This Newsday article gives a good account of Mizell's influence.
Police, friends seek motive in rapper's killing
Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay gunned down in N.Y. recording studio
By Melanie Lefkowitz and Curtis Taylor
Published October 31, 2002
NEW YORK -- While police investigated whether a feud led to the fatal
shooting of hip-hop pioneer Jam Master Jay, skeptical friends and family
mourned him today and puzzled over the slaying.
"There's no reason," said the victim's teenage son, Jason Mizell Jr. "He
didn't really do anything wrong."
Witnesses said two men in dark clothing were buzzed into the rap star's
second-floor Queens recording studio on Wednesday night, police said. A
single bullet was fired into the head of the Run-DMC co-founder as he
played a video game with another man. Jam Master Jay, whose real name was
Jason Mizell, was 37.
The other man, Uriel Rincon, 25, was shot in the leg and was released from
the hospital today. He was among five witnesses being questioned by police,
said a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"They're checking out varying theories, including, "Was it the result of a
personal feud? Was it linked to this East Coast-West Coast rappers?' and
other possible motives," the law enforcement source said.
Another source, also speaking anonymously, said: "They're looking at some
sort of dispute, anything from a personal dispute to some kind of rap
Many in the rap industry questioned whether Mizell, known as a family man
and social activist, would ever be caught in a violent flare-up --
especially a coastal feud that seemed to have little to do with him.
"Before the media rushes to attribute this to East Coast-West Coast
violence, they should examine Run-DMC's two decades of contributions and
Jam Master Jay's personal character," said hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons,
whose brother Joseph founded the group with Mizell.
"Rest In Peace Jam Master," Run DMC's official Web site read early today,
underneath a picture of Mizell.
At the scene today, fans placed flowers, candles and remembrance messages
next to a fence. Someone placed an Adidas sneaker -- a reference to the
group's hit song "My Adidas" -- with "R.I.P JMJ" handwritten in marker.
Chuck D, the founder of the hip-hop group Public Enemy, blamed record
companies and the advertising for perpetuating "a climate of violence" in
the rap industry. "When it comes to us, we're disposable commodities," he
Doctor Dre, a New York radio station DJ who had been friends with Mizell
since the mid-1980s, said, "This is not a person who went out looking for
trouble. ... He's known as a person that builds, that creates and is trying
to make the right things happen."
Publicist Tracy Miller said Mizell and McDaniels had planned to perform in
Washington, D.C., on Thursday at a Washington Wizards basketball game.
Mizell had performed on Tuesday in Alabama, she said.
Mizell was married and had three children, she said.
Distraught fans gathered in the cold rain outside the recording studio.
Several cried, while others stood stunned. Still others hugged each other.
"They're the best. They're the pioneers in hip-hop," said fan Arlene Clark,
39, of Hollis.
Another fan who lives nearby, Leslie Bell, 33, said the members of Run DMC
often let local musicians record for free at the studio.
"That was their decision, to stay here and give back to the community,"
Bell said. "He is one great man. The good always die young. He's the good
Word of Jam Master Jay's death struck hard at those who knew him.
"He's a positive brother, trying to do the right thing in the community,"
said Charles Fischer, who runs the Hip-Hop Youth Summit Network and knew
Jam Master Jay for years. "I hope we can bring to justice whoever shot him,
and I hope other hip-hop artists will rally around this unfortunate
incident and use it to rally against violence in the hip-hop nation and the
community across the country."
Jam Master Jay, 37, who was also a producer, grew up in Hollis, where he
and two childhood friends, Run (Joseph Simmons) and DMC (Darryl McDaniels),
came together to form the seminal 1980s band.
Simmons, the younger brother of Def Jam records founder Russell Simmons,
first approached McDaniels about forming a rap group. The two then added
Jam Master Jay as their DJ in 1982.
The trio popularized the rap genre as well as their signature look: unlaced
Adidas sneakers and heavy gold jewelry.
In his book, "It's Like That: A Spiritual Memoir," Simmons attributed the
group's look to Mizell.
It was 1984 and Mizell was walking down the street in Jamaica after
purchasing some leather pants, a leather jacket, Adidas sneakers, a large
gold rope chain, a black hat and some Gazelle glasses.
All eyes were upon Mizell, Simmons said.
"It was like everybody wanted to snatch something from him because he had
it going on. I mean nobody had everything: the glasses, the leather, the
shoes, and the gold rope," Simmons said. "We were doing well and Jay just
was helping to create a nationwide trend and didn't know it."
The group was indeed doing well.
Their third album, "Raising Hell," was the first rap album to sell more
than a million copies.
The trio continued its trend-setting ways, and in 1986, Run-DMC covered
Aerosmith's 1970s hit "Walk This Way" with lead singer Steven Tyler and
guitarist Joe Perry. The recording helped resurrect Aerosmith's floundering
career and gave Run-DMC a chart-topping single.
Run-DMC went on to become the first rap band to appear on the cover of
Rolling Stone and Spin magazines, as well as "American Bandstand" and
"Saturday Night Live." Their list of firsts included first rap video on MTV
and first rap group to receive gold and platinum albums.
Run-DMC eventually lost its allure, with more hard-core gangsta rap
changing the genre's landscape. When Run-DMC decided to make a comeback
this year, Aerosmith invited the group to perform on its summer tour. Their
most recent album of new material, the long-awaited "Crown Royal," was
released last year.
Staff Writer Sean Gardiner and The Associated Press contributed to this