Tomorrow (Oct. 30), marks 15 years since Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell was taken away from us in the most brutal way imaginable. Just 37 years old at the time, he was shot in the back of the head in his own studio apparently by someone he knew, trusted and showed affection. The murder was heartless, remorseless and inhumane. For music fans, his peers and, of course, Jay's friends and family, it was shocking. It's still unbelievable a decade and a half later. How could someone kill one of the "Kings of Rock," with everything he's done?
Jay and Run-DMC didn't just give rock 'n roll an adrenaline rush in the mid-80s, but they were, of course, trailblazers for hip-hop and helped to elevate music overall. Jam Master Jay helped raised us. And if you're too young to be musically and culturally raised by Jay, he probably influenced—but definitely opened the door for—who raised you.
"I'm just hurt that somebody knew who he was and they still killed Jam Master Jay, knowing how much he meant to the world and they still did it," Ice Cube said, just days after JMJ was murdered back in 2002. "That just shows how far we've dropped and we don't give a s—t about nobody's life these days. Not even our heroes."
Cutting even deeper is the fact that Jay's case has yet to be solved despite several very public announcements of "breaks" in the case. Jay makes a trinity of hip-hop's great murder mysteries, along with Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.
In the case of Jam Master Jay, however, it has to be the most baffling. His murder going unsolved probably makes the least amount of sense. There were five other people in the studio with JMJ before the killers came in. None of the witnesses witnessed anything substantial enough to make arrests, even the person who was in the room with Jay when he was shot. Said person was also shot by the gunman. Truly unbelievable. On the eve of the anniversary of his death, REVOLT TV looks back at the Jam Master Jay case and how it has moved forward up to today.
October 30, 2002, approximately 6:00 PM
It was just a normal day at Jam Master Jay's 24/7 Studio in Jamaica, Queens. The trailblazing turntable icon had just traveled from his home in nearby Hollis and reached his lab. This sanctuary would be the place where JMJ's inner circle would converge. Jay's one-time manager, assistant and studio receptionist Lydia High is already there, as is his close friend Uriel "Tony" Rincon. Not too long after, Jay's closest friend Randy Allen (Lydia's brother) would arrive with another friend Michael "Mike B." Bonds. Randy, a member of the JMJ signees Rusty Waters, is Jay's main objective of the day. He wants to work on the group's music.
First on the agenda, however, Allen and Mike B. go into a studio control room to listen to demo tapes and scout talent while Jay partakes in a leisurely love of his, playing Madden on PlayStation. JMJ and Rincon sit in the studio lounge, an open space, for a game. Rincon says Jay pulls out a gun, a .45 caliber to be exact, and placed it on the table before placing both hands on a controller. Lydia High comes in and gets apprehensive when she sees the firearm. High asks JMJ to put his gun away.
October 30, 2002, approximately 7:30 PM
The regular day turns into a gruesome horror tragedy. Reportedly, two unknown men wearing black enter the studio. At least one brandishes a firearm at High, who's seated at the front desk. According to her account, she never saw their faces (they were covered with masks) but heard their voices. One told her to get down on the floor. The two men come to the lounge where JMJ are playing Madden 2002.
One man stands outside the lounge then walks in with no mask on. Jay hugs the assailant and seconds later yells "oh s—t." Rincon is shot with a .40 caliber pistol and JMJ is shot in the back of the head seconds later.
According to Rincon, he never saw the exchange because he was hunched over reaching for his cell phone. As the gunmen flee the studio, Allen ran from the control room and sees JMJ laying dead in a pool of blood. Allen picks ups JMJ's gun and pursues the killers. They're all on foot and Allen reportedly fired on the gunmen, missing. The only distinguishing description Allen can give is one of the men had a neck tattoo. The security cameras in the studio, which record everything, were apparently turned off before the murder.
Reports and innuendo fly in the media as to why Jam Master Jay was killed. There are published theories that speculate the murder was to send a message to onetime Jay protégé, 50 Cent. Another report links Jay to a drug deal gone wrong, while another surfaces speculating that Jay owed money to Queens street figure Curtis Scoon. Yet another alleges Jay was killed over a life insurance policy where Randy Allen was the beneficiary. No theory would be substantialized.
November 3, 2002
Police release a description of one of the murderers. It's very vague. "A 180-pound Black male. 6 feet to 6'2" in height. Wearing a black hat and black sweatsuit when leaving the scene of the crime."
November 4, 2002
Thousands line the streets of Queens to celebrate the life of Jam Master Jay during his wake. Busta Rhymes, EPMD, Brand Nubian and Jada Pinkett-Smith are among the throngs of people who come to pay their respects. Fans would not just line up (you could easily see 300-400 people on line at once) at J. Foster-Phillips Funeral Home, but stay in the streets and sidewalks blasting Run-DMC songs, such as "Peter Piper" and "My Adidas."
November 5, 2002
Jam Master Jay has a massive going home service at Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens. Once again, thousands come out, including Russell Simmons, Doug E. Fresh and Kurtis Blow. Other friends, such as LL Cool J, send huge floral arrangements. Gospel legend Pastor Donnie McClurkin sings a gripping rendition of "We All Fall Down." Reverend Dr. Floyd Flake gives the sermon.
Among those who also speak at the funeral are Run and DMC.
"I wasn't going to say this," Run told the congregation. "But this is Jay's biggest hit with all the love and support we've been getting."
DMC would follow telling everyone not to believe any negative portrayals of his late friend in the media.
"Jay was not a thug," he told the packed church. "Jam Master Jay was a B-boy. Jam Master Jay was the embodiment of hip-hop. Hip-hop manifested was Jam Master Jay. He was never a sucka MC, perpetratin' a fraud."
November 6, 2002
During a massive press conference spearheaded by Russell Simmons, a $50,000 reward is issued for the arrest and prosecution of Jay's killers. Run-DMC also announce their retirement.
"Run-DMX is officially retired," Run tells the spectators. "I can't get onstage with another DJ. The group ends an endorsement deal with Dr. Pepper and cancels its scheduled tour dates with Kid Rock.
Simmons also disclosed that the hip-hip community have financially rallied around Jay's family with a $250,000 house and college fund. Eminem, Busta Rhymes, XXL Magazine and BET are among the contributors.
Randy Allen calls Tony Rincon's claim he didn't see the shooters "preposterous" in a interview with MTV News. Allen also says that he did grab Jay's .45 in pursuit of the gunmen but did not fire at them.
June 19, 2003
Reports surface that the police working on the JMJ nurder case regard Randy Allen as a person of interest and are investigating his involvement. No arrest was ever made.
June 26, 2003
Lydia High speaks out to MTV News, denying any wrongdoing or negligence in the death of her friend and employer.
"The individuals that came into the studio that night had masks on and put a gun to my head," she said. "They told me to lay down on the ground [and] I thought I was gonna die. I thought they were gonna kill me. As I laid down to the ground, I thought that was it ... I have no regrets. I've known Jay all my life. He's given me so much [and] I've learned so much from him."
October 4, 2004
Run-DMC are among the first class to be homage to by VH1's Hip-Hop Honors. Public Enemy, DJ Kool Herc and Tupac Shakur are also among the honorees.
April 16, 2007
The Boston Herald prints a story that gives hope of bringing Jam Master Jay's killers to justice. In a report, the publication says an unnamed female witness had come forward, fingering Ronald "Tinard" Washington as part of the tandem that killed JMJ. The paper also reported that Washington confessed to playing a part in the slaying of one of Tupac Shakur's best friends and collaborators, Randy "Stretch" Walker.
"They want to blame me for all the blood in rap," Tinard tells the paper. "It's all lies. She's telling them I was mad at Jay because he was doing better than I am. That I killed Stretch because he owed me something and I wanted it. She is making up lies because they threatened to deport her."
It was later reported by the New York Daily News the woman who came forward was Washington's former girlfriend and she had apparently changed her story "three to four times."
JMJ's older brother Marvin Thompson's tells the NY Daily News he believes Washington helped kill his younger sibling.
Jam Master Jay's brother, Marcin Thompson, confronts Randy Allen in a joint interview with MTV News.
"Nobody seen nobody? C'mon man," Thompson fumed. "Who wrote that script? There's too many holes in that movie. I don't trust nobody in that studio."
June 3, 2008
The documentary, 2 Turntables and a Microphone, which was executive produced by 50 Cent and JMJ's Cousin Stephon "Phonz" Wartford, makes its premiere at the Hollywood Black Film Festival. Ja Rule, Kid Rock and Russell Simmons all attend. The film not only takes a long look at the Run-DMC and Jam Master Jay legacy, but several people in the movie that knew Jay personally, including Phonz, point the finger of blame and wrongdoing at the people in the 24/7 Studio the night of the killing. He says the killing was either an inside job or that Randy Allen, his sister Lydia and others are protecting the killers. He swears they know who did it.
April 3, 2009
Run-DMC becomes only the second hip-hop act ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Eminem gives the induction speech.
"25 years later, man, here we are," said Slim Shady. "They didn't take no for an answer, much the same way as they didn't give up when much of the world refused to recognize rap music as real music. They were the first rock stars of rap. They were the first movie stars of rap. They were the first rap group played on MTV. They were the baddest of the bad. Coolest of the cool. Two turntables and a microphone."
"Two turntables and a microphone, that's all it took to change the world," DMC said, standing next to Run on stage. "Three Kings from Queens made rap music in the B-boy stance a global phenomenon."
September 4, 2012
Run-DMC reunite in Philadelphia at JAY-Z's Made in America festival. Jam Master's Jay's children, Jason "Jam Master J'Son" Mizell Jr. and TJ Mizell spin for the group paying homage to their dad. Run-DMC have continued to be active doing shows on the tour circuit, incorporating the Mizell siblings in their acts since then.
January 8, 2016
Jam Master's Jay second eldest son, T.J., sits with the New York Daily News and says he has mixed emotions about being Run-DMC's new DJ.
"I try to look at it positively because he's in a better place now," Mizell divulged. "It was a pretty traumatic experience. When I perform with Run-DMC, I struggle to remember what happened because I go through so many emotions."
September 15-16 2017
Both JAY-Z and LL Cool J shout out Jam Master Jay in separate sets at the Meadows festival in New York City. Cool J brings out DMC for a massive performance tribute to JMJ during his time onstage.
October 28, 2017
Marvin Thompson (JMJ's brother) and his protégé, Mike Classic, hold a party on Hollis Avenue and 203rd St. celebrating the life of Jam Master Jay. Marvin also announces to REVOLT TV he and his family are working on their own documentary about JMJ.