An intimate look at Jam Master Jay’s influential life and tragic death

The DJ for pioneering rap group Run DMC helped introduce hip hop to the mainstream. Nearly two decades after his death, two men have been charged with his murder. They have both pleaded not guilty.
7:56 | 04/27/21

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Transcript for An intimate look at Jam Master Jay’s influential life and tragic death
We begin with the fatal shooting of a rap music legend, taking the life of a man known as jam master Jay. It was a brazen murder on a fall evening in New York City. Jam master Jay knew the absolute heights of the hip-hop world as a member of the pioneering rap group run dmc. A music pioneer gunned down in a recording studio, a crime that shocked not only the city, but altered the course of hip-hop history. Run dmc one of the first hip-hop groups to cross over into mainstream popularity. I saw Jay being brought out the studio in the black bag. And it was heartbreaking. Now a crack in the case that remained cold for nearly 20 years. Two men police say both known to Jay have been charged for the shooting. Police alleging all over a drug deal gone wrong. You want the know who crazy person would want to shoot and kill a person as nice as jam master Jay. Now as a trial looms, a new documentary by WABC TV and executive produced by reporter Darla miles takes a look at the hunt for the killers and the life and day of Jay maizo, set the record straight, the jam master Jay case. I really started to connect with a lot of people involved with the case and people who knew and grew up with jam master and that really yielded a lot of new information. As hip-hop began to break into the mainstream in the 1980, run dmc was leading the charge. Tracks like "It's tricky" it's tricky Or "Walk this way" brought a once underground to new heights. And their sound, jam master Jay. Jay was also an aspiring mogul who discovered talent like Curtis Jackson, ak 50 cent, known for classics like in da club. Guided by Myles' interviews, dissecting the life of jam master Jay and his humble beginnings. I never thought he would grow up to be a dj. Not when he was little when I was with him. His mother and my mom were sisters. We did everything together as a unit, everything. Throughout it seems like jam master Jay and the other members of run dmc really gave back to the New York community. Archival interviews with jam master Jay being an active member of the community, he stayed close to queens. He was just the guy who stayed close to his roots, wanted to uplift as many people as he could along the way. Not at any other concerts, but run dmc concerts you can come to get a job, to register to vote. We know we're trying to help our kids. Before run and D actually came on stage, it was jam master Jay that did the scratching. And, you know, he would cut that, run, run, run, and then run would walk on the stage and get the crowd hyped. Jay now was the centerpiece of the stage. Before run dmc hits the stage, there is jam master Jay. And then he going jam master Jay Who was jam master Jay, and what did he mean note just to the hip-hop community, but to music as a whole? He was the kind of person who would give you the shirt off of his back. He is the kind of person who tried to uplift everyone along the way. When the renaissance of hip-hop started in the '80s, it was a really natural matriculation for him, because he was already so creatively inclined. Africat putting to the limelight and carving out a place for hip-hop in the modern music world with the first ever platinum record in the genre, Jay eventually pivoted to behind the soundboard, running his own record label as an executive. He was such a creative visionary when it came to run dmc. So becoming a producer was, again, a natural matriculation, was a natural progression for him to kind of evolve with the industry. That's another reason why this documentary really wanted to chronicle not only what happened with the murder investigation, but just with his career, because he was such a high impact figure. Then on October 30th, 20, jam master Jay was at work in this recording studio in queens, New York when two men arrived. They had to be buzzed into the studio. You have to understand, these two initials were known to Jay. There was trust there. Jam master Jay was in the studio in the back. He was playing video games with Tony Rincon. Lydia was at the front desk when she got buzzed. She buzzed two people in that she knew. The killer passed a total of four security cameras on the way to the murder, at the door, up the stairs and in the hallway leading to the studio before he entered the lounge, the shooter pulled a 40 caliber gun, put on a ski mask, and knocked over a woman as he opened the door. Before Jay could know what happened to him, they shot him. And in that sudden moment, Jay would join the ranks of hip-hop royalty taken out too soon by gun violence. Despite his celebrity, he wasn't immune to the hig levels of homicide and lack of regard for life within our communities, especially young black male life that took his life and took tupac, that took biggie, that Tooks nipseyhussle. It goes on and on. We needed the community to come forward. The district attorneys, they need witnesses. They want people to talk to us. But the case finally reopened. We kept asking about it. We kept debriefing prisoners and continued to inquire about any information Intel we could get about the case. And then we got someone in 2015. That's when it started getting legs. And in August 2020, charges were finally filed against two men, Ronald tenard Washington and Karl Jordan Jr. Returning an indictment here in the eastern district of new York, charging two defendants for their involvement in the murder of Jason Mizell, who I think you all known was known as jam master Jay. Patiently tennard Washington was buzzed in. At that point, he pulled out a gun. Karl Jordan went in and walked right over to Jay and fired a round immediately, without any conversation at all. Karl Jordan Jr. And Ronald Washington are both said to have known Jay prior to his murder. Police believe the shooting may have revolved around a botched drug deal. A point some in Jay's family still take issue with. With never do drugs. He never had to do that. He never had that image. We talked to people in his life, good people to his life. They were telling us that he was complaining about his financial, that his debt to the irs, the troubles that he was having paying things. Both Washington and Jordan are facing life in prison and possibly the death penalty. They've plead not guilty. And now we're simply waiting for them to go on trial. And as spectacular as jam master Jay was in life, in death, a death connected to a drug deal has really ended with a whimper. In the end, there was no big mystery. These were two guys, prosecutors allege, wanted a piece of illegal action when jam master Jay cut them out, they turned a gun on him. Is there any closure with this news? Closure is a very tricky word. But if you would want to characterize it as closing the gap on the investigation, there are just as many questions today as there were 18 years ago. The documentary set the record straight. The jam master Jay case is now on hulu. Coming up, finding a new

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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