Jam Master Jay, the turntable wizard behind iconic hip-hopsters Run-D.M.C., was gunned down in his New York recording studio Wednesday night, according to the trio's Website.
The deejay, whose real name was Jason Mizell, was laying down tracks in his studio in the Jamaica section of Queens when two men buzzed in about 7:30 p.m. Upon entering, they opened fire on Mizell, hitting him in the head. A second shot struck an unidentified man who was with Mizell.
Both Mizell, 37, and his 25-year-old companion were rushed to a nearby hospital, where the rap musician was pronounced dead. The other man was being treated as of press time.
The shooter and his accomplice remain at large, according to police. No word on motive.
Founded in Hollis, Queens, in 1982 by Mizell and his two rapping buddies, Joseph "Run" Simmons (the brother of Def Jam mogul Russell) and Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, Run-D.M.C. became arguably the most influential hip-hop outfit of the 1980s.
The group made rap mainstream, registering hip-hop's first gold record, first platinum album and first Top 10 single. They costarred in the seminal rap movie Krush Groove. They were the only rap act invited to play Live Aid and the first to land on the cover of Rolling Stone. And they were also the first rappers to make MTV, thanks to the megaselling Aerosmith revamp, "Walk This Way," which fused the seemingly incompatible rap and rock genres and made Run-D.M.C. a household name in both urban and suburban homes.
Mizell manned the turntable, scratching tunes behind the raps of Simmons and McDaniels. Aside from "Walk This Way," the trio's top hits included "You Be Illin,' " "It's Tricky," "My Adidas," "King of Rock" and "Sucker M.C.'s."
"People that put rap down ain't listening to what we're talkin' about," Mizell once said of their critics. "They think we're just ghetto kids braggin', but we're handin' out a lot of information on what the world is like."
After a run of platinum-selling albums--Run-D.M.C., King of Rock, Raising Hell and Tougher than Leather--the group struggled with personal issues. Simmons was accused of rape and McDaniels battled alcoholism. The rape charges were eventually dropped and McDaniels got sober, but Run-D.M.C.'s 1990 release, Back from Hell, failed to match their earlier success.
After finding God, Run-D.M.C. came back with the all-star collaboration Down with the King in '93. But then they went into hibernation for the rest of '90s, occasionally popping up to decry the growing violence in hip-hop.
They re-emerged in 2001 with Crown Royal, and earlier this year released Greatest Hits. The also toured with Aerosmith over the summer and early fall (segueing between sets with "Walk This Way"). The two acts were set to play two dates together next month, in Indiana and Kansas.
Run-D.M.C. publicist Tracy Miller tells the Associated Press that Mizell had performed on Tuesday in Alabama, and the trio was slated to perform in Washington, D.C., on Thursday at the Washington Wizards game.
"He was a great producer, a hard worker," Miller tells the AP. "He's a family man."
Mizell was married and had three children.