Jam Master Jay (Jason William Mizell) was born January 21, 1965 in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up, he was musically inclined and began playing trumpet at the age of 3.
Origin: Brooklyn, NY
Style/Claim to Fame:
- Flashy wardrobe and B-boy attire that included plenty of black, large gold chains, fedoras, leather jackets, and unlaced Adidas. His trademark style became the staple for Hip Hop fans at the time.
At 10 years old, Mizell and his family moved to Queens where he discovered his new favorite instrument: the turntables. He began DJing at the age of 13 with the stage name Jazzy Jase and played at local parks within a year. He took his skills to the next level when he bought some Technics 1200 turntables and practiced cutting records when he was supposed to be in bed.
After throwing small parties and playing drums, guitar and bass for various garage bands, he decided to DJ for rap group Run DMC in 1982. Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels rapped for him while he was DJing in the park one day, and the three instantly became friends. Under his new DJ name Jam Master Jay, Mizell played keyboards, live drums, bass and turntables on all of the group’s albums.
Jam Master Jay was well known for his unique sense of street style (which was influenced by teenage run-ins with the law) and was adopted by Run, DMC and America alike. Though old school party rappers often dressed in colorful costumes, Run DMC’s hardcore wardrobe included plenty of black, large gold chains, fedoras, leather jackets, and unlaced Adidas. Their first single “It’s Like That/Sucka MCs” also differed from its predecessors with its hard-hitting beats and lyrics when it was released in 1983. Their music video for their third single “Rock Box” was one of the few played on MTV featuring African Americans at the time, and their self-titled debut album was the first rap album to go gold.
As a member of Hip Hop’s “new school,” Jam Master Jay enjoyed Run DMC’s success throughout the 1980s with their second album King of Rock becoming the first rap album to go platinum. It featured Run and DMC boasting about his cutting skills on the track “Jam Master Jay.”They appeared in 1986’s film Krush Groove and crossed over with Rock fans when they collaborated with Aerosmith on the first ever rap-rock song “Walk This Way” on their third and most successful album Raising Hell. They toured with the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy and appeared in Coke and Adidas commercials due to their hit song “My Adidas” which proclaimed their love for the sneakers.
In 1989, Jam Master Jay created his own label JMJ Records and signed rap group Onyx in 1993 and later added a young 50 Cent to his roster in 1996. 1988’s Tougher Than Leather and 1990’s Back From Hell suffered disappointing sales, and the trio took a hiatus from recording. After Rev Run and DMC battled drug addiction and found God, the group released 1993’s Down With The King featuring production by Jam Master Jay.
In 2002, Jam Master Jay founded the Scratch DJ Academy in Manhattan with the goal of lowering the barrier of entry to the art form of the DJ. On October 30, 2002, Hip Hop suffered a major loss when Jam Master Jay was shot dead in a Queens recording studio located on Merrick Boulevard. Fans were stunned and adorned the late Jam Master Jay’s studio with Adidas, roses and albums. He was buried in New York’s Ferncliff Cemetery and Rev Run and DMC announced that they would never again perform under the name “Run DMC.” In 2007, Jay’s widow Terri hosted the inaugural J.A.M. Awards which were inspired by his dedication to social Justice, Arts and Music. In 2009, Run DMC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Jay’s award was accepted by his mother.