Happy Birthday Jam Master Jay: An Appreciation

Contributed by Suzanne Biello

(Editors Note- This was to be posted on Jan 21st, but I was late to editing. My apologies. Enjoy this great piece!)

It is quite challenging to grasp that this month marks the ninth January since the icon known to the music world as Jam Master Jay was cold-heartedly snuffed out in a recording studio on Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica. It’s yet another melancholy twenty-first day of the year; a day when family, friends and appreciative fans commemorate a innovator and his craft, and wonder if the assassin who pumped a .45-caliber bullet into Jay’s head will ever see justice.  As the mainstay of influential trio Run-DMC, Jay transformed the role of the hip hop DJ. He took a somewhat unchanging position and turned it into a lively force of music. Jay was at once composer, choreographer, producer and band leader. Perhaps what resounded most with me was Jay’s admiration for the medium.  He approached the turntable in the essence of a musical instrument; his deft cuts on countless records were the perfect praise to the rhyme styles of DJ Run and DMC. There were records that changed everything.  I can distinctly recall my older brother’s excitement, when he came home with the cassette single for “Mary, Mary” constantly rewinding it just to listen to the brilliantly chaotic chorus pushed by a wild guitar sample and Jay’s harmonious scratches.  Or the day my cousin handed me the historic “Peter Piper/My Adidas”12-inch still wrapped in cellophane with the Nobody Beats the Wiz price tag attached.  I first played “Peter Piper” on a home stereo turntable and quickly became fixated with Jay’s use of Bob James’ “Take Me to the Mardi Gras.”  It was innovative and exhilarating. The compositions took a backseat to learning the most transitory of cuts. The aim was to imitate Jay, to the degree that I lost sight of the talent he provided. Regrettably, it took a hit man’s bullet on Oct. 30, 2002, to remind so many of us of the gift we had in Jay – an exceptional musician who over and over, gave his talent and time to the culture.  On days such as this, we clutch onto memories and the belief that he lives on through the music. We hold on firmly to the image of a glowing DJ dressed in all black, with a fedora crown and spotless shell-toes.  We find relief in his smile and uncontrollable energy. And even if it’s for a short-lived moment, we stop dwelling on the emptiness and honor the manifestation.

For your entertainment- “My Adidas” Live on Solid Soul

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