Two weeks after Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay was murdered at a New York recording studio, police were reportedly on the hunt for a convicted drug dealer from Queens who may have served as a lookout during the October 30th shooting. Though investigators initially speculated that a music-industry rivalry could have led to the execution-style killing, they now believe that Jam Master Jay was murdered because of a financial dispute.
Jay was killed at his studio in the Jamaica section of Queens, not far from the Hollis neighborhood where he grew up and where Run-DMC got their start. Jay was shot in the head at point-blank range while he took a break from a session with a new group called Rusty Waters.
One theory is that Jay (born Jason Mizell) had sold the same unpublished song to two different recording artists, earning as much as $100,000 as a result. Sources reportedly told police that one of the two artists may have been angry enough to have him killed.
Yet the DJ is also said to have owed $400,000 in back taxes, and he was reportedly in debt to several different people. The police were hoping to question two men -- the suspected lookout and Curtis Scoon, from Georgia and Queens, to whom Mizell is believed to have owed significant amounts. A friend of Mizell's recently received a phone call in which a person threatened that someone would be "coming up" from Georgia to collect money. It is not known if Scoon made the call, and he has not been named by police as a suspect.
At press time, no arrests had been made, but police issued a description of the gunman: a black male, between six feet and six feet two, weighing 180 to 200 pounds and wearing a black sweat suit and black wool cap at the time of the murder.
Eminem, Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, Aerosmith, Kid Rock and Island Def Jam records head Lyor Cohen have all committed money to a reward fund, as well as towards the purchase of the $250,000 Hollis home where Mizelll's wife, Terri, and their three children live. "This financial problem that we have, as a hip-hop community, we should be able to solve this in a couple of days," said Sean "P. Diddy" Combs at a press conference a week after Mizell's murder. "Run-DMC, especially Jam Master Jay, they're fathers of the whole gang."
Joseph "Run" Simmons also used the press conference -- attended by the Beastie Boys, Busta Rhymes and other rap stars -- to announce the official retirement of Run-DMC. "We can't perform anymore," he said. "Nobody wants to see Run and D."
At Jam Master Jay's funeral on November 5th, hundreds gathered in the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York in Queens to pay their last respects to another hip-hop pioneer gone too soon. He was buried wearing a black fedora, a black leather blazer, a thick gold chain and his trademark white shell-toe Adidas.
In a short prayer, Run -- who is a minister -- spoke in the same smoothly confident tone of his rhyming voice. "Why murder?" he asked. "Jason was a dramatic DJ, and God knew he couldn't leave without drama, so, why not murder?"
Darryl "DMC" McDaniels spoke a few moments later, reading from loose white pages that he handed to Run as he finished each one. "Jam Master Jay was not a thug," he said, his voice breaking. "He was the personification of hip-hop."