a judge tossed the rape case out of court with prejudice in February 1992. After being cleared, Run stated that he felt no animosity toward his accuser and blamed a life spent taking drugs for most of his problems. Meanwhile, D.M.C. (Darryl Mc- Daniels) was fighting his own personal demons- alcohol and depression. At one point, the rapper's drinking became so bad that he began to embarrass himself onstage slurring words and forgetting rhymes. In 1993, D.M.C. became a born again Christian and quit drinking. Throughout the post–Tougher than Leather era Jay just kept working, but faced his own problems. Informed by the Internal Revenue Service that he owed over $100,000 and would soon have a lien placed on his earnings, Jay started his own label, JMJ Rec - ords, and produced artists including the Afros (Kicking Afrolistics, 1990) and Onyx (BacDa - FucUp, 1993). When Run–D.M.C. did tour it was no longer to sold-out arenas, although they still commanded a loyal following. Run, however, had recently informed his bandmates that he was leaving the group. On October 30, 2002, Jay, 37, was in his 24– 7 Recording Studio on Merrick Boulevard producing a record for a group called Rusty Waters featuring his friend and business partner Randy Allen. Around 7:30 P.M. the rapper took a break and sat in the second-floor lounge with Uriel "Tony" Rincon, 25, to play a video football game. In addition to the two men, four others were in the studio that night including Allen. While accounts have varied widely over time depending upon who is recounting the events, what remains certain is that two armed men were buzzed into the locked building and climbed the stairs to the second-floor lounge. One stood near the door while the other, a large man wearing a black sweatsuit, approached Jay and embraced him (leading detectives to believe the DJ knew his killer) before producing a .40-caliber pistol. The gunman's first shot missed and struck Rincon, but a second shot fired at point-blank range fatally entered into the left side of Jay's head behind the ear. The intruders escaped down the stairs leaving behind only two empty shell casings. A police canvass of the surrounding area turned up a .380 semiautomatic pistol unrelated to the crime. Rincon was treated for his injury and released from hospital the next day. Authorities were unclear of the motive behind the murder of the popular married father of three who had no connection to the East Coast–West Coast rap rivalry that had already claimed the lives of two of hip-hop's big - gest stars, Tupac Shakur entry) and the Notorious B.I.G. entry). Stymied by the reluctance of witnesses to cooperate, authorities formulated possible theories of the case. The gangsta rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) was a protege of Jay's whose mocking raps directed at other performers may have resulted in his men - tor's murder. Another theory explained the killing as simply the result of a dispute over money while another looked into Jay's possible involvement in the murky world of drugs. Though unsubstantiated, the drug angle was predicated on Jay's association with Curtis Scoon. Both men had alleg - edly pooled $15,000 each to purchase cocaine from a dealer in 1993, but after the drugs were sold their pusher took off with the money. Scoon heatedly denied any drug involvement, but did admit that Jay owed him money for a personal loan. Jay's longtime friend and business partner, Randy Allen, also drew official notice when it was learned that both men held personal insurance policies naming the other as beneficiary. While investigators tried futilely to solve the murder, Hollis, Queens, prepared to bury one of its own. Hours after news of the beloved figure's murder was announced, fans constructed a street memorial outside the studio on Merrick Boule - vard comprised of roses, memorial candles, an old turntable, and a single Adidas sneaker bearing the inscription, "R.I.P. JMJ." On November 4, 2002, a wake was held in the J. Foster Phillips Funeral Home in St. Albans, Queens. Outside in the rain under the watchful eye of police, a respectful crowd of three hundred (many wearing laceless Adidas) stretched three blocks down Linden Boulevard waiting to pay their respects to a be - loved artist who had never forsaken his community. Jay was unstinting in offering assistance to aspiring rappers listening to and critiquing their demo tapes and helping them to secure record deals. Recently, he founded the Scratch DJ Academy where students could learn D.J. techniques. Inside the mortuary, Jay was laid out in his trademark leather suit, broad-brimmed black hat, gold chains, and the ubiquitous three-striped pair of white Adidas. The next day, the funeral service in the Greater Allen Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, was attended by hip-hop luminaries including Foxy Brown, Dr. Dre, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, and Doug E. Fresh. The pulpit was covered with floral displays fashioned to look like records and a turntable. The centerpiece read simply, "Love. Respect LL Cool J, Student." Both bandmates eulogized their friend, but the high - light of the ceremony came after Run led the congregation through the Prayer of Comfort then added, "[Jason] helped to create this hip-hop nation. Jason walked in grace, in style, and with class. I don't know if I should say this, but I believe this is Jason's biggest hit ever: all the support that has come in, all the people that have cried out across the world." Afterwards, pallbear - ers wearing matching black leather coats, fedoras, and three-striped Adidas carried the coffin to a white hearse for its ride to Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. At the cemetery, Jay's wife Terry Corley-Mizell and their three children each released doves. The next day, Run and D.M.C. announced at a press conference attended by Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, Busta Rhymes, and the Beastie Boys that they would not continue to record as a group in the irreplaceable absence of their friend and bandmate. Also announced was a fund to provide for the immediate needs of the murdered star's family as well as the foundation of a college scholarship for the children. Of the fund, $50,000 was set aside for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of Jam Master Jay's killers. The murder investigation stalled for years hampered by the understandable reluctance of witnesses to testify against the thugs responsible for the crime. In April 2007, however, career criminal Ronald "Tenad" Washington was identified as an accessory in Jay's murder by an unnamed witness during his trial for six armed robberies committed just weeks after the rapper's murder. Washington was also a prime suspect in the murder of rapper Randy Walker entry Big Stretch) in 1995. Washington was convicted of the armed robberies, but denied killing Jay or Walker. "They want to blame me for all the blood in rap," Washington complained. One woman, Lydia High, sister of Jay's business partner, Randy Allen, told authorities that she was near the door of the 24–7 Recording Studio on the day of the murder when Washington forced her face-down on the floor while the second gunman pumped a bullet into the rapper's head. Washington admitted being at the studio that day, but only because Jay had wanted him there for protection. A few months later, Randy Allen, once considered a suspect in the murder, broke his five year silence and told authorities that while he could not identify the shooter (he was in the recording booth, not the lounge) he had noticed a tattoo on the gunman's neck as he fled the scene. In published newspaper accounts, Allen has stated his belief that the killers are from the Hollis neighborhood and condemns Uriel "Tony" Rincon, wounded in Jay's shooting, for refusing to identify the assailants. It must be noted, however, that as of early 2010 not one individual either named or unnamed in the case has been arrested or charged with the murder of the popular DJ. In 2007, MTV.com and VH1 de - clared Run–D.M.C. the Greatest Hip-Hop Group of All Time and the Greatest Hip-Hop Artist of All Time, respectively. The group credited with bringing hip-hop into the mainstream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.