Today is one of those days where you just shake your head and say "damn." It has been exactly 15 years since the world lost one its greatest musical pioneers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell.
JMJ was brutally killed by apparently someone he knew and was close to in his own sanctuary, the Jamaica Queens 24/7 Studio. Jay's death is up there in the trinity of unsolved Hip-Hop icon murders with those of Tupac Shakur's and Notorious B.I.G.'s. JMJ's, however, may be the most bizarre.
There is a cast of character names like "Big D," "Lil D," "Curtis Scoon," Tinard Washington, "Bo Skaggs," "Phonz" Tony Rincon and "Mike B." They sound like they came out of a novel. But unfortunately, this murder mystery is real. All of these people were close to Jay. The first four names have all been floated around by police and media as part of theories in the plot and execution to kill JMJ. The middle are actually blood relatives of JMJ and have been seeking answers (Phonz co-produced the documentary "2 Turntables and a Microphone" which delved into the JMJ Murder and music legacy), while the last two are two of five other people who were in the studio with Jay before the killers entered. A decade and a half later, the majority of the witnesses have remained silent in the public as to what transpired that night in the studio. A key witness, Lydia High, confirmed that one of the accomplices had a tattoo on his neck. That tattooed man has been fingered as Tinard Washington, a childhood friend to JMJ and the Hollis Crew. However, Washington's involvement alone has not been enough to convict anyone for the crime, not even enough to make a formal arrest of any suspects.
One other unique name from Jay's circle, however, Chris Run, says he's still optimistic justice will be served and soon.
"Its gonna be solved," Run said assuredly, wearing a customized Run-DMC royal blue Adidas tracksuit with matching footwear and commemorative Kansas City Royal fitted cap on Saturday. Run spoke to REVOLT while standing on Hollis Avenue, around the corner from where JMJ grew up and two blocks from a mural that immortalized the iconic turntablist, taking part in a celebration of the life of Jay. Mizell's older brother Marvin Thompson was on hand as were a host of people like former Hot 97 radio personality Curt Flirt who knew JMJ since elementary school.
At age 45, Run, also a DJ, was indoctrinated into the Run-DMC family at just age 14. He toured with the group.
"They took me on the road. I traveled maybe halfway around the world before I was 18 years old," he said. "At one point Jay really took me under his wing and that was it.
"I was a DJ. I don't know. Maybe because I didn't act my age," he added, when wondering aloud about why the collective, who were in their history-making prime at the time, took a shine to him. "One thing I respected about Run and them, they never treated me like a little nigga. Like 'carry my bags' or 'run errands!" Stuff like that. They treated me like an equal. When they was 19, 20, I was 14. That's what I really dig about them."
Run will tell you fond memories about road treks with DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and Public Enemy, who both opened for Run-DMC as they were first breaking into rap's big stages. He says the biggest gems he soaked in from JMJ was learning his technique.
"Some DJs, Run and them used to say 'you use this or you use that,'" he thought back. "Some of the DJs that was on the road with us, that was DJing for other groups, they used the DAT machine. Remember the DAT machine? Jay was like the only DJ that went live. It was lot of jealousy going on at some point. Run used to get onstage and talk about it. 'If you use this, you could either get with this or use a DAT. Basically, Jay taught me to stay consistent in what you do. How he rocked the crowd, it was crazy to me."
Run had an extra sparkle in his gaze when thinking about how the JMJ legacy is being upheld by his sons Jason Jr. and TJ. Both have been going on the road with Run-DMC the last five years, spinning for the legends.
"To me, its dope to see TJ and [Jason] do their thing for their pops," he beamed.
Of course, what Run would like to see more than anything is his mentor's two murders be brought to justice.
"I think it's really the streets," he said about why the case hasn't been solved yet. "The person who or the people who did it would have been caught if the streets would have cooperated.
"I'm still involved with the case," he continued, revealing a gem. "I just went down a couple of months ago to Central Islip to meet with the Assistant DA. I've been involved with the case since he passed in '02, since like '04 when it really got big."
Run says police beckoned him because they are trying to find out if Jam Master Jay's death has anything to do with dealings he had out of town.
"Me and Jay go in and out of town on personal reasons outside of RUN-DMC," he explained. "Jay would call me at two in the morning, or four in the afternoon, or two in the afternoon, and be like 'Yo, what you doing? You wanna take this trip with me?' If we flying or driving or whatever. So I guess the whole case, what the detectives think the case extended out of town to New York. That's why I'm so involved. They think I know more than what I know. It extends more from New York to two or three different areas out of town."
Although reports in various outlets yesterday and today say Jay's bizarre case has gone ice cold, Run feels everything will come to light soon. JMJ deserves it.
"Hopefully," he said. "Who would think [it would take] 15 years? But you look at Biggie and Tupac deaths, it's been over 20 years. [Jay] was a loyal, true dude. Give the shirt off his back. Jay was a good dude. That's how they should remember Jay. Give his last out of his pocket."