Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay is slain at studio. An unknown attacker shoots the pioneering rap DJ and another man during a recording session in Queens, New York

By Gary Susman
Updated October 31, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
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Credit: Jam Master Jay: Vince Bucci/Getty Images/Newscom

Rap pioneer Jam Master Jay, the DJ behind Run-DMC, was shot to death Wednesday night when one or two intruders were admitted to his recording studio in New York City, police announced. The gunman shot Jay (real name: Jason Mizell) in the head, and another man, Urieco Rincon, 25, in the leg, before he fled. Jay died at the scene, a mile away from his childhood home in Hollis, Queens. He was 37.

Police revealed no motive for the shooting. Jay, Rincon, and four or five others were conducting a recording session for two unidentified women when someone buzzed the assailant or assailants in to the second-floor studio. (Witnesses differed on the number of intruders, the New York Post reports.) The shooter pushed one of the women out of the way to get a clear shot at Mizell, police told the Post.

Unlike other rappers who died violently, like Tupac Shakur or the Notorious B.I.G., Run-DMC avoided feuds and preached against violence. In recent years, Joseph ”Run” Simmons became an ordained minister, Daryl ”DMC” McDaniels overcame alcoholism, and Jay got married and had three children.

Run-DMC were often credited with bringing rap into the mainstream with crossover hits like ”It’s Tricky” and ”Walk this Way” (their duet with Aerosmith) and massive selling albums like ”Raising Hell,” but it might be just as fair to say they brought the mainstream to rap. Backed by nothing more than Jay’s turntables, they were among the first rappers to bring rock guitar samples into hip-hop (on hits like ”King of Rock” and ”Rock Box”), and they were the first rappers to get MTV to play their videos and Rolling Stone magazine to put them on the cover. Their ”Walk This Way” inspired rock-loving white kids to buy their first hip-hop album and revived Aerosmith’s foundering career in the process.

In recent years, their popularity waned, as their old-school style was supplanted by hardcore and gangsta rap, but Jay kept his ear to the ground, continuing to scout new talent and record new artists, which is apparently what he was doing the night he was killed.

Run-DMC was enjoying something of a comeback this year. It had just completed a tour with Aerosmith and Kid Rock and was planning to record a 20th anniversary disc next year, MTV News reports.

Fans quickly flocked to the studio Wednesday night to mourn, the New York Daily News reports. One of them was Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. ”We knew each other since we were kids,” a misty-eyed Chuck D told the Daily News. He said of the shooting, ”It’s cowardice. It’s not a game.”

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