Although the last days in October are usually reserved for Halloween festivities and hijinks, October 30th is a more somber one for Terri Corley, TJ Mizell, Jesse Mizell and the family and friends of Jam Master Jay. Tragically murdered in a Queens studio, the cause of his passing remains unsolved and the massive hole he left behind has never filled since.
While his sons TJ and Jesse have given their own heartfelt tributes to their father, 50 Cent penned a letter to “his younger self” for The Big Issue, citing both Jay and his grandmother as influential figures in his piece.
I think shock is the best way to describe how I felt when my mother died. I didn’t understand it. To have a single parent as your guardian – they’re your whole life. I was eight. I was just like, what do you mean? She had spent a lot of time away from me, she was always hustling. She had to be very tough, to be around a lot of men… she had to adapt. At that time they didn’t have teen programs helping teen mothers [his mother was 15 when she had him] and my mother wanted to give me what I needed, so she couldn’t rely on welfare.
I started writing lyrics full time in 1997. I met Jam Master Jay from Run DMC and he had his label, which would take people on and develop them until they were ready to go to a major. Jay taught me how to count bars – and when the chorus should start and stop. And I kept practicing. Sometimes hard work beats talent. I wrote all the time, and so I got better and better.
I think Jay liked me ‘cause I looked like the lyrics. I had all the jewelery, I looked like a hustler. I’d been on the street so long, people respected me. The honest truth is, at that point, the drug dealers were the leaders of the neighborhood. They had more money than the rappers. The things LL Cool J and Run DMC wanted were the things guys hustling already had. Now, of course, the artists are way richer than the dealers, the hip hop culture has grown so much.
The entire piece is available to read now.