Credit: Shutterstock/Jam Master Jay

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DJ Jam Master Jay was one of the founding members of one of the most influential rap acts in musical history, Run-D.M.C.

He was born Jason William Mizell in Brooklyn in 1965. At age three, little Jason played the trumpet. As he grew up, he performed in churches and with garage bands. He also learned instruments such as bass and drums. Later, these musical skills came in handy.

He was only 13 when he discovered turntables. He performed anywhere he could find an audience. It was as he was DJing in a park that the two other members of Run-D.M.C. found him. They decided to form a rap group in 1981.

Jam Master Jay's personal style of relaxed streetwear became the group's signature look. The rock music that they melded with hip-hop beats may well have recalled his garage band past.

Run-D.M.C. was the first hip-hop act to have gold, platinum, and multi-platinum selling albums. The firsts did not stop coming. They bagged the first MTV hip-hop performance and the first cover of Rolling Stone magazine. They went on to be nominated for a Grammy, another first for the music of this genre. They became a model for success in the industry.

Jam Master Jay was fatally shot in 2002 while inside a recording studio. His murder is unsolved, but his musical legacy remains.