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Hip hop icon whose death remains shrouded in mystery

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Jam Master Jay left an enduring legacy through his revolutionary contributions as a DJ, producer, and member of the legendary group Run-D.M.C.

However, his story is not without its sombre chapters as his demise sent shockwaves through the music industry, prompting reflection on his influential career and the mysteries surrounding his death.

Jam Master Jay’s biography

Jam Master Jay

Jam Master Jay’s tale began on October 21, 1965, when he was born to Jesse Mizell and Connie Thompson Mizell. Jay was steeped in music from a tender age. His mother, a gospel vocalist, nurtured his musical talents by enrolling him in trumpet lessons at the age of three. This early exposure ignited a lifelong passion that spanned various musical genres.

In 1975, Jay’s family relocated to Hollis, Queens, New York. It was here, at the age of 13, that his life took a significant turn. He encountered the enchantment of turntables at a friend’s residence. Captivated by the possibilities of manipulating sound, Jay embarked on an unwavering quest to master the art of DJing.

Jay attended Manhattan’s esteemed High School of Music and Art. Nonetheless, his true education unfolded on the streets of New York City. Surrounded by the burgeoning hip-hop culture, Jay immersed himself in its vibrancy, absorbing its essence and infusing it into his distinctive DJing style.

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Jam Master Jay’s career

Jam Master Jay on his jockey

Jay initially started playing in parks and later moved on to performing in bars. Additionally, he organised small parties in the local area. Upon acquiring a pair of Technics 1200s, his skills rapidly improved as he could practice late at night with headphones on while everyone thought he was asleep.

Jay ventured into DJing because he simply wanted to be part of a band. Before joining Run-D.M.C., he played bass and drums in various garage bands. He joined Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels in 1982, just after they finished high school. He agreed to DJ for them to fulfil his desire to be part of the band.

In Run-D.M.C’s album “Raising Hell,” Jay showcased his versatility by playing keyboards, bass and live drums, alongside his turntable expertise.

In 1989, Jay established Jam Master Jay Records, which notably signed artists like 50 Cent and Onyx. The label, however, folded following Jay’s tragic murder on October 30, 2002. He also launched his clothing line, “JKiss”, capitalising on his popularity and creating a cultural phenomenon.

Jay’s enduring legacy includes the Scratch DJ Academy in Manhattan. Founded in 2002, the same year as his passing, the academy aims to offer top-notch education and opportunities in the DJ and producer art form.

There were allegations and speculation regarding Jay’s involvement with drugs, even though he promoted anti-drug messages in his songs. The prosecutors in his murder case claimed that Mizell became involved in dealing large quantities of cocaine. However, despite these allegations of involvement in drug dealing, Jay’s family maintained that he did not use drugs.

Jam Master Jay songs

Jay was not primarily known as a singer or songwriter, so he did not release solo tracks in the traditional sense. His main contributions to music were as a turntable DJ and record producer.

Here are some of the songs he worked on as a DJ:

Early hits (1983-1986)

  • Sucker MC’s (Krush Groove Soundtrack, 1985)
  • It’s Like That (Raising Hell, 1986)
  • It’s Tricky (Raising Hell, 1986)
  • Peter Piper (Raising Hell, 1986)
  • My Adidas (Raising Hell, 1986)
  • Walk This Way (Raising Hell, 1986)

Later albums (1987-1998)

  • Tougher Than Leather (Tougher Than Leather, 1988)
  • Mary, Mary (Tougher Than Leather, 1988)
  • King of Rock (Tougher Than Leather, 1988)
  • Down with the King (Down with the King, 1999)
  • Rock Show (Crown Royal, 2001)

Collaborations

  • Onyx – Bacdafucup (Bacdafucup, 1993)
  • The Real Roxanne – Roxanne’s on a Roll (Sweet Bitter Love, 1988)
  • LL Cool J – Goin’ Back to Cali (Mama Said Knock You Out, 1990)

Jam Master Jay’s net worth

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Jay had a net worth of $-1 million. He was reportedly in debt as of when he died.

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Jam Master Jay’s family

Jam Master Jay talking

As of the time of his death in 2002, he was married to Terri Corley-Mizell and the pair had three sons: Jason Mizell Jr., known professionally as DJ Jam Master J’Son; Jesse Mizell and TJ Mizell, who is also a DJ; and daughter named Tyra Myricks, born in August 1992.

Jam Master Jay’s age

Jay was born on October 21, 1965. He died at age 37.

Jam Master Jay’s death

On the evening of Wednesday, October 30, 2002, at 7:30 pm, Jay died in his recording studio on Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens, New York City. Another person in the room, Urieco Rincon, got hurt but survived. Jay’s death left the hip-hop community saddened, as they remembered him as a great influence on music. He was buried in Hartsdale, New York.

By 2003, suspicion fell on Kenneth McGriff, a convicted drug dealer linked to Murder Inc. Records. McGriff was suspected of targeting Jay because Jay did not follow the rules set by the music industry regarding rapper 50 Cent. In December of that year, an article in Playboy magazine suggested Jay got involved in selling drugs to pay debts. It said he went to Washington, D.C., to buy cocaine but did not pay back the money, leading to his death.

In April 2007, federal prosecutors accused Ronald Washington of helping in Jay’s murder. They said Washington also had a role in the killing of Randy “Stretch” Walker, a friend of Tupac Shakur. However, Washington was not convicted.

In 2018, Netflix released a documentary called “ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay?” It looked into Jay’s murder, with interviews and discussions with several people. Also, a former prosecutor, Marcia Clark, talked about Jay’s death on her show “Marcia Clark Investigates The First 48” on A&E. Despite investigations, the truth about Jay’s murder remains unclear.

It is thought that both Washington and his suspected partner, Karl Jordan Jr., went into the recording studio armed. Claims are rife that Jordan Jr. was the one who pulled the trigger and shot Mizell in the head, causing his death.

In the year 2020, Washington and Jordan Jr. were accused of causing Jay’s death. They were said to have been involved in a situation where Jay got hold of a lot of cocaine from someone in Maryland.

Jay, Washington and Jordan, according to a claim, had a plan to sell the drugs together but things went wrong, and Jay decided to stop working with them. Washington had been looked at by the police from the beginning of the investigation. Jordan had already been in trouble in August 2003 for trying to hurt Jay’s nephew, Rodney Jones.

On May 30, 2023, the police charged another person, Jay Bryant, with Jay’s murder. Bryant was already in trouble for drugs. In October 2023, the court decided Bryant would have a separate trial from Washington and Jordan Jr.

Both Washington and Jordan Jr. insist that they did not commit the murder. In November 2021, the prosecutors said they would not ask for the death penalty if they were found guilty. Instead, they wanted them to spend their whole lives in prison. The trial was meant to start on February 20, 2023, but it was delayed until October 2022.

The prosecutors said Jordan Jr. had admitted to the crime in a talk. But in February 2023, the trial was pushed back again to November 2023 because a main witness died. Then, when another person was charged in May 2023, the trial was moved to January 2024. Jury selection for Washington and Jordan Jr.’s trial started on January 22, 2024.

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