“And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for!” a voice bellowed over Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sunday as the reunited Run-D.M.C. hit the stage for the first time in more than a decade. From “Rock Box” to “Walk This Way,” the band’s set at Jay-Z’s Budweiser Made in America festival was full of nostalgic hip-hop classics – their first show since before Jam Master Jay was killed in 2002.
In his place onstage were his his two sons, Jason “Jam Master J’Son” Mizell Jr. and T.J. “Dasmatic” Mizell. In their backstage trailer, Rolling Stone caught up with the brothers shaking off nerves less than an hour before they hit the stage to discuss how the reunion happened, the possibility of new Run-D.M.C. music and the legacy of their late father. “We’ve both been DJing parties and shows,” said Jason Mizell. “They gave us a call like, ‘You ready? You’re up to bat now.’ And I’m going for a home run.”
What are your childhood memories of seeing Run-D.M.C. play?
Jason: I have all kinds of stories. I’ve been told that at the age of four or five in the middle of a show I ran and grabbed the needle off my dad’s records. I got so many stories just growing up. We’re the children of hip-hop, literally.
What is that like – to be a child of hip-hop?
Jason: You don’t know it until you become a little older. It’s just daddy and mommy. I did not recognize Jam Master Jay until I was older, until I realized other people act funny to my dad.
T.J.: Exactly. Going out to eat, people would ask for autographs. And it was a normal thing then, because that’s what we knew. But as you get older it’s like, wow, my dad was a legend. My dad impacted this many people, this whole genre of music, this whole fashion, like, people are now rocking Adidas with no laces and big chains and gazelles and fedora hats, and it’s like, wow, our father started that whole trend. And to walk around and see a whole bunch of Run-D.M.C. shirts, just to know my father was a part of that is incredible. It’s a great feeling.
They were really the first hip-hop group to appeal to all music fans.
Jason: From rap to rock, from white to black, they just did it for everybody.
Nobody else has accomplished it in the way they did.
Jason: It was probably easier for them because they were the first. They didn’t know it. It was like, “Oh shit, everybody loves it!” It was cool. Everybody was feeling it. It was appealing to everybody. It was crazy.
This festival has dance music and rock music. Do you see shadows of Run-D.M.C. in today’s new music?
T.J.: You’ll see some onstage tonight. Even just between us two.
Jason: Look at 2 Chainz. If you look at him, he always rocks the Stetson. He comes out looking like Run-D.M.C. every time. Check him out. Everybody shows respect. It’s amazing. A lot of our favorite rappers would without a doubt say, “When I was a kid I used to listen to Run-D.M.C.” It’s just undeniable.
How does it feel to see Run and D.M.C. come together now? Is it bittersweet?
Jason: I’m happy. I have for so long wanted to be onstage with Run and D. I’ve asked plenty of times. It’s just time. It took time, but it’s happening now, and it couldn’t happen at a better time.
T.J.: We’re about to go onstage in less than an hour, and it still hasn’t even really hit me yet. It’s probably not going to hit us until after.
So both of you are going to be up there. How did it happen?
Jason: We got a phone call from Run and D and their manager [saying] ‘It’s time.’ We’ve both been DJing parties and shows everywhere and they gave us a call, like, “You ready? You’re up to bat now.” And I’m going for a home run. Grand slam. It’s going to be epic.
People are going to be so excited.
Jason: Nobody knows, though, except for you. The crowd is just excited to see Run-D.M.C. And surprise! “I know my man is not here – rest in peace, Jam Master Jay. We’re gonna bring his sons out for you.”
That’s incredible. What have the rehearsals been like?
Jason: The rehearsals were actually really funny. It was epic, unbelievable.
T.J.: An experience in itself. An out-of-body experience.
Jason: I’m in Pluto. It was crazy. It was the first time we all got back together as a family, like Run and D and Jay’s kids.
TJ: It was incredible. It’s a big family reunion, including our father, because of course he’s going to be there in spirit tonight.
Absolutely. Nobody can probably describe what it was like when he passed away for you guys.
Jason: A lot of people can describe it, actually, because there are millions and millions of kids who have lost parents. And that’s all it was to me. I don’t know nothing else other than my dad died. I lost my dad. It wasn’t nothing else. My dad got killed. It was just, daddy’s gone.
You guys do your own DJing. Do you have new sounds you want to bring into Run-D.M.C.?
Jason: T.J. is a producer, and I am as well, so the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Will there be new music from Run-D.M.C.?
T.J.: Definitely . . . hopefully.
Have you discussed it?
Jason: Definitely it’s been discussed, but hopefully it happens.