Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|2 Turntables and a Microphone The Life and Death of Jam Master Jay|
Actors: Run DMC, 50 Cent, Ja Rule, LL Cool J, Game
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Documentary, African American Cinema
Legendary hip-hop DJ Jason Mizell, aka Jam Master Jay, is gunned down in his Queens studio. Security tapes of the incident mysteriously disappear, the five witnesses are uncooperative and no one is talking...until now. 2 T... more »
A moving tribute that could have rocked the house
Alan Hutchins | Denver, CO | 01/07/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD focuses on the musical life and tragic death of hip hop's pioneering DJ Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, who was responsible for the musical sound and style of Run-D.M.C., the first rap group to break out of the urban confines of the genre and achieve national success. Vintage photos are intercut with a series of interview snippets with the likes of Hollis, Queens homeboys, Run-D.M.C. insiders (The Simmons brothers, Russell and "Run" (Joseph) appear extensively, but Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels is missing), current and past hip hop noteables (especially 50 cent, who helped bankroll this project)and industry bit players. We get a picture of Jay as an innovator and rock steady presence in both Run D.M.C. as well as in the Queens hip hop scene in general.
The biggest disappointment here is a near complete lack of actual Run-D.M.C. music (except for tiny snippets), as well as no footage from their videos--videos that finally managed to crack an MTV hip-hop barrier in the mid-80's. Run-D.M.C. were just about the first rap group to incorporate rock music into their sound, but that's not mentioned in the film. In fact, most white, suburban classic rock listeners got their intro to Run-D.M.C. through the single and video of their collaboration with members of Aerosmith in 1986 on "Walk This Way" (which was also the first rap single to crack the top ten on the billboard singles chart), but you wouldn't know how immense or meaningful that historic summit of talents was by watching this---the song is neither mentioned nor played (although a tour with Aerosmith in 2002 is referred to accompanied by a fleeting shot of the two groups at a press event.)Someone should have been pointed out that before that song, most rappers did not have a use for rock groups or rock music, and most rock groups thought rappers were non-musicians with no talent. All of that changed due to primarily to Jay, who really wanted the group to cover the song after producer Rick Rubin (who is also not interviewed or even mentioned in the film) played him Aerosmith's original--none of the group had even heard of Aerosmith before, and neither Run nor D.M.C. wanted to do this song initally. No one mentions any of this in the film, either. With so many missing facts, it's apparent that a narrator was needed to tie up the many loose ends and gaps here.
Run-D.M.C.'s live shows get short shrift as well; there are a precious few seconds of some live shots, but there's more backstage footage than performance stuff, and again, there are no actual Run-D.M.C songs played--at best there's some shots of Jay scratching, but a share of the footage of that is actually a "reinactment" by someone playing Jay. More Run-D.M.C. musical moments are recounted by interviewees rapping or singing the lines than we get from the real thing. Jay's DJ skills are praised unanimously, but when someone is complimenting Jay's skills at dropping something into the mix, for instance, why not play us examples from Run-D.M.C. songs to illustrate his brilliance? Were the producers unwilling or unable to come up with the cost of the musical rights? Were the sample-heavy original tracks a legal quagmire given the lack of proper sampling credits/payments in the 80's? No explanation is given to the viewer. This is really the biggest problem with the whole production.
The final third or so of the DVD dwells on Jay's shooting death inside his you-have-to-be-buzzed-in-and-let-through-another-locked-door studio on October 30, 2002. Lots of time is spent casting doubts about the innocence of those in the studio that day that were not killed or wounded. (Only Urieco Rincon was wounded in the ankle that day--the other four or five people present were unscathed.) No mention is made of the 2007 announcement that a suspect in the murder had been named by prosecutors (it's Ronald Washington, although he nor anyone else has ever been charged with the crime to date), but lots of allegations fly in the closing 20 minutes or so of the DVD. The two that come off especially guilty-looking and leech-like are Randy Allen (former VP of JMJ records) and his sister, Lydia High, both of whom were in the studio when Jay was executed (and neither of whom are interviewed in the film). Not one interviewee has anything good to say about either of these characters.
As a moving portrait of a legendary DJ, a testament to Jay's lasting legacy, and a thought-provoking examination of his senseless murder, this DVD is a success. It is not, however, a source for what should have been a rich trove of Run-D.M.C. music/video highlights, and on that basis it's a major missed opportunity."