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Old School Archives

Revisiting the murder of Jam Master Jay

Jam Master Jay’s work with Run DMC will leave him in the hip hop history books. However, the murky circumstances surrounding his death continue to leave question marks over the end of his legacy. Almost twenty years on, it remains unsolved, and justice is yet to be served.

The DJ’s real name was Jason Mizell, and outside of music, he had three sons and one daughter. His eldest child, Jason Mizell Jr., performs under the pseudonym of DJ Jam Master J’Son, who has filled in for his father on the occasions when the group have reunited in recent years. Mizell was only 37 at the time of his death, which put an end to the recording career of Run DMC.

It was hip hop’s worst kept secret that Mizell was the beating heart of the trio, and he was the one who gave the group that special touch, which made them become one of the leading artists of their era. Of all the places for him to lose his life, it was fittingly in a recording studio where he faded away in 2002.

While he’s credited with helping the genre breakthrough into the mainstream, that didn’t mean that Mizell had millions of dollars at his disposal, and his fortunes turned in the late ’90s. Run DMC didn’t release an album between 1993 and 2001, and during that period, people’s tastes changed. Upon their return, they were no longer the hot property they once were.

He also ran his own label, JMJ Records, which discovered 50 Cent back in 1996 but never reaped the rewards of his talent. To put it in simple terms, Jay was burning through money like no tomorrow, and his lifestyle became unsustainable.

Crime was something that he dabbled in during his adolescence through necessity, but never in his early adulthood. In fact, it was quite the opposite. After an encounter with an armed security guard nearly went fatally as a youngster, Jay would try to dissuade his friends from getting involved in illicit activities.

However, he became desperate, and according to multiple people’s accounts, the DJ saw drug dealing as a fix to get him out of his hole, but he soon got hooked to the money. He entered down this dark path because his debts had grown to such an insurmountable height, with Jay owing a large amount to the Internal Revenue Service, among various others, and this felt like the only way he could end his financial misery.

Mizell became involved with trafficking cocaine across state lines, and on the day of his death, he got into a bitter dispute with his accomplice Ronald Washington over 10kg of the white powder, worth a staggering $1.7million.

Washington was meant to take the drug to Maryland and didn’t. This move riled Mizell, who retaliated by cutting him out of the deal. An act that would end up being his death sentence. Later that evening, Washington allegedly returned to the building with Karl Jordan Jr. and “ultimately executed Mizell,” according to court documents.

Both men weren’t charged until 2020 despite both being long term suspects. However, they are still yet to be convicted or found guilty of Jay’s murder. After almost 20 years, the least that Jay’s family deserve is closure and for justice to be served.