In a crime that stunned music fans around the world, long-time Hollis resident Jason Mizell—more popularly known as rapper Jam Master Jay—was murdered execution-style last week in his Jamaica recording studio.
According to police, two men entered the second floor of a nondescript commercial building at 90-10 Merrick Boulevard at 7:30 p.m. last Wednesday, October 30th, where Mizell’s 24/7 Recording Studio was located.
Within moments, three shots rang out, one fatally hitting Mizell, 37, in the head, with another hitting Urieco Rincon, 25, in the leg. Five other people present at the time were not hurt, and the suspects, in ski masks, fled the scene.
As of press time, no arrests had been made in the case, and police were still investigating theories that Mizell’s murder may have been motivated by a rap vendetta or a bad business deal.
The incident puzzled many Southeast Queens residents, including his closest family members and friends, who were left searching for answers in the well-respected rapper’s death.
“There’s no reason,” said Jason Mizell, Jr., the late musician’s son, outside the family’s Hollis home last week. “He didn’t really do anything wrong.”
Born in 1965, Jam Master Jay grew up in Hollis, where he met Joseph Simmons and Darryl McDaniels—better known as “Run” and “DMC,” respectively—and later joined their rap group Run-DMC as a disk jockey in the 1980s.
With catchy singles like “Sucker MC’s,” “Hard Times” and “Rock Box,” Run-DMC blazed a trail followed by countless musicians. The group was one of the first rap acts to be aired on MTV and the first to make the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
Its wildly popular third album, “Raising Hell,” made Run-DMC the biggest selling rap act of its time, selling three million copies with tunes like “My Adidas” and a remake of the 1970s hit “Walk This Way.” The latter boosted the trio’s popularity with audiences not familiar with rap, and resparked the floundering career of rock band Aerosmith.
The group released several other albums and singles, and even starred in feature-length films that didn’t reach the same heights of success, but the group planted a seed with rap music as a whole.
In recent years, Jam Master Jay, in particular, was remembered by many as being the shoulders that new musicians could stand on. “They represented everything good and positive about hip-hop,” Russell Simmons, co-founder of the Def Jam music empire, told reporters last week. “I loved him. I will miss him. He is irreplaceable,” he added of Mizell.
Though some of Run-DMC’s concerts were marked by violence, the group avoided using the foul language and inciteful lyrics that have become hallmarks of the violent “gangsta” rap that has taken hold in recent years.
“He was a positive rapper,” said fan Beniza Cantor, who recalled that Jam Master Jay visited the Jamaica substance abuse treatment program where she works to share his inspiration. “He was not a trouble-maker. He didn’t run with the wrong crowd.”
That is precisely why the disc jockey’s death has mystified both the music industry and the authorities. Cory Robbins, who signed Run-DMC to its first recording contract, described Mizell as a “wonderful” person. "You won’t hear anyone in the industry who has anything bad to say about him. This is a terrible loss.”
Soon after Wednesday’s shooting, police offered protection to 50 Cent, a rap protege of Jam Master Jay who criticizes gangsta rappers in his music. Police initially believed that 50 Cent may have been the intended target in the Jamaica shooting, rather than Jam Master Jay, but they backed away from that theory over the weekend.
On Saturday, police seized computer files from the studio, and a reward in the tens of thousands was announced for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects.
Then on Sunday, the authorities released a description of one of the suspects. He is between 6 feet and 6 feet two inches tall, and weighs between 180 and 200 pounds.
But the investigation has been hampered because of conflicting accounts of the events that led to Mizell’s shooting. Some witnesses recall two suspects entering the studio’s lounge, while others saw only one.
A security camera outside the studio may have recorded the suspects, but the camera may not have been turned on, according to published reports.
A wake was held at the J. Foster Phillips Funeral home in St. Albans on Monday afternoon, and a funeral took place on Tuesday morning at Jamaica’s Greater Allen Cathedral.
In the meantime, fans and friends left behind flowers, poetry and Run DMC’s signature shoes—black Adidas high-tops—at a makeshift memorial outside 24/7 Recording. One of the notes left there read “Now God has a DJ.”