Starpolish did an interview with Jam Master Jay just six weeks before he was murdered:
- STARPOLISH: It’s no secret that Run DMC is singled out as being the band that broke hip hop to the mainstream while still maintaining every ounce of credibility along the way. First and foremost, I want to hear your thoughts on what you’ve helped lay the blueprint for. How do you feel about the current state of hip hop?
JAM MASTER JAY: I think hip hop is progressing like most things. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do. When I was younger, I felt like no one knew about our art form – hip hop – as a whole. I always knew that the part of hip hop that I was down with was going to bring up everything else.
When they were making a big deal out of breakdancing, they started calling it a fad, I was saying “that’s not a fad, that’s dance, man – it’s art!” Then about that time, they started saying rap was a fad. How could they call rap a fad? I took that type of thing personally… that’s like saying that singing is a fad!
The fact is rapping broke out, and there’s no way it can move backwards. I always believed rap would make it. It’s here to stay.
Ha! And now it’s pushing to the point that you can rap over anything! Know what I mean? You can rap over folk music if it’s got a beat! (laughs)
STARPOLISH: Ha! I’m with you on that. It seems like hip hop is now at the cyclical point that it’s pushing into new territory — where even the mainstream tracks are constantly reinventing themselves! We’re finally seeing things move away from heavy sampling, which is long overdue in my opinion. All of the new hot producers… the Timbalands, the Neptunes, and the DJs… oh, man, the DJs are really making their mark. Mixmaster Mike and some of the others we’ve seen on this stage in the DMC competitions in the past few years are proving that they can have a voice and can use the turntable as an instrument. Take Mike — in my mind he may be the perfect example of a DJ who’s really pushing the limits. It’s interesting that his innovation on the turntable completely revamped the Beastie Boys live sound at a critical moment in their career when they really needed that secret stage weapon. And then to top it off, the guy goes down to his basement and cuts wicked solo records that push the envelope of experimental hip hop. Let’s talk about that — what’s your take on the DJ’s new voice and some of the experimenting that is starting to come out of it?
JAY: It’s all evolution, you know? What you hear Mixmaster Mike doing is incredible, but I want to stress that it’s what DJ’s have been doing since the beginning of time. Since the first DJ put on headphones and spun it up — we’ve been pushing it ever since. It’s just now starting to come out on record and become public, ya know? We’ve always been doing what you hear right here on this stage… makin’ our own tapes at home. It’s only now that hip hop is big that we start to see this type of thing on the record shelves. Now, you don’t just see the Puffy type of ideas, but you see all of the little crazy ideas that are really hot and have never been heard before. And it’s all very cool to watch go down. Yet, the whole time we’re still making progress. Never stopping. These DJs keep getting more and more ridiculous — and it’s good!
And I’ll say this – Eminem was as big step for us. Back in the day, 100,000 was successful for an MC or DJ type of artist. 100,000 was successful because the genre was a small market. Now the market is as big as ever, and so are the expectations. There’s more money behind it all. So, you know, it’s not just songs, it’s films. It’s grown into a lifestyle. Hip hop.
So, yeah, to answer your question: I love the state of hip hop, because I’m a product of it and it’s a product of me.
Now, I strive on longevity. I’ve got a gig tomorrow! You know what I’m sayin’?
STARPOLISH: Well put. Let’s talk about the state of Run DMC and dispel the label nonsense rumors right now. What’s the latest?
JAY: Yes, we got dropped from Arista about 7 months ago. But Def Jam just made us an offer, well, yesterday! So, we’re signing to Def Jam. So it’s like “welcome home.” It’s true it’s the first time we’ve ever been signed to Def Jam, but as you may know we helped to create the label. We were hot, and it helped Russell [Simmons] to start Def Jam. Now, 20 years later, it comes back together. The whole family.
We’re on tour with Aerosmith and Kid Rock. At the end of our show, Kid Rock comes out and does “King of Rock” with us, and then at then end of the whole night, we all do “Walk This Way” with me setting it off on the turntables!
It’s funny to me, because people always ask me, “what’s the biggest highlight of my career.” And I guess they expect some old school answer or something. No! Last night was pretty close!
Get this! I have to tell you about this, man. Last night! So we come on the stage and do our thing. Kid Rock comes on, and then Aerosmith comes on to a packed house. But after all of what Aerosmith does. After the show, and the encore, and three more songs… then all of the sudden there’s turntables out there on the stage. Then I walk out there on the tables… Joe, Steve, everyone’s still backstage. Everybody’s screaming. You hear Steve say “Yo Jam Master Jay!” And the shit goes down! Aaaaaaaaarrrrrgggghhh! (makes crowd noise) And then I get the same love from a whole nother genre…..
For more on Jay see here.