Nine years ago today Hip-Hop lost pioneering DJ, producer and co-founder of RUN-DMC, Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell. He was shot and killed in a recording studio in Jamaica, Queens. He was 37 years old.
A while back I had a chance to interview DJ Scratch and had him recount his first meeting with Jam Master Jay and how important he was to his personal and professional life.
“…Of course everybody knows he is the person that brought me to EPMD. I was opening up for RUN DMC on the Run’s House Tour in Europe. The first day I met him was in London right after I won the New Music Seminar. I’m walking into the hotel with my belt. I was 19 at the time and this dude Garfield that was with Jay called me over and he asked me “Yo shorty wachudoin with that belt? You box or something?” I said naw, I won this. I’m a DJ. Garfield was like “lemme see it” and I was like ‘you can see with your eyes.’ He thought I was some London dude frontin like I was from New York. Jay just sat there while his man ran his mouth. He said “What’s your name?” and I said Scratch. And they were like oh you the one who’s opening up for us. Then Jay opened up and I told him he was an inspiration.
RUN DMC were headlining so they never got to see me perform. They didn’t get to the venue until Public Enemy was on. After the first show the sound man, light man and tour manager was telling them they need to see me perform,t that this kid was bananas on the turntables. So they came to the venue to see me and after the first time he told me I was incredible. Now Jay never used to come to sound check, he would have his boy Smith do his sound checks. But after that Jay would come to sound check every day. It’d be me, him and Terminator X. I would show him shit, an actual DJ routine and he started doing a solo with “Beats To The Rhyme” on that tour. They would perform the song and when it got to the break “1,2,3,4 hit it” he would do DJ solo off of that part and then they’d continue.
We became cool and at the time my girlfriend was pregnant with my son and I didn’t have any money at the time. I was the opening act with Derrick B and we would take showers at each venue. We didn’t even have hotels. We were completely roughing it. We’d sleep on the tour bus and shower at the venues. We were doing arenas so they had showers for the sports teams. Me and Jay got cool and I told him about my son and he’s like “what hotel you staying at?” and I was like “what hotel?” We were in Berlin and he was telling me about a club they were going to for an after party and asked me what hotel I was staying at. I was like “Dog, I don’t have a hotel.” He was like what? I have a King bed and from now on I’ll just get double beds so you can stay with me. And he’d let me call back to The U.S everyday to see if my son was born. I found out my son was born when we got to Australia and when we got back to the U.S. we swapped numbers and I didn’t think he’d ever call me again, he’s Jam Master Jay! But he called me one day and told me about an EPMD show in Jersey and he came to the projects and picked me up in a black Benz! As a matter of fact, when we landed in the U.S they brought him his new car at the airport! He came to the projects and picked me up in that same car.
When we got to the EPMD show DJ K La Boss wasn’t there. They were using this big ass ½ inch reel machine. That was before DAT machines. So after the show we went on their tour bus Jay was like where the fuck is ya’ll DJ? And they said they’d fired him. He was like, you need to take my man Scratch out on the road. At first they were like, naw we just went through two DJs. Diamond J was their first DJ and he didn’t last past the first single. I don’t know why he left and then K La Boss left when the actual album came out. But JMJ was like “As a favor to me take him out on the road for a week, if you don’t like him send him home.” They couldn’t say no to JMJ cuz when EMPD was touring with RUN DMC they didn’t have a tour bus, so they let them stay on their tour bus. After they saw what I did at the first show they weren’t letting me go nowhere. The rest is history.”
As told to Jerry L. Barrow, (Follow me on Twitter @JLBarrow)