07 November 2002

RIP Jam Master Jay

A piece of business I neglected to take care of in a timely fashion.

People who know me know that I love a wide variety of music. However, rap and hip-hop have never really been a part of that love. I mean, look at my picture. Do I look like one of those faux-nigga white kids that populate the Ricki Lake Show? No, I certainly don't. And I'm not going to insult anybody's ethic background by pretending that I do just to be "hip." Puh-lease. I've always liked black music even from childhood, but rap was to black music what rock n roll was to pre-rock-n-roll: a complete redefining of the paradigm.

So, not a homeboy I. But one thing I am is old, and I was there when rap and hip-hop started up. I really liked it -- no, I am not kidding. I remember Kurtis Blow and the Furious Five and Grandmaster Flash and the Sugarhill Gang quite well, and I liked what I heard. Being a lily-white suburban kid, I could not pretend to fully understand where they were coming from, but even back then I had black friends and lived amongst poor people and outcast people so I could empathise to some extent.

So I was enjoying rap's roots, if you will, when along came Run-DMC. In a word, WOW.

Their contribution to black music in general and rap in particular is really quite hard to understate. They were a wrecking ball you could not resist standing in front of. They were a powerful force that made a lot of us re-think the whole black-music thing. They crushed the wall of resistance MTV put up to keep rap out. They were funny, they were talented, they were brash but they backed it up. Later when they teamed up with Aerosmith I quite literally fell out of my chair watching that video.

Even then you could tell that JMJ was the glue that held it all together. He was a pioneer and an innovator and he did a lot of good. I am genuinely upset at his passing, and even more so that he of all rap artists had to die violently -- Run-DMC's distinguishing mark was that they never bought into the "thug/gangsta" streak that has, in my honest opinion, ruined black music and black culture. It's a blight JMJ did not want to be associated with.

I have tremendous respect for Jam Master Jay and I'm saddened that he's gone. When will the black community stop killing itself??

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