Jason William Mizell (January 21, 1965 – October 30, 2002), better known by his stage name Jam Master Jay, was a musician and DJ. He was the DJ of Run D.M.C. During the 1980s, Run-D.M.C. became the biggest Hip Hop group and are credited with breaking Hip Hop into mainstream music.
For his skill re-working riffs from classic guitar records, he was ranked No. 10 on Spin’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time“. On October 30, 2002, while recording new music at his studio in the Jamaica section of Queens, New York City, Mizell was shot and murdered by an unknown assailant. He was 37 years old.
Mizell was born in Brooklyn, New York City. At the age of 3, he started playing trumpet and played bass, guitar, and drums in various bands prior to discovering turntables. He moved to Hollis, Queens in 1975 with his family where he soon discovered the turntables and started DJing at the age of 13. He caught on quickly because of his musical experience and after a year of DJing he felt that he was good enough to play in front of people.
He first started playing at parks and later played at bars. He also began throwing small parties around the area. Once he got a pair of Technics 1200s he improved rapidly since he was able to practice at night with headphones on when he was supposed to be sleeping.
Mizell became a DJ because he “just wanted to be a part of the band”. Prior to joining Run-D.M.C. he played bass and drums in several garage bands. In 1982 he hooked up with Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels just after they graduated from high school and agreed to DJ for them because he wanted to be part of the band. On Run-D.M.C’s album Raising Hell, Mizell played keyboards, bass, and live drums in addition to his turntable work. Mizell remained in his childhood neighborhood in Hollis, Queens his entire life.
In 1989, Mizell established the label Jam Master Jay Records, which scored a success in 1993 with the band Onyx. In 2002, Mizell founded the Scratch DJ Academy in Manhattan to “provide unparalleled education and access to the art form of the DJ and producer.”
On October 30, 2002, at 7:30 pm Mizell was shot and killed in a Merrick Boulevard recording studio in Jamaica, Queens. The other person in the room, 25-year-old Urieco Rincon, was shot in the ankle and survived. Following his death, several artists expressed their grief for the loss in the Hip Hop community and remembered him for his influence on music and the genre. Mizell was buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
In 2003, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, a convicted drug dealer and longtime friend of Murder Inc. heads Irv and Chris Gotti, was investigated for targeting Mizell because the DJ defied an industry blacklist of rapper 50 Cent that was imposed because of “Ghetto Qu’ran”, a song 50 Cent wrote about McGriff’s drug history.
In April 2007, federal prosecutors named Ronald “Tenad” Washington as an accomplice in the murder. Washington also is a suspect in the 1995 murder of Randy “Stretch” Walker, a former close associate of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, who was also murdered. According to court papers filed by the prosecution, Washington “pointed his gun at those present in the studio, ordered them to get on the ground and provided cover for his associate to shoot and kill Jason Mizell.” However, he was never convicted and no new suspects have been named.