(Getty Images: Waring Abbott)
“We will get justice for Jay in 2019. You can guarantee my word,”
Rahman Dukes says while emphatically pointing to the theater floor.
Dukes, who narrates the film, was a member of the MTV News journalists group that covered Jam Master Jay’s case during the early 2000’s. The opportunity to share Jay’s story weighs heavy on the former Queens resident. In fact, it is an indelible and restless memory that repeatedly plays, like a loop, feeding his passion that this case must be solved.
Sixteen years ago, on the eve of Halloween, Jam Master Jay, co-founder of Run-D.M.C., born Jason Mizell, was murdered in his Queens, New York studio. He was only 37 years old. The murder remains unsolved and what was once a closed case, has since reopened.
Emmy Award winning director, Brian Oakes, partners with Dukes and Netflix to present ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay. This is the third installment of the eight-episode docu-series ReMastered, which previously covered Bob Marley’s shooting and Johnny Cash’s historic White House visit.
Sadly, the documentary doesn’t provide many new developments on the actual case. However, the lack of leads doesn’t stem from a lack of information, but rather a deep-rooted mistrust of the police by the community.
(Getty Images: Steven Henry)
There were five people in the the studio the night of Jay’s murder. It’s powerful to see how the documentary traces the facts of the night in question using a model-to-scale that depicts the physical space, as well as, wooden figurines of people that were positioned in the studio.
We have all the moving parts that are needed to solve this case. The details leading up to the moment and the facts after the shots were fired. What is missing is who pulled the trigger. Ask any detective and they will tell you “the devil is in the details,” but when it comes to the hip-hop community details are equivalent to a dead-end. When someone snitches you are exiling yourself from your community and leaving your fate in the hands of law enforcement.
In KRS One’s song “Kill a rapper,” he interweaves details of unsolved cases into the hook, “You wanna get away with murder? Kill a rapper.” Currently, in Queens alone, there are five unsolved hip-hop cases. Among them Stack Bundles, who in 2007 was shot in the head heading to his apartment and Chinx, who in 2015 was gunned down while driving. As of last year, two suspects have been arrested in connection to Chinx’s case.
“This film is an example of an ongoing epidemic in our community; young black men getting killed. To make an example out of it, we have Netflix to push this story to the people that need to hear it,” Dukes shared.
Through the documentary, we meet Jay as a person based on the stories that are shared by the people that love him. We are drawn into Jay’s mother’s narrative about her son, stripped from the lights and unplugged from the turntables. Her profound pain is etched in her face as she ruminates about her son’s life. This is an unimaginable feat considering not only that her son has been gone for nearly two decade, but the hand she has been dealt since that time is hauntingly painful. This year, her daughter, featured in the documentary, passed away, as well as, another son.
Bringing a closure to Jay’s case will help heal a fractured relationship between the Queens community and the police force. The best way to build a trusting relationship is delivering justice. Solving these cases is one way to ensure residents of the community believe their lives matter. When asked about pursuing the investigations of other unsolved cases in the community, Dukes replied, “This will be the first of many to come.”
ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay is available now on Netflix
By: Julian Nicholas