Jason Mizell, better known as Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay, was shot in a music studio in New York City in 2002. (After eighteen years, two suspects have been charged for his murder.) But two of his sons, T.J. and Jesse Mizell, have named a pre-rolled cannabis brand in Jay's honor, bringing Jam Master Jays to Native Roots dispensaries.
Sold in retro cassette-tape boxes with Jam Master Jay's photo on the cover, the joints come stuffed with Tahoe OG or East Coast Alien flower, and will be available at the Colorado Boulevard, Speer Boulevard and Tower Road Native Roots stores in Denver, as well as at outlets in Littleton, Frisco and Trinidad. The launch occurred on April 17, with Native Roots and the Mizells bringing along A$AP Ferg to celebrate the product drop.
The late musician's boys bring a mixture of art and business to the table, with T.J. following in his father's footsteps as a successful DJ, most notably working with A$AP Mob and A$AP Ferg; Jesse has a background in marketing and graduated from Berkeley College in 2017. We caught up with the brothers to learn more about their new cannabis brand and honoring their late father.
Westword: What made you want to develop a cannabis brand that pays tribute to your father?
T.J.: My first time smoking was when I was about fourteen years old. I took a hit out of a little piece, and when I exhaled, I realized, "Wow, my dad was a smoker. This is what his studio and his car smelled like." It was definitely a life-changing moment for me. He had passed about three years before that, so it kind of gave me a sense of closeness with him and something that Jesse and I could both share. It was something our father did to become who he was and to help him express himself so creatively in this market.
What are some of your favorite memories of your dad? What was he like?
Jesse: He was super chill. That probably had a lot to do with the weed. I was eight years old when he passed, and T.J. was eleven. I just remember him being a really chill guy and always taking us on family vacations and really being involved when he got a chance to come to our sporting events. When he came to pick me up after school, the teachers and other parents would be asking for autographs and stuff. So at a young age, I kind of realized that our lives and our dad were just a bit different than the other kids at school. But it was cool growing up in New York and being around that community.
What kind of influence did Jam Master Jay have on hip-hop and cannabis culture?
TJ: He really was a pioneer for what we call pop music today. Hip-hop is something that really came to fruition in the early ’80s, and Jam Master Jay, specifically, was a pioneer for that. Marijuana, unfortunately, back then wasn't something people could really talk about, and people couldn't really express the fact that they smoked because it was looked at so negatively. Jesse and I always hear stories about how Jam Master Jay was the guy who always had the best weed in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Jesse: Yeah. JMJ, outside of being known as a smoker in the culture, was known as someone who really personified what New York street culture meant, and was really the first person to make it popular. The whole style of wearing Levi's jeans and sneakers with your laces out and leather jackets, fur jackets or Adidas track suits, was the attire for guys who were authentically a part of New York City's street culture. That wasn't really represented through popular culture before Run-DMC, and Run-DMC will tell you themselves that Jam Master Jay was the reason behind that — and that just coincides with what his impact on hip-hop culture is. He was just authentic and true to himself, and I think that if he had the opportunity, he would have extended that brand and culture and ethos to cannabis. People say that he was the master smoker before there ever was a master smoker. Snoop Dogg told us that himself.
How did the collaboration with A$AP Ferg come about?
T.J.: I've been working with Ferg for about seven, almost eight years now. I was his tour DJ, and he's been very supportive of whatever we do. He's super excited about helping us with whatever we're doing with the JMJ brand, and this just worked out. We haven't really been touring for the past year and a half — December 2019 was the last time we played a show — so we're always looking for cool opportunities to get back in the scene, and this was definitely one of them.
You guys chose Maywood Cookies in Los Angeles as the first dispensary to drop the product. Why was Denver your next choice? And do you have any plans to expand to your hometown now that New York has legalized recreational weed?
T.J.: Oh, for sure. We moved to California in 2018, so we already had boots on the ground there and had a few relationships with Cookies, so that's why we started there. We chose Denver because we've been coming here every single year. We're here for the X Games and working at the U.S. Open closely with the Burton family. We just decided since Colorado has been on this wave for a while now, why not come and put [the brand] here?
And Native Roots really loved the product and loved this collaboration; this is something they're looking forward to for their business, as well, so it really worked out.
What else are you guys cooking up for the future?
Jesse: We had the name Jam Master Jays since high school, and I think that just went well with what we wanted to do, like doing pre-rolls. But we definitely know that our dad was a smoker of all kinds and would've had his own cannabis brand. We're figuring out how we can extend the brand and add other skews as well, but skews that are unique. Not just throwing it in a jar, maybe, but trying to change the game — kind of like how Run-DMC always did when they approached their music and marketing. They always came to do something that hadn't been done before, and that's our objective with this brand.