No Space to Mourn --Remembering JMJ in the Midst of Chaos

EDITOR'S NOTE: A popular Black disc jockey reflects on Jam Master Jay and tries to find space to mourn in the midst of a community wracked by violence and a country that devalues Black life. PNS contributor Davey D ( is a radio DJ, hip-hop scholar and youth advocate.

It's hard to believe Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) -- one-third of the legendary hip-hop crew Run-D.M.C. -- is dead. Dude was 37 years old and had a wife and three kids.

I don't wanna hold a candle, pour liquor on a curb or go on my radio show and play all my Run-D.M.C. records and rebroadcast all my Run-D.M.C. interviews. I don't want Jay's death to be reduced to yet another tribute. It seems we've been doing a hell of a lot of tributes in the past few years.

If you ever met Jay, you would know he was a cool cat. He didn't bring a gangsta persona to the table.

Yet, almost all the newscasts and stories I've seen end with reporters trying to make that connection.

"Jam Master Jay, like 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G., is in a long line of rap stars who have died violently in a violent rap world," go the commentaries.

CNN has a poll on its Web site right now asking who had more musical influence: 2Pac, Biggie or JMJ. There's something about that poll that don't sit well with me.

I've been fielding a lot of calls from local reporters who seem bent on connecting JMJ's death with the deaths of 2Pac, East-West Coast feuds and ongoing beefs in rap like Ja Rule vs. DMX and Nas vs. Jay-Z.

That's not the Jam Master Jay I know.

I don't wanna see him reduced to another violent casualty in a "violent rap world."

I don't wanna do what we always seem to do when we encounter violent death -- simply "keep it moving" and act like it's no big deal. It is a big deal.

I don't wanna put a good face forward and stick the emotions of yet another violent death of another brotha in the back of my mind. I no longer have room in the back of my mind.

I'm not going to give into this unwritten code among Black men and not be phased by violent deaths because they happen so often.

I'm still recovering from the emotional upheaval of the sniper killings and asking, Why? Why are there 94 murders this year in Oakland, a mid-sized California city with a large Black population? Damn near everyone I know knows someone who has been killed in the past few years. What happened to the promises and commitments we all made when we came together in '95 during the Million Man March?

Why is Black life so cheap?

I keep thinking about a song that poet D-Knowledge did a couple of years ago where he asked, "Does Anyone Still Die of Old Age?"

It seems like as soon as we start to process the loss we're hit with another sudden death. We wind up shoving a lot of feelings and emotions in the back of our minds, doing another tribute and moving on.

There is never enough time to mourn. I still never really got over the deaths of Pac and Biggie. Jay's death is making me realize that.

There's really been no closure despite all the VH-1 documentaries, the articles, the movies. This morning I was talking to my boy Pharrel, an executive over at Roc-A-Fella records. He told me, "I hope they catch the guy who did this... I hope they catch him because there have been way too many unsolved murders in hip hop." There are a lot of unsolved murders in our community in general.

The fact is, we never seem to solve the murders of some of these artists the same way we don't seem to be able to solve the murders of "Pookie" or "Ray Ray" from up the block. That underscores the notion that to many, the loss of Black life is no big deal.

There have been just too many tributes. It's becoming routine, and that bothers me. Jay's death -- anyone's death -- should never be routine.

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