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Music News

For nearly 18 years, the case of the murder of Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay, whose given name was Jason Mizell, has been open. On Monday (Aug. 17), federal prosecutors announced the indictment of two males whom investigators have long suspected of participating in slaying the DJ inside a recording studio in Queens, as the New York Times reports. Jam Master Jay was killed at the age of 37 on October 30, 2002, while playing video games in the lounge of a second-floor studio in Jamaica, Queens.

On Monday, Ronald Washington and Karl Jordan, Jr., were charged with murder while engaged in drug trafficking in a 10-count indictment. According to the indictment, the two males “together with others, with malice aforethought, did unlawfully kill Jason Mizell, also known as ‘Jam Master Jay.’”

At a news conference on Monday, the acting United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Seth D. DuCharme, said, “They walked in and murdered him in cold blood,” Mr. DuCharme said.

“This is a case about a murder that for nearly two decades has gone unanswered,” he said. “Today we begin to answer that question of who killed Jason Mizell and why.”

401452 09: Musical artists Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell (L), Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (C) and Joseph “DJ Run” Simmons (R) of the hip-hop group RUN-DMC attend a handprint ceremony during the group’s induction into the Hollywood RockWalk February 25, 2002 at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, California. Jam Master Jay, whose given name is Jason Mizell, was shot and killed inside a Queens, New York studio October 30, 2002, according to a group representive. Police, who say two unidentified men were shot around 7:30 p.m. local time, have confirmed that one man was dead on arrival at a local hospital. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

According to new court documents, on October 30, 2002, Washington and Jordan, both armed, broke into Jam Master Jay’s studio on Merrick Boulevard in Queens. As Washington forced someone who was in the studio to the ground, the documents say, Jordan fired a bullet Mizell’s head, killing the D.J. almost instantly.

The two had “executed” Jam Master Jay after he sought to exclude them from “a multi-kilogram, multistate narcotics transaction,” according to prosecutors.

Back in July of 2002, a few months prior to the murder, Jam Master Jay had received about 10 kilos of cocaine “on consignment” from a supplier in Maryland, according to the court documents. Washington and Jordan were supposed to have partnered with the hip-hop icon in the deal, according to the papers. However, after a dispute, Jam Master Jay threatened to cut them out.

According to one official, “There was a beef — it didn’t go as planned.” Washington, 56, is currently serving a federal prison sentence for robbery, while Jordan, 36, was taken into custody on Sunday (Aug. 16).

American rap group Run DMC pose at the Grammy Awards, 1980s. L-R: Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell), Joe ‘Run’ Simmons and Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels. (Photo by Hulton/Getty Images)

Two witnesses are also now cooperating in the case, according to an anonymous law enforcement official.

Two males entered the studio, and one of them, whose face as covered by a mask, fatally shot the hip-hop icon in the head, officials said previously.

Detectives had reviewed several possible explanations for the slaying, including that it stemmed from a grudge against Queens rapper 50 Cent, who was a protégé of Jam Master Jay’s. However, that theory was later dismissed.

Investigators who explored JMJ’s personal relationships and business had trouble finding a motive and wondered why anyone would seek to murder a man who hadn’t embraced prominent rivalries with others.

A few years later, the case went cold. However, it was reopened in 2016 by a cold case police squad. That year, Jam Master Jay’s older brother, Marvin Thompson, said in an interview that his brother felt he had nothing to show for all the work he had put into his career, and he wanted to cut ties with the people around him.

401452 08: Musical artists (L to R) Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, Joseph “DJ Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and of the hip-hop group RUN-DMC participate in a handprint ceremony during the group’s induction into the Hollywood RockWalk February 25, 2002 at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

“I’ve been doing this music all this time and I don’t have nothing to show for it,” Thompson recalled JMJ saying. “‘I got all these leeches on me.’” The D.J.’s brother said Jay “felt it was time to shake everybody loose.”

Thompson, who passed in 2018, was convinced that the murder involved people close to Jay, including some who were among four people present in the studio the night he was killed.

“I’d like to know the truth,” he said. “You hear so many different speculations — drugs, jealousy. I need to know who and why. That’s the major answer right there. Then I can have peace in my spirit.”

Jay gained national notoriety as the pioneering D.J. of the hip-hop trio Run-DMC, which included Joseph Simmons, known as Run, and Darryl McDaniels, known as DMC. He founded the Scratch D.J. Academy, where students learned D.J. techniques in 2002.

Glennisha Morgan is a Detroit-bred multimedia journalist and writer. She writes about intersectionality, hip-hop, pop culture, queer issues, race, feminism, and her truth. Follow her on Twitter @GlennishaMorgan.